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Parent Mantra, “I’ll volunteer when…”

Let’s face it. Parents have either a love or hate relationship with volunteering.


For some, volunteering wasn’t even a part of their lives before they had kids (missed opportunity there), and whether you participated or not, volunteering changes once kids enter the picture.


When you were younger, you were either driven to do it based on your interests or required to do it for community service hours (that started after I left high school in the 1920’s).


As a parent, the big change is that your time is no longer your own and many of the volunteer opportunities often revolve around a kid-related or school-related activities. That either works for you, or it doesn’t.


Studies have shown that volunteering your time has tremendous social and emotional benefits for your health and overall wellbeing. So why all the angst?


Because parents have a lot of responsibilities and limitations on their time, finding time to volunteer, even for the initiatives they feel strongly about, can be hard. When time is found to do it, the pressure of getting it right or doing enough often becomes a concern as well.


In conversations with parents, when the topic of volunteering comes up, I often hear the response begin with, “I volunteer when…”


You can fill the blank in with several responses to include:


  • When I have more time.

  • When work slows down.

  • When my kids get older.

  • When it’s something that’s not complicated.

  • When (enter name here) is no longer involved. (Ouch)

  • When there’s more variety.

  • Next year.

  • Never.


The list goes on and on and when you never volunteer, or if your kids ask you why you don’t, go ahead and add a big heaping pile of guilt on top of it as well.


But it doesn’t have be to that way. Volunteering is just that, giving of your time and talents when you can do so without sacrificing your schedule, soul, or sanity.


So, what’s the solution?


Be honest with yourself. Do you want to volunteer? If the answer is no, there you are.

Own your “no” and don’t feel obligated to explain it to anyone. There’s no judging in volunteering. If you know your limits or are really honest about not wanting to spend your time that way, that’s just fine. Not everyone was meant to play pickleball either, it’s not a big deal.


If you want to do “something” but not as part of a group, there are plenty of ways you can contribute to an effort and not be personally involved:


  • Spread the word through your community or post on social media.

  • Contribute money.

  • Donate needed items.


If you want to volunteer behind the scenes but can be a little more “hands-on,” you can try these low-key activities:


  • Fundraising.

  • Making phone calls.

  • Helping with IT support.

  • Providing transportation.

  • Graphic design.


Behind the scenes support is just as important as “front line” tasks and you can often do them with limited time restrictions or supervision.


Finally, if you want to go “all in” and help lead the charge, go for it.

Volunteering connects you with others and nurtures your inner spirit. When you volunteer you often get more out of it than you put in, but there are still important things to keep in mind.

Here are a few:


  • Look for volunteer opportunities that fit your interests. There’s no point in doing something just because you were asked. If you’re going to spend the time, you should enjoy it.

  • Do what you can when you can. Look for an opportunity that is flexible. Volunteering should not be something that jeopardizes your quality of life or other responsibilities.

  • Volunteering should bring a sense of joy and satisfaction to your life. If you’re feeling pressured, uncomfortable, or inconvenienced it’s probably the wrong activity for you. For example, if there are legal or financial responsibilities you don’t want to be involved in or responsible for, speak up. It’s important to keep you and the organization you are volunteering for compliant with any bylaws, regulations, or rules that keep you both indemnified.

  • Make sure not to take on too much. It’s great to be a person that helps. It’s not great to be a person that gets taken advantage of. Do not feel guilty for saying no to taking on more tasks. Most organizations struggle with participation and a few volunteers end up taking on the work of many. Eventually, those few burn out, don’t be one of them.

  • Avoid “volunteer” politics at all costs. You are there to help for the greater good, not to help someone be the loudest voice in the room and have them control the efforts and narrative. That’s another example of putting yourself into a position where you could easily leave something you love, because of someone or something you don’t like.

  • And as much as I hate to say it, don’t be the volunteer that drives others away. Volunteering is being a part of a collaborative effort that has brought people together for a positive, specific, outcome. It’s not your show or your soapbox. Everyone should have a voice and share in the decisions, and the credit.


Volunteering brings people together in a way that few other efforts can. If done right, your life, health, and wellbeing can be greatly enriched by the people you meet, partner with and support.


Hopefully your discernment for the right time, opportunity, and experience will change your mantra from, “I’ll volunteer when…” to “I’ll volunteer again…”


Take care and be well,


Looking for a little support in your health and wellness journey?

The Better4U, Better4All #blog is going bi-weekly. Watch for the next post on Sunday, March 24th!



Mom volunteer with her children
Volunteering and parenthood can often be a source of joy and struggle.

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