Working moms have enough on our plate without having to volunteer at school. We can just leave all that Parent Teacher Association stuff to the stay-at-home moms and dads, right?
Wrong. There are several great reasons for working parents to be involved as school volunteers. Your children see you as an active participant in their educational environment and you get to know the staff, children and other parents -- who will accompany your child through the school years to come. You just need to think of it in a different light and find a way to make volunteering in schools work for you and your schedule.
Volunteer for One School Event
When you look at the PTA president or the recess games coordinator, it's easy to think there's no way a working mom could volunteer at school. Even the most flexible work schedule can't accommodate being in the school building every day for a few hours.
Time to get creative. Try volunteering for a single event, like a bake sale fundraiser or the bingo night. If the event is on the weekend or during evening hours, you could staff ticket sales or help run kids' games without cutting into work hours.
Once you see how simple it is to spend a couple of hours as a school volunteer, it's less intimidating to imagine running or helping to run the entire event the following year. It might be worth taking a day off work, either vacation or personal time, to contribute to the school community and create tighter bonds with the staff and parents. If they know you well, they're more likely to alert you to issues with academics or the kids' social lives. (And there will inevitably be issues!)
Volunteer for Non-Event Work
Another great option for working parents is to volunteer for duties that aren't connected to an event and don't require you to physically go to the school. Maybe you could volunteer as the PTA treasurer, keeping the books and cutting checks when you're not working.
Or if you're talented as a Web master or writer, you could manage the PTA Web site or write the weekly newsletter. Other options include logging volunteer hours or creating sign-up sheets and reminding other volunteers of their upcoming obligations. Help with organization is always welcome.
Give Money and Thanks
Okay, you say, that sounds great, but right now in my career, I simply don't have a minute to spare. I'm climbing the ladder towards a high-powered executive career and I collapse into bed every night with no energy to spare.
This is a good time to write a check. If you can't contribute physically or virtually to the many activities your school volunteers pull off, the least you can do is to contribute your money to the PTA fundraisers and school events that require cash. Your child benefits from the free labor of other parents who are giving their precious time, after all.
While you're at it, write a nice note of thanks to wrap around that check. Sometimes, a simple acknowledgement of how much time and energy the school volunteers give can go a long way towards building a relationship. Sadly, it's rare to find a parent who take an extra 30 seconds to send a note or email of thanks to another mother, so your gratitude will make you stand out.