Tuesday, February 06, 2007



There seems to be a million and one things, as a parent, to beat yourself up over. Especially if, like me, you have tendencies to compare yourself unfavourably to others, take to heart opinions - of others - and combine a thin skin with an overworked conscience lobe in your brain.

Mostly it's over stuff I feel like I should (or shouldn't) be doing with or for the kids. But many other times it's over the expectations of others.

I beat myself up most of today feeling guilty because, unlike past years, I didn't volunteer to help with timekeeping at my daughters' school swimming carnival. Today I just felt like enjoying watching their races, helping the youngest get her swimming cap on before each race, and doing the sunscreen watch, making sure, for once, they didn't come home with faces like lobsters. (And given my niggly back, I really didn't feel like standing for hours at the end of a pool, or perching in between races on the most uncomfortable bench seats I've ever encountered, and leaning over to watch them touch the wall - nup - not a good thing for me to do at the moment.)

But no matter the permission note I'd written myself, I couldn't help feeling bad. (And obviously I still do because I'm writing this post!) I even got asked once.. and I said - 'um, I might later, after I've ducked out and bought my lunch, and, um, actually, though, I was going to be selfish for a change and look after my kid this year.' And somehow I just never got round to offering to replace anyone.

I did also help Zoe's little mate, who didn't have a parent there - making sure she was sunscreened up, and helped motivate her have a go in a few races. (And seeing she's a very fair little redhead, I thought that was a worthy job. I also helped her tighten her goggles - something I couldn't have done if I was otherwise engaged.) But it still didn't assuage that overwhelming guilt I felt for not 'doing my bit' despite the fact that there are plenty of parents who a) weren't even there, or b) were there, not helping, and couldn't give a stuff.

Schools, and committees. Where 'volunteering' is an expectation. And once you do, it leads to further expectations. And where not volunteering can lead to all consuming guilt.

It's a no win situation for me... And is it just me? Or can others tell me how to gain control of my overworked conscience?


I don't think it's just you, it's definitely me too.

It's what others around us don't say that leaves us questioning ourselves.

Then our lack of conviction does the rest.

Commonsense says: You were there for your daughter, meeting her needs which is awesome and she is the only reason you were there at all, so there's no reason to feel bad.
I've felt that volunteering guilt, too, and not just at school. If I volunteer somewhere, I do my best work and give it my all. Invariably, the volunteer coordinator gets starry-eyed, thinking I'd like to 'come back every week' or something along those lines. I'm stretched too thin to make a regular commitment to every cause, but I feel guilty when I have to say that I'd best stick to coming by occasionally to help out.
Guilt is a wonderful thing...not. You are not alone in that, but I must say that everything you did - helping your own kids, helping another girl whose parents were not there, etc. was more than enough. You could have stayed home altogether.

We need more pats on the back instead of all this guilt.
It seems like whatever kids event you go to, there's that one mother who's perfect. She's slim, with a sassy haircut, always cheering eveyrone on, always doing everything effortlessly. And you know for a solid fact she's going to go home and feed her family vegetables.

I get out of dong all that by not looking. I look at my child, only. Maybe other kids to see if they need a hand. I never ever look at the other adults. If I don't look I won't compare. Every now and then someone will sit next to me, but it's always some other mother in the same boat I'm in. The one single time I actually volunteered in a major way was my son's kindergaten Field Day, and I undid all the good by sharing a pitcher of Bloody Marys with another mother afterward.
That is the problem with volunteering and committees, though - there are too few who put their hands up, so it all falls to the several who have had their hands up in the past (or were waving or something).

I think that guilt is something that is handed down the generations too - sometimes a little warped by the previous generation's experience, sometimes a little warped by your own.

My mother went to everything and occasionally volunteered. Her parents never went to anything during her school life (they were pretty much orphans and had no role models) so she was making up for them.

I am constantly overcompensating for the fact that my daughter's father is not around. I have been on committees from when she was at childcare and feel very guilty about the fact that I haven't put my name down on the tuckshop roster yet...

I like RootieToot's advice - don't take it but like it!
Tracey, I really enjoyed that post. You really let us feel your angst, as you always do. I love that about your posts - you lay it all out there.
Volunteer for what you enjoy doing, not what you think you shoudl do, you will enjoy your volunteering so much more, and it can be your reason for accepting or declining volunteering - "I do this because I enjoy it" - No thanks, I am involved in other things.
The thing about volunteering is that those who volunteer thier time tend to be targetted for other "jobs" - leaned on.
I used to volunteer for a indigenous welfare organistion, I was helping a finacial counsellor with their office work. That was what I signed up for. I wanted to volunteer to an indigeous cause as it was my area of interest. I wanted to gain some office work experience. It suited me. Next thing I know I am being taken to boring meetings to take the minutes, write the minutes, plan and organised workshops and projects that I didn't believe in...I was feeling really used and I left. I didn't knwo how to honestly explain why. I just said that my too busy with uni.
I also volunteered at a refugee organisation for years, that organisation never tried to squeeze more from me that I was willing to give.
I think wanting to watch your children at the swimming meet is reason enough to decline the volunteering jobs. You need do no more. You were there watching, what more could have made your child feel special.
Thanks for sharing this honest and enjoyable post.
Me too. Many years ago I volunteered to be the kindergarten secretary, trouble was with four children I was around the kinder for about eight years. Somehow there is never anyone with their hand up to replace you. Lunch mum, helping with the fete worse than death... you name it if there's a job everyone moves back one pace and there I am. I always seemed to end up with a house full of other people's children, now it's everybody elses children playing with my grandchildren.
When you do say no there's that guilt thing that Tracey describes so well. I told the neighbourhood 12-year-old thug who had left his key at home (he arrives home from school before his parents) for the umpteenth time that I was too busy for him to come in and play with my 14-year-old grandson who asked me to tell him that he was sick. Next time he arrives at my door I'll probably let him in. I worried about him for the rest of the day.
Tracey, you don't need to feel bad because you wanted to experience something as a parent instead of a helper.

I'm one of those moms who does too much. I've been room parent, rep, treasurer, vice president, president and secretary of the PTA. (Though Rootie would laugh if she saw my not so sassy haircut at times, and I should be honest and say that I don't go home and feed anyone vegetables when I'm helping with something, it's usually take-out).

From the POV of the "always helping" mom... I always let people know that I think it's ok for them to not help every time. Hell.. there are over two hundred families at #3's school and if some can't rest to enjoy some event as a parent and if others can't step up to the plate once in a while then there's something wrong.

So stop it with that guilt. Your kids also, want to know that once in a while, you're there to focus only on them... not on the job that needs doing and that makes you a good mom too.

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