Volunteering: My Newest Mommy Guilt

This week I discovered a new kind of mommy guilt.When volunteering guilt blindsides you.

I had a full barrel of it already: too tired, too cranky, don’t play with the kids enough, not enough home cooked meals, not enough fun activities, failing in discipline, too much discipline, not enough play dates, house is disaster, sending them to school to begin with…

The list goes on.

The most recent fling of guilt caught me unaware, pants down if you will, because I was asked directly.

Begged almost.

For volunteering.

I didn’t know what to say. Sure, I’d known sign up sheets would pop up throughout the year for various special events at the school, many around the holidays.

But I had not expected a teacher to outright say, “We want you to volunteer.”

Forcing me to give a yes or no answer.

And now I am flooded with guilt.

Because after thinking about it the last two days, I gave an answer.


Now the mommy guilt is screaming at me for being selfish and I feel like I need to justify my actions.

Five Reasons I Refused to Volunteer

1.  It was my daughter’s teacher who requested it. My daughter who does not elicit one single whine or cry while at school until I show up. If I “help” out for her class I am afraid (especially if she’s still teething) she will lapse into her Mommy-Cling-Wrap ways and we will both be miserable.

2.  I pay them a good chunk of money each month to watch my children. It seems a bit like paying a baby-sitter then staying at home to hang out with your kids.

3. Every second of seven hours of “free” time I get each week is precious to me. If this was an outside-of-school-hours bonus activity, I would feel differently.

4.  It was for a Thursday during my Zumba class.

5.  My house is still not organized and I swore it would get done this month. I want this done so badly, I have skipped my absolute favorite Zumba class because I have so little uninterrupted time to do this.

Sure, some reasons are stronger than others.

They seem petty as I write them.

If the teacher were in front of me now, I can almost hear myself apologizing and changing my mind.

Because this volunteering guilt? It’s killing me.

Have you ever fallen prey to the volunteering mommy guilt?

Or did you join in and wish you’d said no?

Did you love every minute of volunteering?

About Kelly K @ Dances with Chaos

Kelly K has learned the five steps to surviving of motherhood: 1) Don't get mad. Grab your camera. 2) Take a photograph. 3) Blog about it. 4) Laugh. 5) Repeat. She shares these tales at Dances with Chaos in order to preserve what tiny amount of sanity remains. You can also find her on her sister blog, Writing with Chaos (www.writingwithchaos.com) sharing memoir and engaging in her true love: fiction writing. It's cheaper than therapy.
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21 Responses to Volunteering: My Newest Mommy Guilt

  1. Annie says:

    You will have plenty more opportunities to volunteer, trust me. Do not feel guilty for one more single second. I have volunteered in my children’s classrooms many times over the years, and this year I’m saying “no”. I only have about 4 hours of “Taz free” time a week and it’s just not even CLOSE to being enough to deal with the work at home.

    I totally get what you are saying. You did the right thing by saying no. Lil’ Diva will do much better at school without you there! 🙂

  2. John says:

    You should feel absolutely no guilt.


    Every reason you list is absolutely valid. Heck “because I don’t want to” is valid if you’re paying for the service.

    • I think the main reason I feel guilt, is a part of me wants to.

      I’d love to see them in a school environment.

      Of course, in my ideal scenario, I’m invisible and taking photos to capture the moments, preventing any meltdowns by Lil Diva.

      Thank you, John.

  3. Katie says:

    You shouldn’t feel guilty, but I understand why you do. I feel guilty about all kinds of things I shouldn’t. I try very hard not to, but the guilt just creeps in.

    And I completely understand the need to hold on to your valuable free time. That’s one of the main reasons I am SOOO looking forward to having my half-marathon over on Saturday. That way when I have my weekly 2 hours of free time during Sunday afternoon naps, I don’t have to spend it doing a 10-mile run!

    • I have skipped my Zumba class just to have alone time. After all, I can work out later if I want to – I still have my child care time.

      Good luck on your half-marathon! I’m sure the training is useful for helping get back into shape!

      I’ll stick to Zumba.

  4. mamadestroy says:

    I hear you loud and clear. I haven’t received any direct, personal requests, or I probably would have sucombed but I have been inundated with emails asking for me to volunteer for this, that, or the other thing (the latest is to volunteer for the “Halloween Kiddie Disco” fundraiser that my son’s school is throwing. I feel like a terrible person for not responding to a single one of those emails, and I feel sure that some of the moms are taking note of the fact that I have not stepped up. I volunteered to bake a cake last year, and when the pilot light went out on the stove, leaving the cake unbaked when i needed to be at the school function in just moments, I was a nervous crazy wreck. I am a little ashamed to admit that I cried. And that’s just it– we have enough on our plates taking care of our families. We shouldn’t have to worry about what the other parents at school are thinking about us, right? Cause isn’t that what the guilt and anxiety over this tuff really is? Anxiety over what those other perfect mothers are thinking about us?
    Stay strong! Don’t volunteer! (Unless, of course, you decide that you want to.)

