Around this time last year, when my son Owen was in grade 3, his class had a field trip scheduled to go to the Fort Langley National Historic Site. They were asking for parent volunteers for this day long field trip.
Owen: Mommy can you volunteer for the field trip?
Me: No sorry. I have to work that day.
Owen: Please Mommy?
Me: Owee (my nickname for him), there are other mommies and daddies who don’t have to work that day who can volunteer for the field trip.
Owen: But you haven’t even volunteered for one field trip since kindergarten!
That hit me like a ton of bricks. He was right. I hadn’t. I hadn’t even volunteered for any of my daughter’s (she is 2 years younger) field trips. I volunteer for one PAC event – a fundraising jog around the school block in May – each year, only because one of my friends organizes the event. I go to the Winter concert, Sports Day and the occasional assembly. I usually try to meet with my kids’ teachers once in the spring to get an update on how things are going because they never in general ask to talk to me.
I thought that would be enough. It wasn’t. Aside from the kids we normally have play dates with, I didn’t really know the kids in the class and I didn’t have a relationship with my kids’ teachers that was more than just Hello, how are you?
I felt an enormous amount of guilt. Guilt is something that I’ve felt on and off pretty much since they were born and especially when I went back to work after my mat leave. It’s something that I’ve talked to other working moms about. You feel guilt because you can’t be as present for your kids as a stay at home mom can, and you feel guilt towards your work because your time is limited and you feel you aren’t as good as you were before.
But I didn’t realize just how much my kids appreciate my being present. Even though I’m not directly interacting with them throughout the times that I do volunteer, they remember that I was there and appreciate it. They remember that they ran by me as I volunteered to watch for traffic during the fundraising jog. They remember that I cheered them on when they were doing a hula hoop bean bag relay during Sports Day.
I took the day off work to go to that Fort Langley field trip last year. And this past December, I took a day off work to volunteer for his field trip at the Brittania Mine Museum on the Sea to Sky Highway, which was incredibly fun and educational. At the end of the day, does taking the extra couple of days off a year impact my work? It seems like it does at the time, but at the end of the day, no. I want to be the best I can be at my job and I can say confidently that I am good at what I do but I’ve always said that I want to work to live, not live to work. I know my kids are proud of what I’ve accomplished at SIGnature Recruiting but they love it when I pick them up from school or take a day off for them.
The best part about volunteering for the field trip, even though Owen honestly was hanging out with his own buddies most of the day, was that we can now tell each other “remember when” stories about that day and laugh and reminisce. “Remember when” stories are the best kind of stories.
The “Little Truck” at the Brittania Mine Museum that you see on the Sea to Sky Highway.
Owen, one of his buddies, and I about to enter the mine.
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Written by: Rachel Shen