Just Say No to Volunteering And Other Big Ideas from ‘The Good Mother Myth’

As I stated in the January issue of Parents Magazine, essay compilations aren’t usually my thing, but I absolutely could not put The Good Mother Myth down. Talented mommy bloggers and writers such as Amber Dusik, Lisa Duggan and Jessica Valenti revisit the familiar topic of Supermom—obviously focusing on the fact that she doesn’t exist. But each contributor brings a fresh look at who we really are—and aren’t—as caregivers. Whatever your subject–twins, religion, full-time work, SAHM, adoption and more–you’ll find something that really resonates with you in this great book.

The one that changed my life is Soraya Chemaly‘s. She reminds us that volunteering devalues our skills and makes a great case for just saying no more often (or all of the time). Her piece is so powerful that Time excerpted it today in a post called School Volunteering and Parental Pressure: One Mom’s Unapologetic No.

Take this:
“However, a 2013 Bureau of Labor Statistics study revealed that, regardless of age, education or race, women volunteer more than their male demographic peers. (Volunteer rates for women and men are 23.2 and 29.5 percent respectively.) Schools benefit hugely from the unpaid labor of mothers – most of whom, today, don’t have the luxury of not needing jobs. The pressure to donate unpaid labor at schools is inextricably entwined with ideas about mothering and work. Every time volunteer cultures are gender imbalanced it is almost certainly a symptom of women’s work being taken for granted, invisible and unpaid.”

How many times have you volunteered and really wish you hadn’t? Check out Soraya’s full essay in the book, and you will never feel guilty for turning down those volunteer “opportunities” again. While I am glad I had the experience of coordinating a huge after-school enrichment program for my kids’ public elementary, I know never to do that to myself again. It’s great to chip in when I can, but I will weigh the value of my time and energy more carefully in the future. And best of all, I’ll release all of that useless guilt.

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