    • My oven died recently.

      I am so glad it didn’t do it when I had a commitment for backing.

      Just when my kids were starving for dinner.

      I admit, I care little for peer pressure of other moms. I don’t feel the need to compete. I know with some people, it does not matter what I do, I will never measure up.

      A lesson learned from my tween/teen years.

      But I feel like I’ve let down the teachers, because they asked me directly.

      A part of me thinks I should volunteer, just so they can see the “real” side of Lil Diva… because she is perfect, happy, and angelic every single day for them.

      Until I pick her up.

      They wouldn’t ask me to volunteer anymore…

  5. Paige Morgan says:

    Kelly, you did the right thing! You listened to your mommy instincts and yours are great! When my son was in kindergarten, I overcommitted to the volunteer thing and then filled two guilt barrells with, ‘I am not living up to my commitments’, blah blah. Parenting is a marathon, not a sprint. Don’t go burning yourself out a 1/4 mile in!

    • I have never been a runner.

      I don’t do well sprinting or anything close to a marathon. I hate running.

      I think it’s because I do it wrong and it hurts my shins and back.

      I am always afraid I’m somehow screwing up this whole mommy gig too, I just won’t feel the pain until later.

      So good to see you around.

  6. Jessica says:

    You definitely shouldn’t feel guilty…especially because you’d miss Zumba! That definitely trumps volunteering 😉

    • Does it show you how much I want my home organized, that I’ve actually skipped that Zumba class to do so?

      And I love that class. I never missed it unless I was out of town or kids were sick (no child care option then) until I had the time free to do what needed to be done.

      Because I can take them to gym at any point during the day, if I must.

  7. Preschool volunteering? When you have 7 hours a week to yourself? I think not. As you said, you pay them so that you have free time. It’s one thing if you asked them if they wanted your help, but another if they are soliciting you. That’s nuts. There will be plenty of time for volunteering when your kids are in elementary etc school- when they’re out of the house EVERY DAY from 7-3, you’ll probably have some time to give a few hours. Now it’s zumba, groceries and whatever else YOU want to do….not an instant more of guilt.

  8. Trish Loye Elliott says:

    I sooo get this guilt, Kelly. But please ditch it. You just proved how good of a mother you are by protecting your few precious ‘me-time’ hours. You don’t have help or family to watch the kids. So if you lose your 7 hours, you’ll go insane. (I know from personal experience). Guilt is only a feeling that we put on ourselves. Leave it behind. And Kel, organizing your house? Take it one room at a time. Be easier with yourself. You’ve got many years ahead (when the kids are older) when you’ll be able to do ‘everything’.

    • What is with this “oh snap” crap with WordPress where it eats my comment?!?! Argh!

      As I said once before it was eaten…

      My house filled with chaos is driving me crazy.

      I cannot see the guest bed because stuff is all over it.

      I have containers stacked in my master bedroom because I have to no more closet space to store things.

      I am sick of not being able to use my office because it was turned into the “junk room” when my son was born – everything gets shoved into there that was in the kitchen or that the kids can’t have.

      I can barely walk into my office, much less find space to set my laptop and use my nice ergonomic set up.

      I cannot take it.

      It’s a catch-22. I have to clean the closets to make the room to organize the bins to see where they fit to find a place for the junk in the office so I can clean it.

      I also had to clean my pantry because there wasn’t anywhere to put food.

      So I know I have years, I’m just afraid my home will look like a disorganized hoarder’s house if I wait.

      I really miss having a basement…

  9. Sparky says:

    Amen to #1…reason enough right there! Kid Cling Wrap doesn’t mesh well with serving sticky punch to equally sticky children.

    I also agree with you on in-school-during-regularly-scheduled-programming vs special events. I would volunteer at a holiday party or pep rally. During school, though? Isn’t that what the teachers are there for??

    • Re: #1 – I am almost tempted to agree to volunteering, just so they never ask me to volunteer again. If they see what Lil Diva is really like when I’m around and she’s teething – because for them she’s the most delightful child ever.

      Not to whine, but why do moms get stuck with all the whining?

      I really wish it was a special event. For many schools it is and then I would be okay for volunteering – although if the teachers aren’t responsible for the kids, it takes my entire attention to wrangle both kids.

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  11. Deborah the Closet Monster says:

    I love volunteering, but I haven’t done any “mom” volunteering yet. Come to think of it, I haven’t done any volunteering at all since Li’l D was born. D’oh!

    #2 is the clincher for me in this case. I’d have said the same thing.

    Did you get any external grief for saying no? I’ve faced that a few times before even sans little one! It just makes me firmer in my stance.

    • I also used to volunteer before I had children.

      Now I find “free” time to donate almost impossible to find.

      I really wish the event was outside of school hours.

      I fear I will eventually be the black balled mother of “Oh, she’s the one who never helps.”

      I figured I would donate snacks/prizes for the event instead.

      I have yet to really get grief for saying no, as I just did so last Thursday and my children only have classes on Tuesday and Thursday.

      Thank you for your support. It means so much.

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