By Andrea Slaydon
It’s hard to believe it’s that time of year again. Class sign-ups, bake sales, fundraisers, committee preps, party planning, lunch packing, and the list goes on. For parents, the energy of a fresh start to the school season makes us especially eager to raise our hand for just about every task. How do we avoid overcommitting again? This constant need to say yes, or “helium hand,” can be avoided if you keep a few things at mind to start.
“I try not to overcommit, but a yes here and there somehow turns into a lot of work,” says Houston mom of 3 Jenn Canady, “I get so burned out by the time the end of the school year comes around.”
Why do we do it year after year? Why do we keep saying “yes” to every little project and request? For starters, we want to feel valued and plugged into what is going on in our community. Maybe we want make friends or get to know the staff at the school. Let’s face it, the truth is, schools, PTA’s, churches, and other groups rely on volunteers in order to operate. They need us! But, they don’t need the same person saying yes for every little project.
Houston mom Jennifer Manning has two children and says she knows all too well about being overcommitted.
“It happens when I fall into the trap of ‘if I don’t, who will?’ I need to remember that I’m not that important to everyone, but I am crucial to my friends and family,” said Manning, “I will always be searching for the right ‘fit’. It’s not full-time, nor is it complete withdrawal.”
Jenn Nevitt is a mom to two kids and also the PTA President at Bear Branch Elementary in Kingwood.
“Our whole organization is made up of volunteers,” said Nevitt, “From officers, executive board, committee chairs, to classroom helpers. Every single thing is done by volunteers, whether it’s someone working 2-4 hours a year or even some who works 50 hours a month.”
Nevitt wants volunteering to be fun and rewarding, not something people fear or dread doing. Her method for recruiting helpers is to match up people with things they are passionate about.
“It makes the job more fun and less like work so they remain committed. If the volunteers feel like what they are doing is important or they are making a difference, they also feel the value of their work. I encourage parents to use their voice and be an active role in their child’s school and education.”
As a Children’s Ministry leader, Rachel Lockhart helps organize volunteers to work with the children in a church community.
“When people volunteer for something they are passionate about, they do a better job.” said Lockhart, “The volunteers don’t get burned out because they are excited about helping out.”
Other tips to avoid volunteer burnout :
- Identify what jobs you have done in the past that may translate to a volunteer position.
- Make sure to ask about scheduling of the volunteer activity, so you don’t over commit for things on the same days.
- Choose volunteer activities that you can do as a family, so you can still spend time together and get a job done.
- Ask about volunteer jobs that can be done at your home or on your own time.
- Don’t be afraid to say no! They will find someone else to do the job.
“Apply your gifts to things that are gratifying to you,” said Nevitt. “Volunteering should be fun, rewarding, besides meeting the needs of the organization.”
Keep your helium hand at bay, and make the new school year more fun and enjoyable for you and your family.