Charity Work is Not Work.
I am, it seems, a glutton for charitable punishment. Last year and the year before, I co-chaired a carnival for my son’s preschool. It was the school’s largest fundraiser of the year – with games and rides and food and a concert, plus sponsors and advertising, and organizing dozens of parent volunteers. It was a lot of work; I spent hours making phone calls and designing flyers, soliciting sponsors and making signs, and we ended up raising a decent amount of money for the school, which went to new playground equipment and new furniture for the classrooms. It wasn’t easy balancing the added responsibility with my work and the rest of my life, but I managed, and it was fun being involved in the preschool. I got to know everyone who worked there, and my son was so proud that his mommy was in charge.
So last May, I volunteered to co-chair the annual auction at my daughter’s elementary school. She was just finishing kindergarten, and I figured it would be a great way to get to know people, and to be involved in her school, just like I had been at the preschool. But by October, when the work started to heat up, I realized that I had gotten myself in way over my head. Unlike the Carnival, which was basically a part-time job for a few months, the auction is a full-time job and a half, and it doesn’t leave room for much else, like, say, my real job. Now, to be fair, I finished my book at the end of September, at which point it was determined by several people (including myself) that I need to do a re-write. And to be even more fair, I did want to take a break for a few weeks, maybe a month, before diving into a re-write, in order to get some distance, and some perspective. Yet here we are, almost in March, and I haven’t so much as looked at my book since I first finished it. And what I’ve realized is that somehow, in the course of the last six months, I have (temporarily) transformed from a working mother into a mother who does charity work. Which, I’ll have you know, is not the same thing.
I used to think that if I ever decided to stop working, like, say, when I retired, I would be able to find fulfillment through charity work. I figured that I could serve on the board of a non-profit organization, or I could organize fundraisers for causes that I believed in. I assumed that if we ever got to a point where I didn’t need to make money, then I probably wouldn’t want to make money. And I imagined that charity work would be the perfect outlet for me – a way to work, but yet, not work. A way to do something with myself, but yet, not have to answer to anyone, and not be bogged down by the responsibilities of a traditional, paying job.