For me, maintaining a sense of identity means staying civically engaged and volunteering as much as possible. As parents, however, it's difficult to offer our time as volunteers because this often means calling a babysitter or spending precious time away from family. For this, I offer a solution: take them with!
For stay at home moms-what a better way to take up some time in the morning before nap time or in the afternoon when they wake up? As a stay a home mom- I understand the struggle of constantly finding ways to entertain your children. Kill three birds with one stone; fill the emotional tank, entertain your kids, and give back to the community. I've compiled a list of kid-friendly volunteer opportunities to dedicate your time to!
Traveling Stories - This organization is by far my favorite. Story time has always been such an important bonding experience for Isla and I, and I was so excited to be able to share that experience with local children. This company sets up reading tents at community events and recruits volunteers to read to children in an effort to provide positive, social reading experiences that encourage and promote reading. I bring Isla every Friday to the Traveling Stories tent at the Imperial Beach farmers market. If she gets too fussy, I leave a bit early. Don't sweat it, you're volunteering! Most companies will be very appreciative of the effort and time you contribute, regardless of how long you stay.
Volunteer at your local food pantry - This one is great for older kids. I used to volunteer at the local food pantry when I was a teenager and recently volunteered with the Imperial Beach Hunger Coalition's Citywide Food Pantry. A truck-load of food was donated to this organization and they needed help unloading, packaging, and distributing the food to those in need. There is no better way to teach our children to be appreciative of their blessings. For the younger kiddos, I'm not going to lie, I let Isla relax nearby with a snack and an iPad. Oops.
Foster, Walk, or Transport Dogs - Organizations such as the California Labradors, Retrievers, and More Rescue look for volunteers to foster, walk, or transport dogs. This sounds like one of the most fun ways to volunteer! Give your kiddos a new buddy to play with (kid-friendly dogs, of course) while helping support local dog rescues.
I will be adding to this list as I find more opportunities to serve. I recognize our role as parents can often become all-encompassing, but taking time for ourselves in order to keep the emotional tank full is just as important as any other aspect of parenting. Give to yourself by giving to others!