Since making my debut into motherhood, I’ve acquired plenty of new skills – one of the more random ones is amazing foot dexterity. Yep – I can perform a surprising number of tasks with my feet, while holding a small person. As I learned the skills for caring for a new life, many of the workplace skills that I had honed over the years were popped on the back burner, deemed somewhat redundant in my new daily activities. Who needs to be able to project plan when you can barely string together a logical sentence as the result of sleep deprivation?

Being a new mother, in a new city and choosing to raise my child full-time left me feeling the need to get out and find a community who I could share this journey with. ACT Playgroups was my first port of call…meeting new people – tick!

As my child reached 18 months, life started to become a little more predictable and that’s when I began to explore how I could give back to some of the community groups who had supported me. And this is where the “V” word comes in…Volunteering. My first sign-up was the Toy Library – two hours, once a month, very doable. My little guy could join me while I worked, I met more people and felt part of something positive for the community. Success all round!

Volunteering can seem like a dirty word to time and energy poor parents. But if you’ve found that you have some spare hours on your hands and energy to give, it’s something worth considering.

Go to any specific volunteering website such as Volunteering Australia and you’ll see facts like “Volunteering is highly associated with greater health and happiness”.

Who doesn’t want that? But some of the extra valuable benefits I see in volunteering are:

  • Continued work experience – remember when you did this as part of the curriculum at school? Raising children full-time can leave a significant hole in your resume. Volunteering during this time helps to keep some of your workplace skills current, and provides you with recent references.
  • Sample a career change – maybe you didn’t quite enjoy where your work life was heading (industry, position or skill set) prior to children. Trying your hand at volunteering in something completely new can provide valuable experiences for when you return to paid work.
  • New Networks – you’ll meet and work with people who you may not have crossed paths with otherwise.

So, what should you consider prior to putting your hand up as a Volunteer:

  • How much can you give – be realistic about how much time and what type of resources you can commit. Sometimes it’s easy to get caught up in lots of ideas, and then challenges in life, family and health strike and you’re quickly overwhelmed. Start with a small commitment, and you can always take on more once you have established yourself.
  • What will be required – understand what’s required of the role you’re taking on. A simple job description, even for volunteer roles, provides clarity for all parties.
  • Happiness – you want to love what you’re going to do. Many people do jobs they’d prefer not to for money to pay the bills. But when you’re volunteering your time freely, I feel it’s really important to choose something you’re going to enjoy, and that works for (or even includes) your family especially the little ones in your care.

I’ve volunteered my time for years in activities that I believe in and love sharing with others. My latest being Sticks and Stones Nature Playgroup. I’m currently on the lookout for people who also have an interest in nature play, and building nature connection opportunities for today’s kids and their parents. If this sounds like you too, Sticks and Stones Nature Playgroup is currently looking for volunteers to help with coordinating additional playgroup sessions, and as back-up for our existing playgroup. If you’re keen to raise a hand please email Nicole at sticks.stones.natureplay@gmail.com. If you’re not familiar with our playgroup – please visit www.facebook.com/Sticks.Stones.NaturePlay

If you do find yourself volunteering, I truly hope you enjoy sharing your time, skills and energy with others.

by Nicole Sadlier, Sticks & Stones Nature Playgroup