As a parent, I am a firm believer in doing your bit. Before complaining about that state of the school, the lack of activities in the community or how difficult it is to meet other families, I prefer to make a suggestion, volunteer or start an initiative.
I’m shy and the phrase “we are looking for volunteers” scares me off as much as it does everyone else in the room. However, since having my children, I feel I have to fight that feeling and get involved in things for the greater good. If I want them to grow up in a close-knit community where people are friendly and helpful, where the school is well-equipped and where extra-curricular activities abound, then surely it is only right that I chip in and support that happening.
Some may say it is easy for me because I am at home at the moment; that I have time for these things. But the more I get involved in voluntary community work, the more I realise that it is mostly the busy people who volunteer. The working mums use their weekly day off to man the cake sale stand or accompany the kids on the school tour. The dads who aren’t around for the kindergarten drop offs join the parents’ council or lug furniture about in preparation for the annual open day.
When I was one of those working parents, I did my fair share of pitching in. It was because it was so enjoyable and satisfying that, once I became temporary stay at home mother, I chose to do more.
Knowing that you are helping a child get the attention they need to keep up with the class or that you are raising funds for playground improvements is a great feeling as a parent. Plus there are the benefits of getting to know more people in your community, meeting fellow parents and maybe having an off-the-record word with the teachers. For the sake of an hour here or there, there is a lot to be gained from volunteering your time.
Here’s how to get that feeling:
1. Sign up to help at once-off events in your local area, whether it is baking a cake for the cake sale, helping out with the school sports’ day or cleaning up after the open day.
2. If you’ve noticed an issue, whether at the creche, the school, the parish hall or the sports club, speak to whoever is in charge. Ask if there is anything that parents or the community in general can do to help the situation – from painting the walls to raising funds for improvements or extra staff, there is usually something that needs doing and can be done.
3. Get out of the habit of saying “someone should” or “x needs to be done”. Be the someone. Do the thing.
4. Think of how you want your children to be treated, the environment you want them to grow up in and the values you want them to learn. Wouldn’t your example as a vounteer support all that?
5. Look at the amount of time you spend watching TV, having coffee, fiddling around with your phone and then ask yourself whether or not you could spare a hour now and again to improve the lives of those around you.
Do’t let being shy stop you. I didn’t.