Written by Kelly Pietrangeli for whatCharity.com
Are you a mother with kids in school all day who doesn’t work full-time? Do you toy with the idea of volunteering, but always feel so busy that you’re not sure about the commitment? Back when my youngest child started school, I was thrilled with all of the ‘extra’ time I suddenly had. Yet it wasn’t long before I felt just as busy as ever. My time seemed to evaporate into thin air without much to show for it.
I later came to realise that time expands or contracts to fill whatever we put into it. If you’ve got an hour to do something, you’ll do it in an hour. If you have more time than that, you’ll take longer to do it. We all have the same twenty-four hours in a day and it’s up to us to conscientiously choose what we’ll fill our day with.
If you’re in a position where you don’t need or want to work, do seriously consider getting involved in a volunteer project. You could find a one-off opportunity such as a charity event or something more long-term on a set day each week. There are also plenty of flexible volunteering posts for offering your services as and when it suits you. Volunteering helps you to learn new skills to increase future employability, plus the added benefits of getting out there, meeting interesting people and making a difference.
I’d always longed to do some kind of volunteer work, but never made it happen until our family moved to Madrid for my husband’s job. Instead of diving back into my old ‘busy’ ways, I decided to spend some time immersing myself in Spanish culture and learning the language.
I volunteered at a local soup kitchen every Monday. There’s nothing like mingling with the locals to improve your vocabulary! The older Spanish ladies kindly put up with my poor grammar and patiently slowed down their chatter so I could stand a chance of following their gossip and hilarious stories. On school holidays I’d take my kids along with me. The ladies immediately put them to work unpacking boxes and sorting fruits and vegetables.
My older son Max, who was 12 at the time, learned that lentils are far more filling and nutritious than the plain white rice supplied by the national food bank, yet they were in serious short supply. Max started a ‘bring a bag of lentils’ campaign for the next school disco. It was a huge success and we loaded around 100 bags of dried lentils into the back of our car which we drove over to the soup kitchen.
This inspired Max to start more initiatives at school. He joined the Model United Nations and won a national leadership award. The experience of volunteering set the wheels in motion for him in a very impactful way. When we moved back to England last year when he was 17, he became an elected member of Youth Parliament and will study International Relations and Politics at University.
Not every child will embrace volunteering with such passion, but it’s great to give them opportunities to help out and see what it feels like to extend kindness towards people and projects outside of their usual scope. Who knows where that might lead them? I may have started volunteering as a way to improve myself, but I never dreamed of the positive influence it would have on my son.
My Spanish hasn’t improved much since my soup kitchen days, but I now have my own ‘do good’ project – a global website that helps busy mothers find a happier balance in life.
My new book, Project Me for Busy Mothers: A Practical Guide to Finding a Happier Balance, has great strategies to create more space in your life for the things that matter to you the most. I teach productivity, time management, mindfulness and how to find fulfilment in your everyday life.
What Charity are helping Project Me to align with charities that support vulnerable mothers. Please help me choose which charity to support this quarter by voting for your favourite here
Kelly Pietrangeli is the creator of www.myprojectme.com, a global movement of mothers who are taking control of their busy lives and finding more meaning and purpose as a result.