Mom Life

Just Say No To Volunteering

Frazzled Moms say no to volunteering Sarah Auerswald Moms LA

Frazzled Moms say no to volunteering Sarah Auerswald Moms LAWhat I am about to say is not very PC; so get ready: Moms, stop volunteering so much.

Yes, you read that right. I am not encouraging mothers to volunteer in their schools, churches or communities. Quite the opposite: I am asking them to stop doing it.

What’s wrong with me? I know you’re asking. Well, I am a Recovering Volunteer. And I am here to spread the gospel of saying No.

I was PTA President of my kids’ school for 3 years, I worked on and ran the Silent Auction for my kids’ preschool for 2 years, I’ve set up blogs for local community organizations, worked on the 5th grade culmination committee, done snack bar shifts for my kids’ sports teams, and sat through probably 1000 meetings in the past 10 years, all as a volunteer.

And while it benefited my community and my children’s schools, I’m sure, it left me a run-down, crabby, resentful wreck. You’ve read about all the women who do for others and neglect themselves? Well, I’m one. And I can name at least 50 people in my Facebook circle who do the same.

At my kids’ school, there’s a group of 7 moms who seem to do all the work of organizing the PTA events, and guess what? They’re all burned out and super resentful, with good reason. Every event or fund-raiser takes time and energy, and often the results are under-appreciated.

And from all the people I’ve met and heard from over the past 10 years of volunteering, it’s pretty much the same everywhere. Rare is the PTA President who can say she has a great team who always share the work so that no one is over-burdened.

And so what does that leave us? A generation of burned-out moms. And what will our children learn about volunteering that way? Nothing good, I can assure you. My kids say, “Mom, why do YOU have to do everything?” They resent it, too.

Volunteering has to come from a place of giving, and you can’t give if you don’t have enough for yourself. So please stop, women. Stop and let someone else step in for a change.


{This post got quite a bit of attention and led to a story in the New York Times and an appearance on CNN in December 2010.}. Sarah Auerswald is a co-Founder of MomsLA, a Community of the Top Mom Bloggers in Los Angeles. When Sarah isn’t trying (and, let’s be honest, failing) to say No to volunteering, she blogs at




  1. Jennifer 1 February, 2011 at 04:44 Reply

    Maybe if we moms in Los Angeles didn’t volunteer to do so much in our kids’ schools, the city and state would be forced to actually spend some money on our children’s public school education.

  2. Catalina 2 February, 2011 at 01:15 Reply

    I hear you! I’ve invested numerous years devoting time I didn’t have in building our school community, too. It’s true what you say, that it is always the same small handful of parents doing all the work time after time. This year I let everyone know I was retiring from volunteering. No more for me.

  3. Shannon Colleary 29 April, 2011 at 09:15 Reply

    Sarah you’re a radical. Just say no to volunteering? You mean “no” is a complete sentence? I say “maybe” and then I hide. When I drop my kids off at school there’s this really nice juniper bush from where I can see my children enter their classrooms but no one can see me. I’ve changed my phone number and fingerprint three times. I dyed my hair and grew a mustache. I had a sex change operation. Somehow, despite all that, I’m driving 6 8-year olds to the Planetarium field trip today and working a Telephonathon for more funding next week. I’m also donating my liver to help fund the new library.

  4. Michelle 25 September, 2012 at 11:26 Reply

    Finally, I’ve found you! I knew there had to be other moms out there who felt the same way I did. A few years ago, after agreeing to prepare all the food for 400 people for a festival at our school, I found myself screaming at my kids for not getting their homework done alone so I could work on the my food prep list. Really? My daughter was in 1st grade! Women need to quit worrying about tallying up the mommy points and get back to basics.

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