When people try to describe busy moms who somehow manage to successfully juggle their schedules along with that of each family member, all while making a homemade dinner every night, as a “super mom,” well, they obviously don't have kids.
We're all super moms.
Even if we're not trying to hold down a full- or part-time job, the real world job of keeping up with everything that needs to be done in a day to keep the family on-time and well fed is a miracle in and of itself. And the idea of trying to squeeze one more drop of time out of a schedule that's already been bled dry seems like an impossible dream. But it's not. You, too, can volunteer.
It's okay, you can roll your eyes and laugh. I did the first time someone even suggested to me that I could squeeze volunteering into a life full of work and keeping up with a rambunctious toddler. But there are moms out there with far more going on who have proven it's possible.
Take Cindi Solomon, for example. The mother of two boys, Solomon had her first child during her last year of law school and her second during her first year at the renowned Motley Rice law firm. In the midst of keeping up with the insane hours required of a new lawyer at a large firm as well as the demands of both an infant and a toddler, she was able to work in time to volunteer with Trident United Way.
“Even though I had limited time, I found ways to fit things in,” she said. “It was always a challenge to get to board meetings on time at first. I remember showing up a number of times with various and sundry pieces of food on my clothing, or arriving late with my hair un-brushed, but it was so important to be there.”
But why did a mom with such an already-full schedule choose to take on yet another responsibility?
“Because I realized that, if I don't do it, who will? Everyone is busy, but if we all say 'no' to volunteering because we can't fit it in, then there will be no one left to help,” says Solomon.
After this revelation, Solomon began saying yes to more and more volunteer opportunities. It helped, she added, that she also had friends with the same mindset.
“You do rely on your friends to help, either with watching the kids or picking them up while one of you is volunteering. There was no hesitancy between us when we asked each other for help,” says Solomon.
Volunteering, however, always came second to her family.
“You try to stay balanced, but kids will always take priority. You've got to do what you can, but you also have to be flexible; someone's bound to get a cold just before a big meeting,” says Solomon, smiling.
Today, Solomon is a known figure in the volunteer world. With her oldest son now in college and her youngest in high school, Solomon is volunteering with such organizations as Trident United Way's Women's Leadership Council and Charleston Basket Brigade, the Association for the Blind, the Spoleto organization committee, The American Society of Cataract and Refractive Surgery's domestic outreach program, as well as serving as chairman for the Manhigut Leadership Program at Kahal Kadosh Beth Elohim. In addition to that, she and her husband have also founded Operation Sight, a non-profit that provides free cataract surgery to those in need, ages 18-62.
“Volunteering has made me a better person in every way,” she said. “It's made me appreciate what we have and as a result. I've been able to exude that appreciation to the kids and how important hard work is. Giving back is what we're expected to do if we have the means to do it: volunteering, donating or even a smile on the street to someone who needs it, it's all appreciated.”
For moms who are looking for ways to give back and share the enthusiasm and reward of volunteering with their kids, Solomon's advice is to “look into areas that mean the most to you. Get involved in ways that make you feel good, but don't stretch you too far. The time will come when you can do more and early experience helps. A lot of volunteers work from home either while the kids are napping or watching television by writing or editing letters, or by working on websites,” says Solomon. “There are hundreds of moms out there doing much more than I am. It's all based on doing what you can, when you can do it.”
You can do it!
Even though volunteering is a year-round need, the holidays are an excellent time to share with your children the importance of giving back. Check out some of the following organizations for ways in which you can give in the most needed ways this holiday season
Bags of Joy: A Trident United Way AmeriCorps program, Bags of Joy is a member-driven service project created to meet the increasing need for health and hygiene products as well as books and educational activities for Lowcountry children over the winter break. From now until Dec. 6, you can help by donating books and travel-size toiletries to an AmeriCorps member at area schools. For more information, visit www.tuw.org or call 843-740-9000.
Charleston Hope Adopt a Classroom: Started by a handful of College of Charleston students in 2012, Charleston Hope runs both the Adopt a Classroom and Teacher's Hope Closet programs. Both programs look to organizations such as businesses and churches to “adopt” a classroom by supplying either a toy for each child in an adopted classroom during the holidays or by donating school supplies and a couple teachers' needs through the Hope Closet. For more information, visit www.charlestonhope.com.
Lowcountry Orphan Relief: With the goal of helping abandoned, abused and neglected children throughout the Lowcountry, Lowcountry Orphan Relief is looking for volunteers to help sort clothing donations at the Valerie Vincent Children's Closet and to help create emergency clothing closets in public schools throughout the county equipped with clean socks, underwear, uniforms and toiletries. For more information, visit www.lowcountryorphanrelief.org.
MAIA Moms: Designed to help single mothers achieve both personal and financial self-sufficiency, MAIA Moms is looking for group mentoring models for families, organizations to Sponsor a Mom, Life Skills Help to guide moms on a one-off basis, office help and fundraising help. For more information, visit www.maiamoms.org.