Tag Archives: volunteering

To Co-op or Not to Co-op: That is the Question

’Tis the season… for preschool decisions!

KathyWhen Doodlebug turned two, iDad and I started looking at preschools. Since she’s an only child, we wanted her to have some time with other kids. And, okay fine, having two mornings a week to myself sounded pretty good, too. We went to several open houses, and while Doodlebug tested out playgrounds and did crafts, iDad and I chatted with teachers and listened to presentations about the schools’ philosophies and the role of the parents.

And, because were looking at cooperative preschools, the level of parental involvement was pretty high. Maybe co-ops appealed to my control freak tendencies – being involved in the classroom! Really getting to know the teachers and the other kids! And it certainly helped that the price tag was lower than traditional preschools. As a trade-off, each family at the school we ultimately chose was expected to serve on a committee (fundraising, social, library, etc.) and to spend 6 hours each year on maintenance tasks. Also, about once a month you were required to co-op, which meant joining the two teachers in your child’s classroom for the day.

It was a great school – the staff was warm and positive, the kids were encouraged to choose activities that interested them, there was a whole room devoted to pretend play. And there was a huge emphasis on being outside, even in unpleasant weather, which meant Doodlebug got plenty of mud-puddle time that I didn’t have to directly supervise. But the co-oping. Oh, the co-oping!

Spending three hours in a room with a dozen preschoolers is one of the most draining things I’ve ever done. It’s not that it wasn’t fun – I got to be there for Doodlebug’s birthday celebrations, help make cranberry relish for the Thanksgiving feast, and visit with pet rabbits. But I would come home with a pounding headache and the desire to hide in a dark room for the rest of the day. So if you are considering a co-op preschool for your child, here are some of my survival strategies.

  • If you love a certain school but co-oping sounds like a total nightmare, see if there’s a buyout option. Some schools let parents pay extra tuition in exchange for skipping the co-oping duties. Our school also offered a half buyout, which meant you helped less frequently. (Buyout families still have committee duties and maintenance hours, so it doesn’t mean you’re blowing off your commitment to the school.)
  • Split up the co-oping duties with your spouse if possible. iDad and I did this, and it was so much easier to go into my scheduled day knowing that I had eight weeks to rest up before the next one.
  • Get a good night’s sleep and make sure to hydrate. Not too much, though, because you may not get a bathroom break!
  • Choose your co-op day carefully. Doodlebug’s school offered a few afternoon activities, like lunch bunch and dance. I scheduled my days so that she would be occupied (without me!) for an hour or so afterward. This made my cleanup duties easier and gave me a tiny smidgen of downtime before I needed to pick her up.
  • Do not, I repeat, DO NOT plan anything major for the remainder of a co-op day. This is not the time to go berry-picking or to drag the whole family to the mall for haircuts. If your kid still naps, hallelujah! You have built-in recharging time once you stagger home. If not, maybe you can start a tradition of movie afternoons on co-op days. It’s also an excellent night for ordering pizza. If all else fails, three words: Nutella hot chocolate.

— Kathy

Fun, Fun, Fun?

In which the Moms attend a fun fair and live to tell the tale.

KathyThe scene: a fall fun fair hosted by Doodlebug and Princess Slim’s Girl Scout troop. Bean bag toss. Find-the-penny-in-the-hay. Food sales. Bunches of kids hopped up on sugar. An introvert’s ultimate nightmare, right?

But not for me. Or so I thought. Because I have this thing down now. I’m being smart about my time this year. Yes, I got sucked into going to Costco for food, but I said no to other jobs I thought would be draining. Most importantly, I knew I could take the afternoon off when it was all over. (Thank you, iDad!)

During the fun fair, I was fine. I chatted. I helped. I grumbled a little with Tiffany, but only a little, I swear! On the way home, though, I could feel the energy, adrenaline, faux-extroversion, whatever-it-was that had powered me through the past five hours draining away. And I spent the rest of the day feeling tired, cold, achy, and mildly nauseated. I was useless.

I’ve been there before, that completely used-up place. Not lately, though, not to that extent. I guess I’d started to think I wouldn’t have to be there again. I’ve spent so much time writing for this blog, talking about being an introvert with my friends and family, coming up with ways to honor and respect my personality that I thought maybe I was… what, cured? Like there’s something wrong with me? Apply some Susan Cain, stat!

I’m happy I’m an introvert. And, after some time with an awesome book on Saturday afternoon and a quiet Sunday with my family, of course I’ve recovered from the “fun” fair. Still, sometimes it’s so frustrating that I have to take that time, that I can’t bounce back quicker. Sometimes I still feel like everyone else is going along fine and I’m the weird one, the only one who can’t keep up.

