I am a self-professed slacker mom. You know the kind.
We rush in at the very last minute with cheap cookies from the grocery store for the bake sale. There is no flair. No cellophane wrappers with ribbons tied around them. No little happies. Just plain, clinical-looking, clear boxes with plain cookies, and before anyone can utter a word of thanks, we’re peeling out of the parking lot like a bat out of hell.
Allow me to explain: I’m the kind of mother who needs to believe that I have a life outside of my children, and because of that, I’ve eagerly looked forward to the day when my dream of being a stay at home mom with school-age kids would be realized. I bust my a*s getting them out the door every morning, and then, poof! They’re gone.
Blessed, blessed quiet.
With my house and schedule empty, the possibilities are endless. Well, almost endless. I don’t need time to myself to do things like chemical peels and fancy massages that break up subdermal cellulite, because we don’t have the budget for it. I’m a stay-at-home mom, but I’m the kind who scrubs her own toilets (not because I want to). I have expensive taste without the lifestyle to support it; for example, I’ve been known to count out the coins from the bottom of my purse for a quad soy latte, and sometimes, I spend our grocery money on really cute shoes.
I do not recommend this.
Because of my desire for the finer things in life, I considered returning to work once all the kids were in school — a thought that is especially inviting when I am counting out coins at an overpriced coffee shop — but honestly, I need a few years to recover from the grueling task of shepherding three small children from my placenta to the carpool line. After several years filled with babies and toddlers, I need some physical and mental space to breathe and eat M&M’s without grubby little hands trying to snatch them when I’m not looking.
I want to enjoy the freedom of running errands alone, or visiting the gynecologist without having to say, “Here, play with these” while handing my child a fistful of tampons. That actually happened once, and I’m pretty sure it was the beginning of the end of my sanity.
So, as you can probably imagine, I wasn’t thrilled about the possibility of filling my hard-won, child-free hours by volunteering at my kid’s school once they were finally old enough to enroll. Who are these people who drop off their children and immediately start photocopying and laminating in the copy room? Volunteering? Why? Don’t they have more important sh*t to do?
Every time I saw those mothers buzzing around, I hoisted up my yoga pants, shook my head in pity, and drove home to catch up on my favorite prime time TV. After all, as Katie Otto said in the Season 2 premiere of American Housewife, which happens to be one of my favorite shows, I’m not one of those “no-life, busy-body, idiot” moms. I don’t belong with them. I belong with the moms who skate by on as little effort as possible.
Avoiding the expectation to volunteer turned out to be more challenging than expected, especially after I started getting to know some of the parents who were selflessly giving their time while I sat at home, eating crushed up chips and salsa out of a cereal bowl. Here are a few methods I used to dodge volunteering:
1. Always have a younger child. A younger child is a living, breathing, get-out-of-volunteering ticket. Don’t want to have more kids? Borrow one.
2. Feign busyness. If you’re always too busy to stop and chat, no one can ever ask you to do anything. Just shout, “HI!! How are YOU? I’m sorry I can’t stay and chat, I’m late for a thing!” and rush away. They don’t have to know that you’re actually rushing back to your bed. Shhh.
3. Never, ever showcase any of your Pinterest-worthy capabilities. Keep that sh*t to yourself.
4. Make them all believe that you hold down a full-time job — somewhere, anywhere. You’re gainfully employed, and therefore have no time to sharpen 20 packs of pencils or make fancy name plates for all the desks in the Science room. Your “boss” wouldn’t like it.
5. Avoid going inside your child’s school. Going inside will mean seeing firsthand how hard the teachers and volunteers are working to keep your child safe and happy while learning, and then you will begin to feel an annoying tug at your heart that will start affecting how much you enjoy your a*s-on-the-couch time during school hours.
I managed to successfully avoid meaningful volunteer work for quite a while by mixing and matching approaches 1-4, but then, 5 happened. The tugging began when I became friendly with another mom, one who actually does have a full-time job outside of the home, but still makes time to do amazing things for the school and for our kids. At first, I assumed she was sanctimoniously judging my slacker mom behavior, but guess what? She wasn’t.
Just like Katie Otto, I was the judgmental one. I thought the other moms were obnoxious and smug, but I was the one who was actually being a snob.
The moral of the story is this: volunteer work can be a huge pain in the a*s … but judgmental attitudes are even worse.