Tuesday, November 04, 2014

Spread Thin

I have learned, over the last two years, to set slightly better boundaries for myself when it comes to volunteering my time. I hate to say no, but I also really feel attached to at least six or seven hours of sleep a night. This is the third year that I have been co-president of our elementary school PTO - which has been quite fulfilling, but has also, at times, put a strain on our family life and relationships.

I am so grateful to have a partner in my presidency, because there is no possible way I could do this job by myself, especially when I'm working. This year both my co-president and I are working either part or full time which means we can't do everything. Fortunately our skill sets balance fairly well and we've managed to remain good friends, despite the occasional stresses of sharing this position. We have been able to stay on top of most tasks, but others have fallen by the wayside.

Schools, especially one the size of ours, need lots of volunteers. The PTO alone needs volunteers to run fundraisers, coordinate events, bring food for teachers on conference nights, etc. The teachers have volunteer needs as well - people to help check sight words or read with small groups, library helpers, brave souls to be responsible for other people's children on field trips, party planners, etc.

It's wearying, right? And we can't say yes to everything. I've been parts of several different organizations where it starts to feel like only a handful of the people show up to fill these needs. I find it difficult, sometimes, not to judge the folks who don't seem to help at all. I have to constantly remind myself that I don't have the whole story.

Last year was sort of a sweet spot for volunteering for me. Both of my children were in school all day. I was not (mostly) working. It was not such a stretch for me to show up for two library days a month, to read with kindergartners once a week, to help organize the guided reading rooms, to be on the PTO officer board AND to serve on event committees. This year, that has drastically changed. I'm not available during the day and my children have more demanding after-school schedules. I cannot do any of those during-the-school-day activities.

Today I left home early to go vote, then I worked in my school library (my job) moving and packing books all day to get ready for the renovation, then I rushed back to the my children's school to go to the PTO officer meeting, then hurried home to help with homework and make dinner, then ran out to pick up some supplies for PTO, then worked on the monthly PTO newsletter, now I'm blogging and in a few minutes I'll make the lunches for tomorrow before falling into bed. Today has been exhausting. (Thank goodness not every day is quite that busy.)

I don't deserve any kind of recognition or award for any of this - it's what parents do. But I also know that I'm hoping to stick with my current job and it means sustaining this level of volunteerism isn't going to be possible forever. There's nothing particularly special that I, personally, bring to this PTO position other than a willingness to do it. The PTO will go on just fine with out me. But I hope, when it is time to step down, that there is someone else finding herself in her own sweet spot for volunteering. And I hope that person will enjoy being a part of this sliver of community as much as I have.

1 comment:

Emily said...

Good thoughts, Kelsey!! I have noticed in our own PTA (why are some PTA and others PTO?) that presidents tend to last 1-2 years, because the job is so demanding that no one can do it long term, and each year I just hope and pray that someone is in that sweet spot and willing to step up and help. I try to do as much as possible that I can do from home since it's tough for me to get in the building during the day and be very productive with little ones in tow. But I look forward to being able to help more when I get in my own sweet spot in a few years. Last year, our PTA president worked full time and I don't know HOW she survived the year. (her job was very flexible, allowing her to be in the building during the day and make up the time later, but still, she had to work 40 hours). But a good PTA makes a huge difference in the feel of a school building. I'm sure you have helped many many families in more ways that you realize.