I know that’s not true. Tiffany reports that she went home and took a nap, and I’m willing to bet that nearly every adult there was worn out when we were done. It was a hard day, but it was worth it – overall, the event was a success, and the girls provided an afternoon of fun for the community.

So next time there’s a big event, of course I will help out. I will keep tweaking my coping techniques, I will keep speaking up for what I need, and I will suggest that someone else handle the Costco run. Because, seriously. That place is INSANE.

— Kathy

Just Saying No

To paraphrase Mr. T, pity the introvert who signs up to be room parent. It’s that time of year again — read on to find out how the Moms handle those nonstop requests to volunteer at school.

KathyOn Monday afternoon I was chatting with another mom on the playground. “Are you going to be room parent again?” she innocently asked me. “You did such a good job last year.”

I’m pleased to report I did not run away screaming.

Here I must note that TEACHERS ARE AWESOME. I’m a teacher’s kid, and I absolutely understand how much time, work, and love the job requires. I want to support Doodlebug’s teachers and her school, and I have the flexibility in my schedule to do so. I like getting to know her classroom, the other kids, and her teachers.

But. But but but.

I learned last year that being room parent is a terrible fit for me and my personality. Doodlebug’s class actually had three room parents, but I ended up being the lead, which meant I:

  • Attended several PTA meetings.

  • Sent countless emails, only some of which were answered.

  • Collected and managed the funds for class parties and teacher gifts.

  • Planned and executed said parties.

  • Came up with ideas for and purchased said gifts.

  • Spearheaded our class’s Teacher Appreciation Week efforts, which included cards, flowers, and food.

  • Participated in a snowman t-shirt stamping extravaganza.

  • Helped 24 seven-year-olds tie-dye t-shirts.

  • Presented flowers to the music teachers after the play.

  • Made Valentine’s Day cupcakes, decorated melted snowman water bottles, and did something for Halloween that I’ve mercifully blocked out of my mind.

  • Procured bags and bags of candy for a gingerbread-house-making-fest.

Actually, now that I look at the list, I see a very clear breakdown of things I enjoy vs. things that make me want to hide in a dark room. Anything where I got to play with sugar was fun. Anything where I was with a group of kids for more than 15 minutes, not so much. Meetings, no. Organizing other people, dealing with money, paint? No, no, NO!

So I politely told the playground mom that I’d be taking this year off instead of screaming “Never again!” There are other, more introvert-friendly ways to volunteer at school.

  • Help stuff the kids’ take-home folders.

  • Make copies for the teacher.

  • Bring coffee and/or snacks to teachers or office staff.

  • Bake treats for parties.

  • Send in paper products for parties.

  • Volunteer to pick up teacher gifts, flowers (no presenting!).

  • Shop for supplies for crafts.

  • Send in money/t-shirts/other supplies when room parents ask. (Note for parents who aren’t able to help in the classroom – this is so much more important than you think! I was grateful for each and every person who sent in funds. And it was a huge help when people remembered to send in materials for craft projects.)

So this year will be different. At Back-to-School Night, I walked by the table full of volunteer sign-up sheets and didn’t put my name down for a single job. I’m going to wait and see what opportunities come up during the year, and I’m only going to choose ones I’m excited about.


— Kathy

tiffany_head_128I have no time to volunteer. So I write checks. And respond in a timely fashion to PTA or teacher requests. And bake when I can. That’s all the mental energy I’ve got, people.

Don’t get me wrong. I love teachers and I admire and respect parents who provide material and physical support by organizing and leading activities. But I don’t think I am one of those parents. Even if I did have time would I volunteer for classroom activities? I like the idea of volunteering at school but let’s be real here: ONE seven-year old wears me out. A room full of seven year olds? Um. Would I get a week by myself in Bali to recover? Could I volunteer to reshelve books in the library after school hours? Because that’s about my speed.

I want to support Princess Slim as much as possible, of course, but for me, right now,  support means creating a home environment conducive to learning, emphasizing the importance of reading, feeding her healthy food, and making sure she gets enough sleep. And by loving her to bits for who she is. If I contribute bake sale brownies made from a box instead of from scratch it doesn’t mean I support her any less, nor does it mean I’m an inferior parent. This is what I can do right now. And you know what? Seven year olds can’t tell the difference between boxed and homemade anyway!

You’d think this would cause an Instaguilt™ flare-up. Fortunately it doesn’t thanks to plenty of therapy and the ability to say no;  in fact, the necessity of saying no. If you have a difficult time with the latter this article offers a quick and easy tutorial. I find the idea of a Resentment Journal delicious. Oh, the pages I could fill…

I make kick-ass from-scratch brownies, however. Just so you know.

— Tiffany