Stressed Out Moms Say No to Volunteer Work at School

Did you bake instead of making dinner?

For some moms, volunteering at a child’s school is a gimme.  Your kid goes to a school, your going to organize the school’s book fair, or Winterfest, or Spring Fling.  But in these days when school budgets are tight, time is short and demands are high, more moms are saying no to school volunteering.

This isn’t to say all moms are deciding to scale back. But many are and volunteer work can take the time a mother needs for work that generates income. Schools, meanwhile, have less money and so need more help from parent volunteers. Or, differently put, there are a lot of volunteering opportunities at most schools, opportunities moms are starting to pass up.

Writing in The New York Times, Hilary Stout gives example after example of moms (it’s always moms) who have been hiring babysitters and popping in frozen meals in order to meet the demands of their volunteer school commitments.  This volunteering isn’t the same as getting involved with your child’s schoolwork.  In fact, the kind of volunteering she’s writing about might get in the way of it.  You can’t help your child with homework if your at school organizing a bake sale.

Granted, a lot of the moms interviewed for Stout’s articles are the super-volunteers, the one who do it all and then some.  One mom, Sarah Auerswald, calculated that she’d spent about 1,000 hours last ten years at her sons’ school. (Corrected 12/3)  She told Stout,

“My kids got really resentful.” When she would leave them with yet another baby sitter, or drag them along for yet another Saturday Clean-up Day at school, they implored, “Why is it always you who has to do everything, Mom?”

If everyone, or at least more parents, volunteered a smaller but more equal number of hours, things would be easier for everyone. Some schools are requiring that parents volunteer 30 hours in a given school year. I don’t think that’s a bad idea.  By asking parents to commit a set number of hours, schools make their expectations and needs clear and parents get automatic limits within which they can make choices.

My kids go to two different schools and I volunteer at both, but I definitely keep my activities in check (even if I am a class parent for both classes).

How about you?  Do you volunteer at your child’s school? How many hours is too many and do you think volunteering should be required?

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