“Taking One for the Team” as Parent Volunteers

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A soccer coach talking to his players.The pandemic has made much more visible how stretched thin parents are. Everywhere you scroll, there’s another article or video about how exhausted, tapped out, and spent we are. It’s great (sort of) that we’re talking (or primal screaming) about all the loads we carry.

And yet there isn’t much mention about the hours upon hours that parents volunteer. As members of PTA/ PTO boards and school governance committees. As coaches and board members for our town’s youth sports. As troop leaders for Girl and Boy Scouts. As volunteers for children’s programs at our local houses of worship.

I imagine there isn’t much public recognition because not many parents can give more of themselves to do this volunteer work. More volunteers are always needed, and yet it’s near impossible to volunteer amidst all the other responsibilities we must prioritize.

It’s another precarious line we constantly walk as parents. We must know our limits and not overextend ourselves. But if we don’t contribute, who will? For the volunteers who somehow are shape-shifters, flying through time and space, doing it all, I salute you.

For the sports volunteers, I know you ordered signs, picked up signs, and put up signs throughout your town to advertise. I know you cleaned fields, organized schedules, completed safety trainings, made team rosters, and secured entertainment and food for opening day. This was all before the season even started! And then you show up multiple times a week at practices and games to nurture a group of kids!

For the school volunteers, I know you are in and out of the building, meeting with teachers and administrators to plan enrichment activities, family events, and theme days. You’re there to pick up and drop off checks, stuff flyers into students’ folders, sell spirit wear, deliver teacher appreciation gifts, and the list goes on and on. You present at monthly meetings, not knowing how many parents will attend and how well your updates will be received.

For the troop leaders and the volunteers at houses of worship, I know you give of yourselves in similar ways, and you add in overnight retreats.

And then there are the fundraisers. It’s impossible for me to begin to describe all that I know you all do for those!

All of you are “taking one for the team,” most likely going above your limits.

For the volunteers who carve out a few hours here and there, I’m right there with you. We give what we can give when we can give it to lighten the load of others in our “village.” We send emails to help disseminate information about upcoming events or reach out to fundraising vendors. Weeks or months in advance, we sign up for distributing cookies, uniforms, or books. We promote on social media and reach out to friends, hoping to widen the pool of volunteers.

For the parents who do not (currently) volunteer, for whatever reason, I get it. I see you. I feel you. There’s so much (too much, really) going on. You don’t have to apologize, nor should you feel guilty.

You and your kids are part of our “village,” and the work that volunteers do is for the good of everyone.

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