Today’s Living With Less post was penned by my friend Mary who, along with me, writes a weekly Hearts at Home column for the Pantagraph newspaper.  When I read Mary’s words, I just knew I had to share them with you!

Tucked inside all the paperwork required during back-to-school time is something designed just for parents–volunteer opportunities.

As someone who volunteers at my children’s school, my church, my moms group, Hearts at Home, etc., I’m a great believer in volunteerism.
I’m also a great believer in committing to less busyness for the health of my family.

So how does a busy parent with busy kids still figure out the business of busyness without overcommitting? Consider these tips:

*Select one primary volunteer commitment. Decide if your primary obligation will revolve around your children’s interests or yours. More of your volunteer time will be spent here.

*Ask questions. Inquire if extra meetings are required, if you’re expected to also volunteer your money or if it’s assumed you’ll fill empty volunteer slots.

*Schedule your service. Figure out when you’ll do your volunteerism – when the kids are at school, on your iPhone waiting to pick up kids or on your lunch hour, evenings or weekends.

*Teach a trainee. For a larger volunteer job, find someone to train to take over when your time is done.

*Access your strengths. Only agree to do things you do well unless you’re willing to learn a new skill.

*Remember the “twice time” principle. Every commitment will take at least twice the amount of time you think it will. Plan accordingly.

*Sign-up for small commitments. Agree to donate paper goods, send e-mails, or order a deli tray for secondary volunteerism.

*Tally the total. Look at the total amount of the family’s time filled with activities. Parents made need to do less to help their children follow through with their own commitments.

*Pray, ponder and partner first. Don’t agree to do anything without praying about it, pondering the impact and asking your accountability partner if they think you should do it.

*Access your season of parenting. If you’re expecting a baby, dealing with a demanding two-year old or sending a child to college, this may be the year to say “no” to almost everything.

Volunteering not only is good for parents themselves, it’s also good for children to see their parents do.

But overcommitting often proves to be detrimental to the entire family.

Help yourself and your family by learning when to say “yes” and when to say “no” to the business of busyness this school year.

Mary Steinke speaks at retreats and moms groups, teaches Bible studies, and writes many Hearts at Home newspaper articles.. Before children, she worked in full-time ministry as chaplain in such diverse settings as nursing homes and prisons. Mary resides in Normal, Illinois, with her husband, Harry, and three sons.

What about you?  How do you keep yourself from over-committing?

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