So you have a little one of your own, or maybe two, or 5! Becoming a mum is the best thing that ever happened to me. But it did expose an odd side of the job. “Mum” becomes a title, a role and a category that people so easily fit you in, seemingly at the expense of everything else about you!
But what about my degrees? My experience? My whole life of learning before I got the amazing mum crown. Luckily for me, as an early childhood teacher, I was able to directly apply all my learning and experience to mum life. But it is worth pondering that all these ladies (and men!) on maternity leave or opting to be play at home parents have buckets full of experience and expertise. They were running companies, managing events, calculating huge sums of money, creating, caring, building, writing, travelling…the list is endless.
Why would society want to leave the pure gold that is contained in the minds of Mums and Dads on the shelf to collect dust until their little ones start daycare or preschool?
So I say to you, what is your talent? What is your passion? Are you willing to share your awesomeness with the community? Great! Here’s how!
Follow your heart
Sound cheesy? I don’t care! Sit down with yourself for a serious chat. Ask yourself:
- What is important to me?
- What do I feel strongly about?
- Who (or what) can affect me emotionally?
- Do certain things in the news stay with me?
- Have I noticed anything in my local community that make me happy/angry/inspired/sad?
- Do I have friends, family, strangers, neighbours that I know of who are struggling with something first hand?
- Are there world issues that are especially unsettling to me?
Ok. So now you have a general idea of things that you are personally passionate about, let’s put you into the equation.
But I don’t have time
I get it. We are BUSY! There are days where I don’t shower because I’m so flat out. But there are some things in life you can’t put a price, or a timer, on. Alright, so I have 4 kids. My oldest was 2 when the twins came along and the twins are 2 now #4 is here. Not long after my oldest was born I started volunteering with a local refugee charity when the opportunity fell into my lap. Fast forward a few years, I do admin and logistics for the program which has EXPLODED in numbers. And yes, the kids have come too. I run the local Playgroup as the co-ordinator, and have done since before my oldest was 1. This means a multitude of tasks that I work on outside of playgroup hours with our highly skilled admin committee of 4 AWESOME women (who I feel very lucky to have met!). I also have small volunteering projects on the side that pop up every so often. Do I have time for all this? The answer is, you make time. You make time because your time makes a difference. You make time because you are passionate, because you care about people, because you can see good things happening, because at the end of the day nothing happens if nobody makes the effort.
I have kids with me 24/7
Oh boy, do I know THAT feeling. I think I hear the word mum on average 200-500 times a day (not joking). But having brought my littles along to all my volunteering roles I’ve learned a few things.
- people get it, and are grateful to have you there – if you have to change a nappy mid service, you do it
- your kids become valued team members – if one day you don’t bring them along, people will miss them!
- children can contribute to the cause – why not volunteer somewhere your child can get involved too
- children learn through your example – how brilliant for them to see you super mumming or dadding for the benefit of the community
- children begin to understand the needs of others – exposing them to the concept of taking action when they see a problem expands their horizons beyond their own wants and needs.
Do some exploring
There are SO MANY ways to be a positive addition to the local or international community. Many of them require very small and manageable amount of work while still providing a hugely beneficial punch. For example:
The Red Cross is asking for volunteers to visit isolated elderly people, one hour once a week. Or their Telecross service volunteers make a phone call to an elderly or disabled community member, for no longer than TWO MINUTES.
Find your tribe
GoVolunteer is a site by Volunteering Australia to help match you with projects you’re passionate about. Type in a keyword and location to find charities and not-for-profits near you who can benefit from your time and skills. Same goes for SeekVolunteering, which had over 10 thousand volunteer roles advertised at the time of writing this post. These can range from one-time special event helpers to more regular contributions to causes you care about.
Perhaps you’re more interested in volunteering from home while you snuggle a new baby. No problem! Vollie is an Australian online volunteer service matching your skills with not-for-profits who need help. This can range from helping charities and organisations YOU support to set up their site, audit policies, cut videos, animate, assist with graphic design or provide expert advice.
Maybe you’ve noticed a local issue, or seen a charity working somewhere within your community. Get on Google, find them, find their number, call and ask if you can be of assistance. It’s that simple! And with most local charities running with a heavy percentage of volunteers, you’ll be in good company.
Do you have a special cause or charity that you really want to contribute towards? Get on Google and search the name of the cause or charity + volunteering. International charities often have stores or admin centres within Aus which are vital to running their overseas work. For example, Hamlin Fistula Ethiopa is run with the help of a Sydney based admin and volunteer team including a shop which sells items to fund raise for the cause. Many charities also need assistance managing their social media presence, a powerful tool for their organisation. Opportunities are there to do this from home (and I know of at least one incredible woman who manages the social media of a charity from a completely different country)
Use your special skills
What are your talents? I know you’ve got some! Everyone has things that they can contribute to their community, whether it is skill or knowledge based. Can you operate a sewing machine? Online Facebook group Sewing for Charity Australia has an army of sewists who create everything from tiny premmie outfits that help nurses get easy access to tubes and cords to turbans for cancer patients who have lost their hair. Are you knowledgeable in STEM subjects? The Smith Family run learning clubs to help disadvantaged or struggling students across a range of subjects. For as little as an hour per week!
Still not convinced?
Suspicious about how this could ever work with kids in tow? Why not team up with a friend and have your kids play together on site while you volunteer, you’re both doing something amazing and your kids get a regular play date! Or sign up to a role that you can pop out to one night a week or on weekends if you have someone home during those times. You get a double-whammy kid-free plus community-service combo. Legend!
I really hope that this has inspired you to consider the avenues you have to share your skills and all ’round brilliance with your community.