Thursday, July 15, 2010


I've done various voluntary work over the last ten years that I've been a SAHM.

I started a babysitting club for local families, based on a points system.

I've visited an elderly woman at a local nursing home.

I made a cookbook for the local child care centre.

I've been on the management committee for the local child care centre.

I ran two community bookgroups; one at the local library where the children's librarian was doing activities with the children while I was running the discussion with the parents.

At school I've been on the P&C for five years. I've made things for the school fete and helped at the fete and the walkathon and other special days. I work at the school uniform shop. I help in the classroom with reading, art, computers and sport. I do Reading Recovery helping kids learn to read. There are three kids I read with each week. I'm currently class parent for the Kindy class. I have three kids at school and help in each of their classrooms. Some of these things are more fun than others.

I've been on the Management Committee for the local Community Centre, and am currently the President. I write their newsletter.

I do it to feel I'm achieving something, learning something, I suppose, to interact with adults and to support people in the community. The best part is knowing what is going on in the community and being able to connect people with resources to help them.

It can be satisfying, although sometimes it feels like more of the unpaid, unseen work that women do. Most of the voluntary work I've been involved in has been with over-committed women. We need the people who don't usually volunteer to have a go, because those of us who regularly volunteer become burnt out. It is difficult when you want to take on paid work or study, or spend more time with family and feel you can't step down from voluntary work because no-one is prepared to step up to take your place.

It can be disappointing when you organise a free program, people say they will come, and then don't turn up. I wonder why I do it when I'm telling my kids to be quiet because I'm working on something. They like me helping at school, but don't like me being on committees and going to meetings at night (good thing I started that babysitting club!)

I think it would be helpful to have more supports for committee members, which we are implementing. Being on a committee is a serious legal, financial and HR responsibility. I started doing it initially because I thought mums should be heard and hold responsibilities in the broader community (other than paid jobs). Now I do it because I see there is no point complaining about things unless I'm prepared to be part of the solution. I have learnt to speak very nicely to volunteers, and always express gratitude for their help.

I've just enrolled to study two subjects at uni (I have 67 articles, 3 textbooks, 4 novels and 2 collections of poetry to read and understand), and think it is time to cut back on some voluntary work. I'll stick with Reading Recovery (those three kids would drop off the program if I drop out), and I promised to help some African migrants at the local girls high school learn to read, and I'll stay on the P&C and do uniform shop, and be class parent, but I can't resign as President of the local community centre until someone else is prepared to take my place. Also, I've put my name down to teach the ethics course in NSW primary schools if it goes ahead. And I've promised the local Greens group that I will help with letter box drops before the election and hand out how-to-votes on the day. It is all important. I'll see how I go.

Somehow I manage to get the housework done, the clothes mended, and I'm a stickler for eating well, (home cooked meals), but I must admit I am tired. My exercise at the moment consists of hanging out washing and walking the kids to school. Not enough.

Seems a bit crazy to be volunteering, doesn't it. I'm thinking something's going to give.

1 comment:

Melissa said...

That is a lot of unpaid work!! Burn-out is why I quit as a breastfeeding counsellor and why I don't take on any formal volunteer positions within the homeschool community, even though I regularly feel guilty about that. Since quitting ABA, I've done informal unpaid work though, running homeschool book clubs and reader's theatre groups. That works for me because it fits in well with the rest of family life.
It's true that if you quit some of your roles, they will go unfilled.
If there aren't others willing to take on the role, sometimes positions, classes, programs etc do fail. Maybe then other people will notice and do something about it, instead of leaving it up to the same small group of volunteers.
Maybe not. It's a vexed issue. Good luck with the juggling...