Monday 11 March 2013

Volunteer Exhaustion

One of the lessons my parents taught me was that if I was going to belong to an organization, then I should volunteer to help as much as I can.  My mother joined the PTA and Girl Guides when I was young.  My father currently volunteers with the Canadian Association of Disabled Skiers, since Alex joined that program.

I often feel as if I'm taking advantage of an organization if I join or sign up my children but don't then volunteer.  But at the same time, the thought of taking on that much responsibility is exhausting.

When my boys were little, they went to a co-op preschool.  Parents were expected to come in as volunteers at least once a month to serve as adult supervision in the classroom.  There were other tasks as well but in the usual way of volunteers, 10% of the people did 90% of the work.

I volunteered in Nathan's JK classroom and it was great to get to see him in class, but no longer possible now that I'm working.

I volunteered to be on the executive committee with the Ottawa Romance Writer's Association.

But that's where I draw the line.  The schools would like me to volunteer for committees and bake sales.  Beavers would like me to volunteer as a leader.  At least two therapy programs have asked for parent volunteers and several of the afterschool groups.

Volunteers seem like a simple idea.  Get a little help from everyone and the organizers can charge less.  Families get to participate together.  But it is incredibly naive to continue to believe it will work out.  The majority of conscripted volunteers are passive and when volunteerism isn't mandatory, the rosters are thin.  People know that there's a lot of work and not many people willing to do it properly.

I am a recovering perfectionist and control freak and find it really difficult to step away from a job I know is being done poorly.  And once I've stepped up, I find it hard to not do it to the best of my ability.  So I protect myself with willful blindness.  I don't put myself in positions where I feel obligated to act.

Maybe this is an elitist opinion, but I'd rather pay a little more and have someone paid to take care of the issue.  (We can't always afford to pay more, but that's a separate issue.)

Or maybe I'm just that tired.

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