Volunteering at Your Kids' School: How Much is Too Much?
A stay-at-home mom feels the volunteer system at her school has become coercive. What would you do?
A friend recently expressed her frustration with mom volunteers in her elementary school, which will go unnamed for fear that doing so will fire up this group even more.
First, a little background. My friend is a stay-at-home mom of three children. The oldest and youngest children have medical conditions that put them in the emergency room more than their mom would like. She's accustomed to waiting on the edge of her seat for the next catastrophe and has little time to unwind.
When her two oldest children started school, my friend was happy to participate in the mom volunteer program when time permitted. Originally, volunteers were asked to sign up for art presentations in which they would go to the classroom on a certain day and teach the kids about an artist. Then volunteer requirements became more stringent.
In addition to "art moms," volunteers were asked to be "flashcard moms" — they would pull children from their classrooms and review math facts. Then there were the "reading with feeling moms" whose job it was to teach children how to infuse their reading with emotion. Odd considering the math flashcards and emotional reading seem more appropriately done in the home with parents. There also was a "copy mom" who would serve her time at the copy machine. Each task was a three-hour time slot.
Things went south when the head moms decided to keep a scorecard.
Lines were drawn and those moms (my friend was one of them) who didn't live up to the expectation of a select few were sent snail mail letters and emails asking them how they intended to "live up" to the volunteer standard. The new expectation was that each mom would volunteer at least twice a week, for a total of six hours, doing any of the designated tasks.
Some moms chose to cave to the pressure and volunteer more of their time rather than stand up for their free time.
My friend contends that she's worked hard for whatever down time she has and what these volunteer moms are asking her to do is equivalent to a job for which she gets no compensation. Unless you count peer acceptance. She wants to participate in a capacity that suits her lifestyle. After all, isn't that what volunteering is?
What would you do? Should these parents take the issue to school officials?