Published on Mommy Tracked (http://www.mommytracked.com)

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 [1]. 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.


Of course, I don’t foresee me not needing to make money any time soon, and given the state of my 401K these days, I don’t foresee myself ever being able to retire, either, so it’s probably a moot point. But for the sake of argument, I’d like to say that full-time charity work is not my cup of tea. It’s noble, and it’s wonderful, and God bless the wealthy people who devote themselves to throwing galas and carnivals and auctions for various institutions around the world. For those who don’t work or who have never worked, I suppose it is a great way to stay busy. But me, I’m a working kind of girl. Over the last six months, I’ve missed doing something that is all mine; I’ve missed accomplishing things just for myself; and I’ve missed having the opportunity to make money. Call me selfish, but I like the feeling of creating a product that other people want to shell out their hard-earned cash to buy, without any other agenda or motivation for buying it. And let me tell you, I am counting down the minutes until I can get back to doing it.


Yes, I have helped put together a wonderful, worthy event. Yes, I’m glad to be helping out my child’s school, especially in this economy. And yes, I’m lucky to have the kind of job that allows me to do charity work full time if I want to. But you know what I’ve learned more than anything through this whole experience? I’ve learned that actually, I don’t want to.

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