At the start of the new year, it’s not uncommon for people, buoyed by the generous spirit of holiday season, to commit to giving back and serving their community. For many parents of young children, though, the prospect of doing community services seems laudable, but out of reach.
In the early years of parenthood, when there are always (always!) diapers to be changed, babies to be nursed, and bedtimes not to be missed, committing to hours spent away from home can feel impossible. For working parents in particular, whose time with their little ones is often limited to afternoons, evenings, and weekends, it can feel selfish to choose to spend time away from family, no matter how good the cause.
However, if parents want to love the communities they live in and to raise the sort of people who value giving back, it’s vital that they find a way to serve those around them. As the new year starts, take stock of your abilities, investigate opportunities to serve, and make a plan to give back to your community this year. If you feel weighted down by your parental responsibilities, check out the ideas below to help set you on the path towards service.
1 | Redefine community service
When you’ve always done something or thought about something in a certain way, it’s easy to believe that’s the only way. Perhaps when you think about community services you imagine sorting cans at the food bank, collecting winter coats for kids in need, or spending time with residents at the local nursing home.
Instead of being boxed-in by ideas of what you’ve done in the past, consider broadening your view of community services to include more non-traditional ways to give back. Pumping and donating extra breast milk to babies in need, knitting hats to pass out to residents of the homeless shelter, or baking goodies to contribute to the church bake sale are all worthwhile pursuits that can be completed without having to find a babysitter.
2 | Serve where you are
While you likely have community service interests beyond the places and institutions your family touches in their daily lives, chances are there’s a need for service right where you are. Check in with your children schools or pre-schools, the local library, and the parks you frequent to see what their needs might be and if you can help meet them.
3 | Leverage your talents remotely
It may not be feasible to spend a day away from family coordinating, setting up, and breaking down a fundraising event, but there are likely some “take home” jobs you can complete from the comfort of your couch after you tuck your babes into bed.
Perhaps you’re a skilled digital designer, possess social media savvy, or are well connected with the local press. Whatever your talents might be, consider identifying a way to leverage them from home to benefit a cause you believe in.
4 | Collaborate for inclusivity
Sometimes, with just a bit of creativity and collaboration, you can make participating in community service more feasible for yourself and other young families. Perhaps you can coordinate with other families and pool resources to offer onsite childcare at the local government meeting or plan a family-friendly day of service at the local park.
5 | Make it a priority
Over the past few years there’s been an increasing understanding that self-care – the art of intentionally caring for your own mind, body, and soul – is important, particularly for those in care-taking roles. Thus evening walks are prioritized, monthly manicures are left as standing appointments, and that Sunday night yoga session is designated as a can’t-miss event.
The connection that’s less often drawn, however, is that community services is a form of self-care. When we contribute to society in a meaningful way, we feel more confident, connected, and competent. Give priority to giving back just as you would to traditional self-care practices.