Thursday, October 9, 2014

“Are you having fun, Mom? Are the people being nice?”

I love when the tables turn and my girls pat my hand and ask me how my day was. They are so fascinated that I have a life sometimes. Since we moved states, that table turning has been spinning so much we have equalized a bit which is nice. It gives me some credibility when I tell them to get out there and make friends if they see that I have to do the same. For them, getting out there means school and sports. For me, it means chatting with the other parents at their schools and sports. And volunteering.

I was raised to see volunteering as something we just do. Like eating or sleeping or brushing our teeth. If I can help, I should simply because that is the decent human thing to do. All of the grown-ups I knew, whether they were working full-time jobs or not, whether they got recognition for their service or not, simply volunteered when they could. It was never a big deal, never about pressure or for show. As a mom, though, I see that not everyone else views it that way. And it is a bit of a crazy world.

When I was a working mom, I felt a TON of pressure to volunteer more. I felt I had to prove I was still an involved parent. Who I thought I had to prove this to, I’m not sure. Maybe the random haters who would talk loudly at the other tables in the lunch room about “the trouble with parents these days is that they work too much and leave their kids to be raised by strangers” (even though it was my father who was doing the bulk of the daycare, so I really should have shrugged that off)? Maybe it was the other parents at the preschool who would brag about knowing all the teachers on a first name basis (even though my mom was a teacher there so technically I knew them all, too, and should have shrugged that one off as well)? Who knows. But I felt like I had to be doing more. Which was dumb. All I had to be doing was loving my kids and taking care of them. Screw what the other parents thought about me.

As a SAHM, I know I could feel pressure to out perform the other SAHMs, but I’m not going to. I’ve grown-up a bit. Sure, I still care what people think of me. I just don’t let it totally rule me (and never totally did . . . I did say no to a lot of volunteering even as a working mom – I just felt bad about it then and don’t feel bad about it now). I am meeting new groups of moms these days and keep getting the same advice: don’t over-volunteer. Great advice. But my mom already gave me that advice many years ago which is why even when I did feel pressured to do so, I didn’t give in. My mom said pick one or two areas to volunteer in and stick to those. Being helpful means not being exhausted or resentful. It means not burning the candle at both ends. 
my mom's advice, but in Ron Swanson's words (from here)
And when I feel I have too much on my plate or my health is bad or my back hurts too much, IT IS OK TO SAY NO. Taking care of my health and my family comes first. If I don’t do that, then someone else would have to. I smile at the moms who tell me not to over-volunteer, then listen to them tell me how over-involved they are. I know they are talking more to themselves than to me. They don’t know me, so they don’t know that I will certainly NOT be leading a garden club ever nor will I ever take over as treasurer of anything simply because I feel like I ought to. I don’t think I owe it to the working mothers to “pick up their slack” by volunteering twice as much (that just insults working mothers who I really don’t think need extra insults). I don’t think I need to have something scheduled for every day. I don’t think it is my duty to put in community service hours because I am not bringing in a paycheck. Nope.
my NO gets used plenty
I volunteer when an opportunity comes up that I think fits me. Something I think I can do well. Like teaching catechism classes. Or working at the book fair. Or being a hall monitor. And recently I have been volunteering to meet new people and make new friends here in our new state.  If they are going to use my volunteerism as a yardstick, however, for my goodness as a mom, I’ll pass. I think we should all be old enough now to stop judging each other like that and just be moms together, regardless of how many volunteer hours we’re logging. Can’t we just focus on what really matters? Who’s bringing the coffee to the next meeting?!?!?!

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