Sunday, September 21, 2014

Learning How to Say No

I have a problem.  An addiction, if you will.  An addiction I've tried to get help for, a problem I've tried to overcome... but no matter how far I get in breaking the hold this addiction has on me, I always seem to relapse.  

I am addicted to volunteering.

I know I've written about this problem before.  I've written about how happy volunteering makes me, and I've written about how stressed volunteering makes me.  And, in all the time I've been dealing with this problem, I've realized that I don't have to be on one side or the other I just have to learn a very important word:  Moderation.

It's a word I'm not very good at using, or practicing.  I mean, hello, I'm an overweight woman who's been trying for years to lose weight.  Apparently, the word moderation is a word I struggle with otherwise I would have kept all the weight off that I've lost so many times.  But, just like I give up on watching how to eat moderately, I also give up on being moderate with saying the word "yes".  As much as I hate to, I MUST start learning how to say the word "NO!"

It's just so hard.  My kids are involved in all kinds of activities.  Activities that require parent participation.  Unfortunately, though, not all parents will or are able to volunteer for the various needs the groups need.  I can be sitting at a meeting, surrounded by other parents, and all I have to do is hear the words "Who's willing to...." and my hand shoots up before I even have a chance to hear what I'm volunteering for.  The same can be said at work.  If there's a committee being formed or volunteers needed for some special project, I find myself volunteering to help before I even think about how much time it will take, if there's any good reason why I need to volunteer, or if I'm even able to do it.  

Some of my willingness comes from a desire to want to help, and the other half comes from being able to stand there when it's all said and done and feel great that I was involved.  But, there's often a huge undertaking attached to my volunteering that I don't consider, and then I end up wondering why on earth I volunteered in the first place and then get all downhearted that I can't spend time with my family or I have so many things going on at once that I'm exhausted and burnt out.

But, I will say that I've come along way.  A few years ago, I was the person that had so many things going on at once, my head was a constant spinning mess.  Each and every evening I had some kind of organization or meeting or activity that I needed to go to because I had so many things going on at once.  I tutored, I was involved with two different sports the kids were participating in, I was involved in school organizations, and it got to the point where I didn't get home a single evening before 7PM, and I was even gone many weekends due to some of the stuff I had committed to.  After that year, I made the vow to take a step back and limit the amount of activities I participated in.  And, for the most part, I've kept that promise to myself.  

This year, I knew I'd be back in the saddle of taking on a lot.  I mean, I made the decision to go back to school to get my Masters, so I knew that would take a big chunk out of my free time.  Then, Butter plays football, Peanut is in debate and show choir, and then there's my normal teacher duties.  Yet, at the beginning of this year, I told myself that saying no would be OK.  I could still be active in my kids' activities without actually having to be active in my kids' activities.  Showing up, supporting them, buying stuff they were selling, and attending meetings when I needed to would be enough.  

What I hadn't expected, nor I've ever encountered before, is being volunteered for something without being consulted first.  That was a new one for me.  And, instead of saying "Wait a minute, I didn't agree to that", I just went along with it.  Because I didn't want to let anyone down.

That would be these U of A concession stand games.  

I did NOT volunteer to attend EVERY. SINGLE. GAME.  I vividly remember sitting at a booster meeting and being asked if I'd be willing to work A COUPLE of the games.  To that, I agreed to.  But, all of them? No.  I did not.  But, Peanut came home from school one day telling me that I'd been appointed as the parent coordinator for that specific fundraiser, and that meant going to every game.  

Now, here's where my problem lies.  

There are over 100 children in the choirs at Peanut's school.  That equates to 100 sets of parents and caregivers, and 100 children that are old enough to help out.  Yet, the choir is lucky to get 3 or 4 parents signed up for each of the games.  There are six games the choir committed to running the concession stand for.  My math tells me that six times four is  24.  Oh wait, I'm one of those parents (who is supposed to go each time).  So, six times three is 18.  That's less than a third of the parents.  

There are other fundraiser opportunities.  The choir runs a concession stand at the high school football games.  Parents can sign up for that, or they can donate baked goods and items to that fundraiser.  And, the requirement to work at one of those games is one quarter.  One quarter of the game the parents can help out in that concession stand.  Now, why couldn't that be one I was volunteered for?  Nope.  Instead, I get to spend 10 hours for six Saturdays working my behind off.  Where is the fairness in that?

Will my child get any more credit towards the items that have to be purchased for her than the kids whose parents worked a quarter of a home football game or the kids whose parents don't participate at all in any fundraiser opportunities?  Nope.  At the end of all the fundraising efforts, that money will be equally divided among all the needs of the choir.  No child will be given any more money than any other kid.  Once again, not really sure I see the fairness in that.  

I arrived at the concession stand at 1PM yesterday afternoon, and didn't leave until after 10:30PM.  The last time we went in at 10AM and didn't leave until 8PM.  So, in two games, I've already put in almost 20 hours, and I still have four more games that I'm supposed to work.  While other parents can work 15-30 minutes at the home football games.  Urm....not seeing the scales balance out at all on that one.  

Had I sat down in that first meeting and been given the option to volunteer to work off Peanut's share of the funds she'll need for show choir or just write a check for her portion... I would have probably said "Here's a check".  I wouldn't have bat an eye or lost any sleep over handing over the money they needed to buy Peanut's costumes or pay for whatever it is that she needs the money for.  And, I know that there are several other parents that would have gladly done the same.  

I know that there are parents that can't afford to do that. But, instead of having the parents who can afford to do that work all the fundraisers to pay for the kids who can't afford it, it should be an option.  Either/ or.  You either pay your portion up front, or you volunteer to work off your portion with all of the fundraisers.  It's just so unfair that the same parents are the ones you see working all the fundraisers, and they are usually the parents who would opt to pay their portion.

It makes me kinda angry, can you tell?

It just upsets me.  I don't mind pulling my weight, I don't mind helping out, I don't mind volunteering my time for a good cause.  But, I also don't want to spend several of my weekends away from my kids, away from my family obligations, and giving up the only slither of free time I get between school, college, and other activities I have going on.  

What it has done is left a bad taste in my mouth for volunteering, and that makes me sad.  I love helping out, I love doing what I can when I can do it, but I don't like being taken advantage of.  And that's how I feel right now.  I feel like I'm totally being taken advantage of, and that's not right.

So, I'm going to try and figure out the best solution to this little problem.  I'm going to discuss this problem at the next booster meeting and voice my opinion on the whole ordeal.  I know one thing, though.  It's time for other people to step up to the plate and take some of the load off of me.  I just can't do it anymore.  I have other things I need to do, and I don't want to spend any more Sundays feeling completely overwhelmed by how much I need to do in such a small amount of time.

I'm going to start using the word NO... loud and clearly.

Have a great Sunday, everyone!


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