I volunteer. Too much, sometimes. It seems to be a plague afflicting women, particularly. I enjoy my work, most of the time. i enjoy furthering causes I care about. I enjoy getting to stretch my skills and I enjoy the freedom that volunteering permits. However, it’s hard for me to leave a volunteer position that isn’t a good fit anymore, and even harder to say no when one of my organizations needs me.

Why is it that I find that I can be more valuable as a volunteer than an employee? Even before I had Pie, my time seemed best spent when I was volunteering. I was making a bigger difference for small organizations than I was making at the job I was being paid for, even when my work with both organizations was in the same field.

Now that I want to protect my time more, I’ve chosen to stop working in an office. I work from home for the non-profit I last worked for. I continue to volunteer actively with one organization, and one that I spent over 6 years dedicated to has asked me to return for another small project. I can manage it, but it means that much of my somewhat relaxed time during the day will have to become more structured. Do I want that?

I have to pay for childcare in order to effectively work/volunteer from home, and even then managing naps and feedings while my mind is on work makes me feel horribly guilty that my focus is not on my baby. I nurse my Pie down for a nap, and as she’s drifting off I start thinking about my pile of to-dos and that phone call I almost forgot I needed to return, and oh! I just had an idea that I need to write down! Maybe I can unlatch and sneak away…

I like to be deeply involved with organizations I care about, and I am very good at the projects that I take on. It’s hard for me to say no, especially when I know there’s not someone else in line to take the project on.

But I end up making myself miserable taking on too much! I love each of my 3 roles – one job and two volunteer – but I often wish I had said no to one or two of them… but which one(s)?

And if I feel more challenged, more effective, more useful at my volunteer positions than my employment positions, should I give up employment, kiss the income goodbye, and only volunteer?

(Don’t worry, I’m not going anywhere!)

This is something that I constantly struggle with. I am not as good at keeping up with chores and projects at home as I would like, because of the work I try to get done. I don’t see/call/email friends as much as I should. (As if friendships don’t suffer enough with the addition of a baby, add work and volunteering to the mix and see what friendships float to the top!) Working with a baby has been a huge adjustment – I always like to sit down and complete a project, and now I have to work in 5-minute stints. I spend more time stressed/frantic than I had anticipated I would as a stay-at-home-mom. Does working and volunteering so much really reflect what my goals are? Can I give up any of these jobs and still feel like I’m relevant? Am I shooting myself in the foot by spending so much of my energy and life working for free?

Do you volunteer? Do you love it? What are your favorite non-profit organizations or places to volunteer? (I promise, I won’t go stealing your volunteer jobs!)


  1. This is an interesting thing - I've had this post mostly written since November and just hadn't gotten around do it. Now that my job and my volunteer jobs are all ramping up at the same time, I am feeling the pressure and the guilt about not being able to commit fully to any of my commitments... and then, here is this!


    I don't anticipate that I will be that way... but if past behavior is in fact the best indicator of future behavior (thanks, Dr. Phil)I may need to keep myself on a short leash...voluntarily.

  2. Hi Megan, one of my good friends is a recovering volunteeraholic. You might like this very amusing post she wrote about this same topic:
    hope it makes you laugh. :)
    your cyber-pal,

  3. oh boy. that post was so good, so close to my experience that it almost seems as if i plagiarized! however, as her post is so much funnier than mine, i wouldn't have posted my ultra-lame complainy post if i had seen hers first. i would have had to make mine funnier. tonight i am off to lead a meeting (agendas in hand!) and i'm sure that i'll be hearing my own hand shoot up to claim every action-item that crops up. stupid hand.


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