While taking stock of my closet this weekend, I count three t-shirts and one sweatshirt. They declare me as a “band mom” or “trumpet mom.” I’m picking up two more high school marching band shirts next week.
When people ask me what I do beyond the roles of wife and mother, lately the answer has been this: “I teach one class a semester, write blog posts, go to the gym, and volunteer.”
For people outside of the church, the term “volunteering” makes more sense than “serving in a calling,” especially when I’m working with the cub scouts right now. However, I’m also supporting my daughter by volunteering as a booster for the marching band.
But I’m not volunteering with every one of her extra-curricular activities. My daughter participates in various plays and musicals at the high school and in the community. She build sets, works with props, or plays in the theater orchestra. She also plays in the band that accompanies the high school show choir. I feel guilty about not being a theater mom and a show choir mom. I do very little except drive her to rehearsal and watch one performance. I’ve never bought a theater or show choir t-shirt.
But I accept multiple assignments with the marching band. Why? It does take up more of her time than all her other extra-curricular activities put together.
Some weeks I will spend five or more hours volunteering at the local high school. However, I know some parents who spend double or triple the time volunteering in support of their kids’ extra curricular activities.
Most of the time I enjoy working as a volunteer with band (and at church). However, volunteer work can feel like a burden when I have a busy week with paid work, family life, house guests, a holiday or with an unforeseen event such as sickness or a inoperable computer. Just because I have time on paper doesn’t mean that I really have time.
When I communicate a bit of anxiety about my “to do” list, I have some friends and family members (often the introverts) who suggest that I back out of most–if not all–of my volunteering roles. While I would love more time to read, I’m not quite ready to do that.
We moved to this state just one year ago, and I’m trying to build a community for myself and my family. Ideally, I am volunteering because I believe in the power of music and the need to feed and hydrate young people who march for hours at a time.
But my ego is involved. I do like going to the local grocery store and having people wave at me. Also, I feel more secure thinking that I have friends who might come pick me up if I get a flat tire or who might visit me if I am hospitalized. My closest relatives are a ten hour drive away. Does this mean that I lack faith in Providence to support me in times of trial?
Life can be hard, and I want to belong to a tribe beyond my family, beyond Divine Helpers. I’m wearing “Band Mom” gear, I have a trumpet sticker on my car, and I’m speaking the lingo of an insider. I belong!
I certainly have mixed motives for volunteering—some altruistic, some utilitarian. I am meeting people in my new town. I connect more easily with some than others. Some days, I try to get outside of my comfort zone by suppressing my quirkiness and compromising on project teams. Other days, I want to do things my way or retreat into my home or into a very small circle of people who embrace my quirks.
My reasons for volunteering might shift after I have deeper roots here and after my daughter leaves the marching band. In two years, I won’t have any more children in public school.
Will this mean my role as volunteer will dramatically diminish? Or will I just choose to support organizations that match my own interest rather than my children’s. Who sells t-shirts that say, “Empty Nest Mom”? I have two years to find my next tribe. In the meantime, I’m with the band.