There it is again, the school volunteer sign up sheet strategically placed on the classroom door right at eye level so you can't even pretend you "missed it." Whether you're a working mom, stay at home mom, or a combination of both, it can sometimes be nearly impossible to find the time to volunteer for events at your child's school.
Most busy moms would love to be able to chaperone some field trips, help out at the bake sale, or decorate for class parties but the fact of the matter is, there aren't enough hours in the day. It can feel defeating as a mom to look at your child's disappointed face when he hears that, once again, his mom won't be able to help with the school play like the rest of the moms.
Despite What It Feels Like, Not *All* Moms Volunteer
Despite the devastation of your child and her insistence that every other kids' mom is attending all the things, you're not alone. In fact, only 46% of moms of school-aged kids volunteer in the classroom, so you're in the majority. Everyone goes through seasons in life that leave them overwhelmed with commitments. Maybe it's work, or a sick parent, or a little one at home who's not school-age yet and you can't find care for them. Whatever it is, it happens and you always need to remind yourself that you are not "the worst mom ever" during those seasons.
Still, if you are in a season where time is limited and there seem to be more parent volunteer requests than days in a school year you can still help out without physically being there. You can offer to purchase supplies for a class party (donate all of the materials needed for the kiddos to make their Valentine's Day mailboxes) because chances are good that the teacher has to purchase special projects with their own money - which everyone knows they don't get enough of. Your child may not physically see your volunteering, but their teacher will and your efforts will truly be appreciated.
Volunteer In Your Child's Class By Helping With Prep At Night
Maybe your child's teacher is asking for volunteers to be "room parents" who are there to help with the day-to-day projects, play, and preparation to make the teacher's life a little easier. If you can't commit to being in the classroom during the day, offer to have the teacher send some prep materials home with your child so you can staple packets together while you're watching TV or catching up on a podcast.
Finally, you can always find ways to help remotely. Create an Amazon wish list for the teacher and share it with the class-parents' Facebook group or email chain. You can offer to coordinate volunteers for events (so you're still volunteering by recruiting them, very sneaky but still helpful) and create virtual sign up sheets for party supplies. Or, offer to take a fundraising/donation sheet into work with you so you can help raise money for the school (bonus points if your company offers charitable matching). Just like you can work from anywhere, you can also volunteer from anywhere.
Lastly, Don't Stress Yourself Out Too Much Over It
In the end, as long as you're doing something to help the school you're doing right by your child and your child's teacher. If this isn't the year you can use your PTO or precious childcare hours to be in the classroom, it may feel disappointing but there is always next year (and the year after that, and the year after that...). If your child is truly heartbroken over one particular event find a way to make it up to him in some other way, during hours that you can devote that attention to just him. If you're feeling judgment from the other moms who are able to be in the classroom more often, give yourself some grace and rise above by thanking them for everything they're doing because they're making it possible for you to have an off-year.
No matter what, though, when you see that signup sheet right in front of your face on the classroom door, always try to sign up for the paper plates and napkins because it's a rookie-busy-mom mistake to sign up for anything that requires time and/or preparation.