As an adult there are still those moments when you have to find your way, and sometimes it is by trial and error.
I took a day off of work last week, and I volunteered at my daughter’s school. I had these images of being “that” mom who is angelic in every way. I remember when I was little there was a girl whose mom was at every single event, and I was so very envious that she always had her mom there. I wanted to be that mom for one single day. The mom who the kids and teachers look up to, the one who sits down patiently with the kids as they are trying to sort out their art projects and assists the kids when they get stuck, and the one who immediately is liked by the other moms because, hey, I volunteered. I left my super important day job to be at the school for several hours, when in fact I could have just taken ME time and been at a spa or something like that.
It just didn’t work out like that. There is a reason I work – I like it. In fact I really love working. I love being a mom, and while there is no possible way you (I) can ever balance both work and parenting perfectly, I do my best to make it happen. I understand this impossible way of navigating through life, and it works for me – it works for my family. When I entered the school’s boardroom and walked in to a group of volunteer mom’s I walked in to my very own version of hell. I am no stranger to working with larger groups of women – I was a sorority girl in the South (in the US), and I loved it. This prepared me for a great deal in life, but it most certainly did not prepare me for school “volunteerism”. And keep in mind, it is most definitely NOT a level playing field in the expat world. I am not talking about. There is no norm when you are surrounded by ex-pat parents. What might be the norm in America (where I am from) is considered completely odd by UK standards and utterly absurd in India. So there I sat surrounded by mother from about 8 different countries speaking in roughly 4 different languages, and I felt lost. Nescafe was being offered, donuts were being served on platters, cookie crumbs rolled around the tables, and conversations about teachers, other moms, diaper changes, school holidays, and countless other topics, which I tuned out ensued. A nanny was being ordered around to “fetch” water for some of the mothers. Boxes upon boxes of arts and crafts were stacked up against the walls of the rooms, and I sat in a chair in shock. I tried to engage in some of the conversations, but I couldn’t. I tried to listen, but I kept thinking about other things, like work for example.
I finally walked out. I walked out of the boardroom and into my daughter’s classroom and spent the rest of the morning there. That is why I had signed up in the first place. I wanted to spend time with her. I had a wonderful time with her, but it was exhausting. I gained a whole new respect for teachers. They are amazing.
Most likely I do not fully understand what it takes to be one of those parents who volunteer fulltime. It is simply not my thing. I can do it from the sidelines. I can out-bake anyone and bring in my baked goods for a bake sale, but then I will slowly walk away from that very sale, and I will happily return the my desk or go chair a meeting. I will let the other parents – the ones who want to volunteer – do what they do best, and run the bake sale. I will show up when I can for my daughter’s events, shows, recitals, and I might even sneak in to her classroom to give her a hug, but I will not put myself on those sign-up sheets ever again. It is just not for me. Being a mom on the other hand is something that I love more than anything, and I certainly do not need to put my name on a sign up sheet to prove to myself that I am “good enough” at that job I love so very much.