Toes are delicious

There are a couple of times I’ve written about volunteering at my kids’ school (or schoolS, back when they weren’t at the same one), and it nearly always evokes at least one indignant WELL THAT IS FINE AND WELL FOR YOU, MS. PRIVILEGE PANTS, BUT NOT EVERYONE CAN DO THAT response. Being me, I thought hey, people must be misunderstanding my point, perhaps I will devote an entire post to it to explain why it is important TO ME and is something that I think, actually, most people can do in some capacity if they really want to (maybe not as often as I do, but at least once).

Well. Um. You would think that a decade as someone who makes their living writing would’ve meant I could communicate that clearly, but this is me we’re talking about. I went ahead and wrote that post for Alpha Mom and managed to piss off the first two commenters, right off the bat. Mission not accomplished. Toes, however, very tasty. Which is good, as I apparently spend a lot of time with my foot in my mouth.

Really my POINT is that I, personally, enjoy volunteering and arrange my life in such a way that I can do it. I am lucky to be able to do so, I know. I meant it to be encouraging to those who maybe haven’t quite figured out a way to make it work. I don’t know if this is a hot button issue because I’m really screwing it up badly or because people get very defensive about this topic. Maybe a little of each? Either way, I guess you can come over and yell at me, too, or maybe my point—YAY VOLUNTEERING WITH OLDER KIDS—will actually come across. We’ll see.


  1. Nelson's Mama

    I missed this yesterday.

    I have the time and flexibility to volunteer at my daughter’s high school, but I don’t Honestly, it’s not something I enjoy. Give me your old and stray animals, but not your developing children – I might hurt them. ;)

  2. Mary K. in Rockport

    We were “gymnastics parents” for our younger, and it was a lot of fun. The kids were friends, and we were friends with the other parents. That was years ago, and I miss it.

  3. Heather

    Don’t let those ninnys get to you, the post was clear & far from sounding privledged.

  4. Lucinda

    Haven’t read it yet (heading over there in a minute) but my experience tells me most people on the attack of a well-meaning post see things as being all about them rather than reading the actual words of the post. I doubt you said anything awful. It’s them. Not you.

  5. Grace

    Aww. I totally get your post. As a non parent but honorary aunt to elementary and high school boys I see lots of parents and grandparents volunteering. To be fair, they live and attend school in a very affluent neighborhood where most moms work part time or stay at home. At my office there is lip service to life balance but not so much support to parents of either sex who leave early or take a day off even for parent teacher conferences. I’ve heard a project manager ask his deputy “Can’t your wife do that?” and the answer was “she did it last time and her boss knows that, it’s my turn now”. I have heard parents wish quite often that schools would do more things after work hours or on weekends. Which I guess isn’t fair to teachers…

  6. Brigitte

    People do seem to get oddly defensive about these things. Maybe, deep down, they feel a pervasive guilt for not volunteering, with an extra helping of guilt because they secretly HATE volunteering. At least that’s where *I* come from, selfish wench that I am. ;-)

    Actually, I’m easily overwhelmed by being surrounded by other people, and being away from home, I just accept that about myself and try not to feel guilty about it. My hubby’s job is not flexible, but he’s very involved with getting to our daughter’s various sports practices, and sometimes helping a coach with something if it fits in the schedule. Not exactly school, but I say it counts. :-)

  7. Holly Gault

    Heh. [And completely aside from the actual subject]. I thought that this column would be about someone’s baby and how you had completely munched your fill on their delicious tootsies.

  8. Wendy

    You should not be sticking your foot in your mouth. There are many, many parents who do NOT make it a priority to volunteer, and that is just a fact of life. That doesn’t mean that there aren’t also some that would love to and just can NOT. That is also a fact of life. For those that took it the wrong way, we all know you didn’t mean it that way and the post didn’t come across that way to me at all.
    I love volunteering with my kids, for all the reasons you stated, and I feel bad for those parents who can’t or won’t do the same. They miss out on so much.

  9. beth s

    Ok, those folks on AlphaMom are crazy. I read the post just now and didn’t notice a single thing that made me think you were privileged or condescending. I totally agree on the need to volunteer as the kids get older so you know their friends, their teachers, etc. I wish I had more time in the day to be able to go to the school more often (but with a 2 year old at home and sickly grandparents it is hard). But, I would never just flat out tell one of the kids or teachers no I can’t help. I have volunteered to to do things at home, bring supplies, make calls, let the kids all meet at our house, etc.

  10. TC

    This is a sensitive subject for me as someone who was able to volunteer when I worked from home and did so ALL THE TIME when the kids were in elementary school (and reaped the benefits thereof), but now I work out of the home and far enough away from the schools that I can do only VERY little (though I do some not-during-the-school-day stuff, still, because I am like you in that way, and you can’t really keep me down). And that makes me sad. And a little bitter, because the can-volunteer parents tend to have a sort of bipolar attitude of “Well, if you can’t help out between 2 and 4 on Wednesday, which is when we actually need you, then don’t bother. But why are we the only ones around here doing anything? Where are the rest of you?”

    [FYI, the REASON I can’t take time off to help at the school during the school week is because I’m already taking time off once a week to take my kid to bar mitzvah lessons, or leaving early because the older one needs to get sodas to sell at the play’s intermission, or coming in late because I had to talk to the younger one’s therapist/OT/pediatrician or take the older to her endocrinologist/orthodontist. I’m surprised I’m still employed at all!]

