You are here

School Volunteering: How Much is Too Much?


Do you feel pressured into volunteering at your child’s school—or guilty because you don’t? The New York Times ran a piece recently on moms who, burned out by giving all their free time to school carnivals, class parties and book fairs, have start just saying no to any and all requests for their time. The result? They are much less stressed—and actually spending more quality time with their kids, since the volunteering made them less available at home.

Everyone agrees that active, engaged parents are needed to make a school great. But how much time is fair to expect? As a parent who works full time out of the home, I juggle constant requests for school volunteering with my office workload. I feel awful every time I say no, but how many times can you come in late or leave early before your work starts to suffer and your colleagues get annoyed? The e-mails come several times a week, a frequency totally incompatible with the schedule of both working parents and stay-at-home parents with other children to care for.

And yet, parents at my daughter’s school started a school garden, run a fantastic after-school program, put on an amazing fall festival that raised big money for the school, and campaigned successfully to have school lunches made from scratch with healthy ingredients. The school would not be what it is without them.

How do you balance school requests for your time? Have you ever considered just saying no to volunteering at your child’s school?