Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Volunteer Work that Matters the Most!

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By: Chalene Johnson
Quite a while ago, at my son’s football practice, I met a Mom with three kids under the age of 5. When I asked how she was able to keep her sanity she replied, “I have TWO nannies and a girl who stay with us on the weekends.” In the presence of two of her children, she proudly added, “I have to work full-time. We have a huge house and I have an awesome job! The pay is just too good to give up!” That’s a quote!
I wanted to demand she hand over her license to mother, on the spot. (I wish the institution was licensed!)
I thought, so your job was too good, but the kids… what were they? Not so hot? Good, but not worth considering moving into a smaller house to be able to spend more time with them? Cute, but not nearly as likely to help her afford that Mercedes E-class?
Don’t get me wrong. I do understand that sometimes both parents have to work. Circumstances and finances are sometimes out of our control. A roof over your family’s heads is priority number one.
That’s not what I’m talking about. I’m talking about people who seem to make everything else more important than being with their own kids. This leads me to my next point.
So I asked, “What would the weekend girl do when you were home on Saturdays and Sundays?”
She gloated, “Oh, I was the committee chair for XYZ charity and most of our events are on the weekends.” What? No really. This is what she said!
That’s when it hit me. I can usually see both sides to ANY story. I try to keep an open mind. Yet, there are a few topics which I hold strong, unwavering beliefs. My friends and close associates know my hot buttons. She had hit a nerve. I stood there quietly on fire. Yet, at that moment, I also had an epiphany. Suddenly, I felt really good about being a loser.
A few years back, I was nominated for an industry award. Part of the process required me to complete many questionnaires about my contributions to the fitness industry and my charitable work.
I didn’t win. I bumped into one of the committee members at a fitness event about a month later. She whispered that she had something to tell me. In a hush tone she explained, “You need to put in more hours of volunteer work to win. Just do a bunch of charity work for a year, and you’ll have it.”
No thanks.
Volunteerism is wonderful. In college I spent almost all my extra hours working for the Grand Rapids Aids Foundation. We delivered meals, did laundry, changed bed pans or sometimes, just sat quietly holding a hand.
Without volunteerism we wouldn’t be able to cure as many cancers, save as many lives, or offer the support to families who need it most. Volunteerism is essential. At some point, everyone should volunteer time to a meaningful cause. Yet, I truly believe the greatest thing a parent of young children can do for their community is to raise outstanding citizens. We could solve most of societies’ problems by being around more often. Donate your extra time to your kids.
You’ll have thirty plus years to devote to your free time when they’re out of the house! For now, learn to say “no” without regret. Learn not to care about what other people think if you politely decline without explanation. Instead, worry about what type of parent your kids will say you were!
When you have extra time, go to the park with your kids. Paint some rocks. Ask your teenager to teach you how to text message. Bake some cupcakes and open a lemonade stand. Build a tree house! Sit down on the couch and tell them stories about when they were babies.
There are many causes worthy of your time. I support the work of America’s volunteers. It’s just not my first priority when dividing my time. Yet, I want to do my part. So, Bret and I donate both personally and as a corporation. That is how I contribute at this stage in my life.
What I won’t donate is my family time. I will pass for now.
So here’s my request to working parents with young children: Devote yourself to your community by spending more time with your children. If your circumstances are such that both
parents have to work full time, then consider staying off volunteerism until they are older. Instead, use those precious extra hours to be at practices, pick her up from school, see
his first steps, act excited when she walks through the door. If you are compelled to volunteer your time, then volunteer to be the carpool Mom, the little league coach, the den leader or the more involved parent. Your kids, and your community, will thank you.


Cory Fosco said...

Chalene: I agree with you, but one thing to also consider is finding service projects as a family. My wife homeschools our two children, and they have been volunteering for the last six years (since our son was three and our daughter was one). They bring home delivered meals to the senior population. We are also looking into other service projects that involve the whole family...including me! It's a great way to teach your children about community, but--as you smartly point out--it also allows for interaction with the kids (a top priority). We don't live in a huge house, we don't drive the nicest cars, but we are fortunate enough that I am gainfully employed and my wife can focus on the education of the kids. I help with sporting events (assisting with coaching), and things of that nature, and we always make time for games, movies, walks in the neighborhood, hikes, etc. Thanks for the blog post. It truly is inspirational and spot on.

Anonymous said...

I LOVE this post. Thank you for writing it.

Trainer T.s Fitness said...

Thanks for this blog, I dont have kids but this really hits home for lots of my friends.

They have no idea how fast time really goes, and then maybe have regrets or wonder why their kids are this or that......

mamaof5 said...


Anonymous said...

dear Chalene,I'ma huge fan of your workouts and now because of your blog about raising a family I'm just an all aound chalene fan.i recently had the oppurtunity to have an amazing job but turned it down to work at a not so glamourous or great paying job so that I could spend time with my young children.I work when they sleep so that way I can send them to school or be here after school.My kids are my life and people make fun of me because I'm so attached.I cried for two weeks non stop when the youngest started school.I didn't have kids to show them off or just for the sake of being mother.I had them to be a MOM.to help them up when their down,to share everything their bright little minds have to offer.

Gillian said...

One time, many years ago, as I stood in the aisle of the grocery store, across from me stood a woman of similar age, all dressed up and checking the sale paper. Two young children came running down the aisle, so excited about something they wanted to tell her. Her comment, "Children, how can mommy shop if you keep interrupting me? Now go play." My jaw dropped and I couldn't even think of something to say as she walked away. My children went everywhere with me. It never occurred to me not to include them. With parents like that, court tv will be kept busy with teenage criminals for years to come, I'm sure.