La La How The Life Goes On

Mandatory Volunteer

Posted on: February 10, 2014

http://www.brainchildmag.com/2014/02/the-mommy-wars-come-to-the-classroom/

That’s an article discussing the working mom/SAH mom divide as it relates to volunteering in the classroom. Having just come off a 5-month stint volunteering with Bambina’s school musical, I have concluded that the volunteer/non-volunteer question is not really about working parents vs stay-at- home parents. Rather, it’s about the three kinds of people at the school (and, for that matter, in life): Givers, Benevolent Takers, and Moochers.

There are Givers. Be it time, money, stuff, these are the volunteers. Many of whom are employed, many of whom are not. The director and stage manager of our musical both have jobs. My coproducer is back at college and working a home business. Half the moms and dads in our PTO are full-time employed. So it’s not about the job situation. My husband takes two days off work every year without fail: to chaperone a field trip and to help at field day. So he (and parents like him) give the time they can. Those who can’t give time often give money or goods and services. The dad who owned the coffee shop can’t come to the event, but he donated coffee for us to sell. The parents who can’t give the time to sell the raffle tickets buy a bunch. So you see my point: different people “volunteer” in different ways. All of them valid and important. Our family can’t blithely write a $100 check to the annual fund, so volunteering is how I contribute.

It’s okay to be a Giver of any kind.

Now let’s talk Benevolent Takers. These are the people who, for whatever reasons, can’t or don’t volunteer. I don’t judge anyone who doesn’t or can’t, because what the hell do I know about that person’s life? But here’s the key: Benevolent Takers are appreciative of and gracious toward those who do volunteer. They are the parents whose work schedules don’t allow for volunteering, or who have life circumstances that preclude it, but who recognize that you are giving up something to do this activity with and for their kids. They send emails to say thanks, they stop you to mention how great the show was. They, most importantly, send well-behaved and respectful kids to the activities. They are positive people who just aren’t joiners in your particular venue. I am a Benevolent Taker at our temple. I appreciate every single person there who gives their time and talents, but my contributions are almost zero unless they need store-bought cookies or something. But I send and say thank yous–and ensure my kids behave on penalty of extreme internet shutdown.

It’s okay to be a Benevolent Taker.

Now here come The Moochers. They give not one minute of time to (let’s say) the musical. They offer no materials for costumes, concessions or sponsorships. They just don’t have time! But boy do they have time to craft an elaborate email detailing how you can be doing it more to their liking. This little thing was annoying and inconvenient for them, so we should totally work on that for next time. They complain. They murmur to other parents about all the perceived faults in how we are running rehearsals. They think their child should have a “better” role, failing to notice that their child is disrespectful, difficult to work with, and not super interested in a bigger role anyway, which is why he has the role he has. They sometimes treat us like we are the paid help, as if we are all drawing fat checks for working with their kids and somehow not providing value-added services in exchange for that imaginary fat check. In short, they are miserable, entitled people. They are the ones who make me periodically vow that I’m Never Doing This Again. True story: one hour after our show I received an email from one such mom. To point out an error in the program book. Really? Really? I just spent 5 MONTHS and countless hours with your child. I hand-made 43 costumes. I designed that entire program and spent hours working with the printer to get it completed on time and under budget. And what you have to say to me not 60 minutes after it’s over is “here is something you got wrong.” I mean, who does that?! Moochers is who. Moochers. I SWEAR I AM NEVER DOING THIS AGAIN.

I confess to having been a closet Moocher in the past. About the musical, no less! Aha, my comeuppance. Before I got involved I really felt that they needed to utilize the younger kids more, have better email communication, and properly proofread the playbill since they left out my salutation. I never sent nasty emails or publicly dissed anyone. But in my head the entire enterprise was in need of intervention. Yes indeed, those musical people needed to get more on the ball. I mean, how hard could it be? So I decided to help out. Well, butter my buns and call me a biscuit; because I learned precisely how hard it is to create a musical with 50-80 kids while keeping all the multiple and swiftly-moving balls in the air. Put plainly, it’s a g-damned miracle it ever comes together on our timeline, budget and staffing. But come together it does. To the joy of kids and parents school-wide. And so even though my brain is screaming, “I SWEAR I AM NEVER DOING THIS AGAIN,” I do it again. Because the musical ain’t gonna stage itself. And I have to do penance for the two years I thought uncharitable thoughts about the musical and everyone associated with it.

So, you see, it’s not about what kind of employee you are; it’s about what kind of person you are. If you are Types 1or 2, keep on giving and taking. But If you recognize even a tiny little bit of yourself in Type #3, repent now, sinner. And call me. Atonement begins this fall at auditions!

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2 Responses to "Mandatory Volunteer"

Oh my goodness! You summed it all up perfectly! Thank you! Loved this.

Sent from my iPhone

Great points here — thanks for sharing my original piece and furthering the conversation. KD

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