The T-Shirt Declares My Tribe: Band Mom

August 20, 2017

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.


August 21, 2017


  1. Paula

    August 20, 2017

    I’m a band mom too. I loved marching band when I was in high school. I loved it so much I continued in college. I’ve done 8 years of being a band mom and I’m starting year 9. There is something about coming together for the cause of marching and music that brings out so many positive qualities in these kids. I love seeing them grow and change and the confidence that comes with it. And the other parents are fun to get to know too. I’ve made some great friends through marching band that I would not know otherwise.

  2. Karen Austin

    August 21, 2017

    Paula: I don’t play a musical instrument, so I find musicians full of MAGIC! How wonderful that you have had a life filled with music–for you and for your offspring. Glad to hear that it’s been so positive. Thanks for sharing your experience.

  3. Kel

    August 23, 2017

    I get wanting and needing to have a tribe – especially if the right one can be hard to find! A commonality of purpose is a great glue, though for me interest has to be present: I don’t volunteer in any way at my son’s high school due to time and inclination, but volunteer at my uni due to time AND interest.

    In terms of tribe Venn diagrams, let’s make a shirt that has smart, well-read and ready to discuss highlighted for us to wear anytime (tribes can be worldwide after all)!

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