It seems as though people try to put working moms into two categories: working by choice or working by obligation. The reality is, I fall into both of these categories on different days. And I think a lot of women I know can echo the sentiment that it sucks to miss the drop offs and pickups at school, no matter how much we love our work or love what our work allows us. It’s a shame that those good feelings of being accomplished in the workplace get trumped by judgmental voices in our head — the voices that turn working moms into women cloaked in feelings of guilt and insecurity.
So how do I combat this insecurity? When my daughter was very young and in nursery school, I decided to use my talents and skills from my professional life to find a way to stay connected to her world and meet people who I couldn’t see daily. That’s when I dove into volunteering.
I’d pick positions that would allow me to spend time with my kids and exercise my skill set. I’ve chaired committees that have planned fundraising dinners and large scale parties for kids, solicited raffles, judged art pieces, presented awards at school assemblies and planned parties as class parent. Since I’ve juggled full time work with volunteering, I’ve found ways to contribute with the guide of “work smarter, not harder” and relied heavily on technology (thank you Google Docs) for things like creating a parent participation schedule. As each year passed, I took on different roles and started to have more of an impact in areas like budgeting, staff selection and, most recently, approving a major facility renovation.
I’ve brought my kids to meetings, which many times involves them getting to go to school when no one else is there. They have helped me set up at events and learned about all the ways in which people who care can make a difference in their community. My daughters have also grown to know and feel safe around friends I have made through my commitments. Play dates that were really business meetings let them get to know kids outside of their circle and even outside of their own neighborhood.
Aside from what volunteering has done for my role as a mom, it has helped me define my career interests. I never expected the volunteer work to create new passions for me or make me marketable to employers in another way. I’ve grown to really enjoy what I have learned and would eventually like to shift into a career in non-profit management.
Next year, I’ll be my younger daughter's Girl Scout troop leader and my older daughter's class parent. When they found out, they literally jumped around the living room. The best surprise has been how important my volunteering has become to my children and there is nothing that makes me feel more secure and confident than that.