Our daughters are 2 and 4. In the past 90 days, my husband and I have volunteered with over 30 organizations...with our little ones, without childcare. On average, we volunteer about 3 times a week with a structured organization.
Prior to traveling the country to give, I always wanted to give back to my community, but I wasn't sure how it would work logistically with tiny tots. I am much more confident now (A) that it can be done AND (B) that it is worthwhile.
Here are three pointers to help get you started on your journey.
1. Take a tour first. Part of the fear associated with volunteering with small children is that the organization won't smile kindly on having a bubbly baby, a restless toddler, and/or a precocious preschooler around. There's only one way to find out! Call an organization in your town and say that you are a potential volunteer that would like to take a tour to learn more. Be sure to mention that you will have your children with you for the tour. As you listen and ask questions, you'll get a better idea about what the organization does, how they respond to children, and if there are service opportunities available that work with your schedule, your interests, and your children's ages.
2. Sign up - on trial. If you find an organization that you are passionate about, pick a commitment that works for you. Choose once a week, twice a month, or once a quarter. Most organizations will be happy to have you - regardless of the frequency.
3. Expect imperfection. There will sometimes be potty training pauses, declarations of boredom, and fights over who-gets-to-sort-the-GIRL-clothes. But you'll probably find that on MOST days, your children will be excited to serve. They will enjoy being in a new environment. They will know, from somewhere deep inside, that they are making a difference - even at under three feet tall!
Stay tuned tomorrow for practical ideas on how to make volunteer days go smoother.