For me it started when my oldest son was in preschool. A month into this new routine his teacher asked me if I would be in charge of the class Halloween party. Of course, I said yes and proceeded to get the details needed to do the best job a three-year-old’s mother could do. When I proudly told my sister this she busted her side laughing. At the time she was a director of daycare center and between fits of giggles she managed to say, “Good teachers can always tell; you’re pegged for life!”
I honestly had no idea what she was talking about. She proceeded to tell me that volunteers have a certain look, an exact demeanor, and a teacher can tell almost immediately who they can count on to help out. Good teachers ask and good volunteers say ‘yes’.
Just Say No
We (volunteers) sometimes want to say ‘no’ but it’s not in our vocabulary. We want to go to one of our kid’s functions and sit there and socialize with friends and other parents oblivious to everything that everyone else is doing to keep the meeting or party going. It is not in my nature to sit there socializing when others need help and I’ve resolved that in my life. If something needs to be done and if I can do it then I’m going to say yes.
Enjoy the functions where you can’t volunteer. Our school has function in May called Muffins for Mom. I love going to this one because I take the kids to school, get breakfast, and find a seat next to friends. I have no cares in the world that morning because the dad’s are obligated to do all the work!
Volunteers’ Circular Logic
My excuse (reason) for helping out is that I’m going to be there anyways I might as well help. So when everyone is getting their food at a Cub Scout Christmas party, I’m one of the parents who are serving it in the buffet line. I may or may not get to eat because right after that I’m in charge of a game. But the circular logic remains the same: They (the other volunteers) need help and I’m here ergo I have to help out.
I’ve had to make a rule with this circular logic. I volunteer to help out every other time. If I volunteer at the Halloween party, I don’t do the Christmas party. Sometimes it works, but most of the time it doesn’t. Or if I don’t help out then my husband jumps in and helps. It’s just in our nature and some things you cannot change no matter how hard you try.
Trying to Keep Things Fair
I lose track of this one quickly. Wait, let me go back and look at my calendar. Okay, I helped out at the oldest child’s retreat so now I need to do something for my younger one and they need lunch duty help so that should even it out.
But wait, the school is asking for help for the Winter Carnival and that would count for both kids. I could kill two birds with one stone in one day. I’ll just do that and call it even (but I’ll still do lunch duty later this month).
You may think this way but chances are your kids don’t. They will see you doing things and helping out. They will remember that you were there and not compare notes about how many times.
When You Can Finally Say ‘NO’
It’s not that I can’t say ‘no’, it’s just that, in my mind, there probably isn’t a good enough reason to say it. I did have to say no once. To my surprise the person who asked me to help out just replied, “OK” and she never mentioned it again. I guess when you normally help out and you can’t help with something then people don’t mind it when you actually can’t help out. Saying no to a few things has kept my sanity.
Saying ‘no’ doesn’t mean that they won’t ask you to help out with something else in the future. Don’t worry, they will keep asking and then you can pick and choose what you can and can’t do. Remember: They will ask again, they know who you are!