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Motherhood / School

Is Your Volunteering Truly Benefiting Your Child?

When I was growing up, my mom was always involved in our elementary school. She was active in the PTA, served as president and worked as a teacher’s aide in my later years. I enjoyed having my mom be a part of my education and visible in the school.

This left such an impact on me that I am now involved in my daughters’ school.

Like my mom, I am active, but work to give my children space to be themselves and find their own place without their mother hovering. Unlike my mom, I work outside the home. Also unlike my mom, I do not participate in the PTA directly, but help out in other capacities.

I help in the classroom, fill Friday folders, act as room parent, organize the science fair and sit on the school improvement committee. I also ran a science club last fall.

After that list, I’m wondering if I am giving them space, or enough of my undivided attention.

I started asking myself this question last fall when I took on the science club. Last summer, when the PTA asked me if I would run an after school club. I jumped at the opportunity. I hoped the club would get kids excited about science, bring a little enrichment to the school and give me a chance to play with some of my favorite things.

Dreaming of running a science club and actually planning, prepping, organizing and running a science club are two different things. It took up so much of my time, we barely pulled our own family Halloween prepping together in time. Decorations came out barely a week before, costumes were pulled together at the last minute. We didn’t make it to our traditional family outings.

I was also planning a classroom Halloween party during this time. I was so distracted and crazy I had a hard time focusing on our family’s priorities.

In the months since, I question whether or not my volunteering is making a difference in my children’s lives. I hope I am making at least a small difference within the school and contributing to make it a great school that offers an exceptional education. I also hope I am supporting the teachers where they need it.

Every meeting I attend takes me away from home, however, this gives my kids one on one time with their dad or grandparents or extra play dates.

Every event I plan takes me away from a focused approach on homework. I struggle to keep up with due dates, projects and daily homework. I feel like I am doing my young daughters a disservice by not always being on top of their lives and schedules. Is this helping to teach them independence and self reliance or causing issues because I am not there to teach them how to be independent and self reliant?

The PTA asked me to run a science fair club this spring. I would help guide kids and their parents through projects in hopes of engaging a few more children and increasing science fair participation. I jumped at the opportunity.

Then I respectfully declined.

It was a tough decision…I had the opportunity to get children engaged and improve our science fair. But I wondered if I would have enough time and energy to help my own children complete their projects. I am suffering from immense guilt from turning down the science fair club, but am happy that my children will have my undivided attention.

I will continue on with my commitments and volunteering but will stay vigilant to keeping a balance.

Do you volunteer at your child’s school? How do you find a balance?


Susan Wells
Author: Susan Wells

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  1. My kiddos are still pretty young (age 5 and 7) and I can’t imagine not being actively involved at school (even though in future years they may not want me there. 🙂 However, I think you’re correct–sometimes it’s easy to get sucked into too many opportunities to the detriment to the child. You were right to decline this time around. Definitely a good reminder that they should be top priority!

    • Thanks Amber. I think everyone needs to find the right balance for what’s good for the school, your kids and yourself. It’s a tough thing to do.

  2. Our charter school requests that each family give 20-hours of volunteer service a year. My daughter NEEDS her space from me, and WANTS it. So, I didn’t want to volunteer in the classroom.

    Instead, I’m a Library Volunteer. I volunteer for her Kindergarten class (when they have Library Time) on a rotating basis with another parent, and then I help with the First Grade Class every other week. That way, the school benefits from my time, and my daughter can see me at the school just enough to not be bothered.

    It’s a win-win in our situation!

    • Wow they require you volunteer that much? That’s tough if you work during the day or have little kids still at home. I guess there are many ways to give your time. I think we should all be active in our child’s education in some way. My girls both beg me to help in their classrooms. I’m always trying to give them their space. It’s great that you and Claire have found the right balance.

  3. Nice post, Susan! I agree that sometimes too much volunteering is too much – been there myself – and it can take away from the family. It’s OK to say to no and sometimes saying no can be more beneficial to you. That said, I will sometimes feel a little guilty for saying no but I have to do what’s right for me and my family first and I understand and I can’t be involved in everything.

    • Thank you Heather. I never believed you could volunteer too much until I saw it tipping the balance with my kids. I always feel guilty turning down a way to help with the school but finding it benefits all the way around if I am a little picky with my involvement.

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