    All of which is a lead up to telling you–internet friend to internet friend–that I thought your article was pretty much totally fine, all the way through, but there WAS one line that got my back up a bit, and if I didn’t know you, might have prompted more of a negative response: “We work full-time and have busy lives and yes, sometimes I would much rather take a nap than go spend hours at school, sure.” Because that is NOT why I’m not at the school. Those reasons ABOVE are why I’m not at the school. The fact that, when I don’t have to leave work early or come in late for the kids (or god forbid, for my own personal reasons), I make up for that flexibility by working from 8-7 MANY days. THAT is why I’m not at school. It’s not because I’m lazy or napping. It’s because I’m working and/or volunteering and/or parenting in ways and in places that aren’t directly connected to the kids’ schools, is all.

    I know what you were going for, and I know your ‘voice,’ and you were talking about YOU. But it hurts a little, because I know all the reasons why I should be volunteering more; you articulate them beautifully. But I also know all the reasons why what I’m doing with my time now is actually just as important, if not moreso, and it can feel bad to feel judged for those choices I’m making, especially since what I’m doing with my time does not involve napping. (More’s the pity!)


    • Mir

      Thank you for this. Calmly telling me where I may have gone wrong rather than insisting I said stuff I didn’t is so much more helpful.

      The nap comment was meant to be a joke, and I see now it was poorly done. But I totally get where you’re coming from and I am sorry if my words caused you any pain. Thank you for taking the time to explain it to me. xoxo back atcha :)

      • TC

        :-) Phew. You heard me the way I’d hoped you would and weren’t hurt, which I started worrying about the second I hit submit, because that’s the last thing I’d want to do. You’re the best.

        • Mir

          No, you are. Seriously, thank you. MWAH!

    • Carolyn R.

      And seriously? You ARE volunteering…by buying the sodas for intermission etc you ARE there for the school….no GUILT. My take (as a very long time, still in the trenches, parent, is that those who never show up or only for the fun stuff have no regrets about not helping while those who do what they can, however small that seems, feel hugely guilty about not doing enough. You, and Mir, ROCK at this extremely difficult parenting gig you’re on. GOOD JOB!

  11. pharmgirl

    There’s a lot of value in the dialogue here. Honestly, I love men – but women can be so much better at respectfully articulating a point of view. Brava!

  12. JMH

    People on Alpha Mom are nuts (IMHO) If anyone has read your stuff before, they would have known that the nap comment was a joke. Seems to me the ones who gripe are the ones who would gripe about anything and everything. I thought it was well written and well thought out

  13. Issa

    Eh. Everyone has their things they do or buy or say or think that will always evoke a well I CAN’T DO HAVE THAT SO YOU SUCK response. See: me buying my soon to be 13 year old Taylor Swift tickets for her birthday. Whatever. People are ridiculous.

    That all being said, I have never been the volunteering parent. I’m more the tell me when to send in napkins and spoons for a party parent. Some of that is time (single, three kids, full time job with a boss who doesn’t understand that people have lives) and some is, well I’m just really not into it. At this point I’m really okay with saying that. I love that others are into it though. Schools really need parents who volunteer.

    • Mir

      You know, I totally respect “I’m just really not into it.” I mean, I think if your kid(s) ends up doing a super-time-intensive-and-needing-warm-bodies activity maybe you’ll come around to volunteering occasionally, maybe not; but sending stuff in is also volunteering, in my eyes. Plus my point was about people to whom it’s important (but who say OH I CANNOT POSSIBLY I AM ZOMGSOBUSY).

      Apparently this is the part where I’m supposed to judge you harshly, but I’m kind of busy today…. ;)

  14. Rachel

    I wasn’t offended, but I get the commenters point. I recently read a blogger explaining how they’ve given up their car and everyone could do that if they were willing to take the time/make the sacrifices. Why can’t it just be “hey I volunteer and it is cool for me” or “I’m walking to the grocery store and it enriches my life” Instead it has to be “I volunteer for me AND MOST PEOPLE COULD DO IT TOO” When you include “you could do it too” people naturally mentally add, “IF YOU LOVED YOUR CHILDREN”. When your post includes telling me what I could do, then it is a touch …hmm…tonedeaf maybe? to say in the comments, “well I wasn’t talking about YOU, don’t be defensive”.


  15. Rebecca

    Maybe you can post a sale on big girl panties on your other site for the poopyheads.

    Anyone can do just about anything they decide to do, period. Single mother of a spectrum kid, full time job, NO help and I can’t do all of the school stuff I want to, but I make a point to do at least one thing each school year. Am I jealous? Sure. I’m a stompy? Hell no.

    Again, I say….poopyheads.

  16. Leanne

    Please don’t take this the wrong way as it is intended to support you and your position. I am a SAHM and, also enjoy volunteering at my children’s school. That being said,the only thing I resent is people who tell me, “Oh, you are so lucky you can stay home.” While I fully acknowledge that some parents are in situations that don’t allow them to volunteer despite their desire to do so. It is my experience that those who fall into the prior group find time, even if it isn’t very often.

    Mir, you have made multiple professional sacrifices in order to have flexibility in your work schedule. In my mind that is something to be proud of and I personally don’t follow the fact that I’m a SAHM by how lucky I am to do so. Don’t get me wrong I’m extremely grateful, but I try not to apologize about that decision either.

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