To All the Parents Who Don’t Volunteer

volunteering quoteAs I was perusing my eldest son’s school papers last Friday, I flipped through his tests and completed assignments and the occasional flyer. But there was one particular sheet that caught my eye – a sign-up request for volunteers to work the class booth at the upcoming Fall Festival. A similar paper had been circulated the week prior, and now the room mom and teacher were making the plea again.

Please consider signing up for one 30-minute shift.

We need volunteers to run our booth and make this event happen. Thank you!

Twenty-eight volunteers were needed. The friendly reminder revealed only five parents had signed up. Five parents. That’s it! The festival is being held in the evening hours, so one can assume most parents will have completed their workday. But still, based on the lean list, it is clear parents are not cheerily stepping up.

Perhaps we have a group of procrastinators on our hand, or maybe this is a reminder that 20% of the people do 80% of the work.

I am by no means “Super Volunteer.” My career often keeps me from being on my kids’ campuses, but I do try to help when I can. I’ll elect to purchase a box of drinks if I can’t help at the class party, or contribute supplies for the teacher. And I’ll pick a couple of events throughout the year to help in-person, throwing them on my Outlook calendar like I would a business meeting.

I see some moms, and dads, go way above and beyond. They carry the PTA. They invent new events to keep the kids energized and inspired. They fundraise to invest in the areas our public schools can’t support with government dollars.

Obviously not every parent is wired to serve in this capacity, but I wonder what would happen if more parents stepped up and gave a little more, or just gave a little period.

I have to believe more than five parents from a group of 70 students could give 30 minutes of their time on a Friday night.

Kids love to see their parents volunteer at their schools. Sure, if you’re a working parent you can’t chaperone every field trip, or attend every class party. But if you’ve been sitting on the sidelines, perhaps you could sign up for one thing this school year. Give the 20% a break, or at least join them for a moment.

Don’t wait for an invite. Don’t feel like you need to be a part of the PTA clique. Don’t always assume someone else has got it covered.

I know we all wear our “busy badges” with honor, but as we enter the holiday season and time of year known for giving thanks, consider giving back.

And if you really can’t volunteer, consider giving a “thank you” to the parents who carry the weight at your kids’ schools, on their sports teams and extracurricular activities.

A simple note of thanks can make a world of difference.

  1. I totally agree! Even though I work I always make an effort to help when I can, since I have seen how just a few parents seem to take on everything! Great post!

  2. Now I feel guilty. Because I am one of those parents. The reality is that after a busy work day, I really don’t want to be around loads of kids and other parents in the evening. I barely have energy for me or my family at that point so I’m pretty sure I’d be useless. And my weekends, well they are for me, my family, and lots of errands with some socializing thrown in too so it’s unlikely you’ll find me volunteering for any weekend events either.

    Does this make me selfish? Probably, but I’m OK with that.

    Day-time events: like you, I try to pick one or two that I can plop into Outlook and plan around. I know what they mean to my kids.

    But your point about saying thank you to those parents who do give of their time is a wake-up call to me. Because yes, they make the effort, they take the time and it makes a difference. I will definitely do better about communicating my appreciation to those folks.

    • Samantha – definitely not trying to make people feel guilty. I think some people just aren’t wired to volunteer for kid stuff. But I think the point is really just to find a small way to give back. Perhaps it is through monetary donations or picking up snacks. And if you can’t do either, then yes, we all need to be more mindful about saying thanks. Without those who give so much, all of our kids would lose out.

    • Samantha,

      Should is a 4-letter word. S-h-u-d. Do what is right for you and your family. Don’t worry about what you “should” do. But I agree with Kerry, thank yous are always a good thing.

  3. For many working moms, time and energy are our most valuable commodities. And I don’t think there’s any need to feel guilty for reserving some time and energy for ourselves or our families. But our communities benefit tremendously from volunteers – civic association volunteers who plan seasonal festivals open to the whole community; garden clubs who beautify our parks and public spaces; coaches and parents who teach our kids sports skills and teamwork; school volunteers who contribute to a variety of enrichment activities. Would I be excited to spend 30 minutes on a Friday night at a fall festival with hundreds of kids? Probably not. But I do it anyway, because it isn’t just about those 3o minutes. Volunteering is about creating a community, the type of community that I want my kids to grow up in. And volunteering is about setting a good example for my kids, that everyone should put in a little effort if they want to enjoy all those benefits of the community.

  4. My school has PTA meetings at 9:15 in the mornings. If they want to exclude me from the meetings I have no problem excluding them from my time and money.

    I think a lot of working parents respond to how the “volunteer moms and dads” treat them.

    • Good point. We have a similar situation with this mid-day PTA meetings. The timing doesn’t feel very inclusive, but I think there are always ways to volunteer outside working hours as well.

  5. I agree. I do what I can and am not about to stress over it, but it’s important that we help out as we’re able. Thankfully, our school holds its PTO meetings in the afternoon and I’m able to attend (when I remember). We have to remember that volunteering is not always about being physically there–rounding up kids, painting, parking cars, etc. It can be as simple as typing up the PTO notes and sending them out via email to parents that couldn’t make it or coordinating something like BTFE, where you can work on your own time.

    • Good suggestion! For those who can’t attend, taking on a small project that can be managed on your own time works great!