The Maternal Balance Beam

So I applied for Leadership Lawrence this year, and (wah wah wahhh) I didn't get in. Which is totally okay. I'm fine about it. Really. No biggie. I don't mind. It's FINE. Seriously, I'm totally down with not getting into a group of leaders for a community I worship and want to become more and more a part of every day. Really, I am.

I asked a friend, you know, not because I cared or anything, where she thought my application might have fallen short, and as gently as possible, she reminded me that in the past few years I haven't been, shall we say, very civically involved. As in, "Girlfriend, you need to volunteer. Like, a lot. Like, from zero to eighty mph, and, like, now."


In the past three and a half years, I have gotten married, changed jobs, had a baby, taken on a second job, fixed up and sold a house, and bought a new one. Not that it's an excuse, but, you know, I've kinda been busy.

I've discussed ad nauseum the dilemma of the working mom. We always always feel like we're not spending enough time with our kids. We feel stretched in a million directions, with loyalty to job, family, friends, and everything else in the world. And add to that the community. Because I LOVE this community. It is not a stretch for me to want to dig in, elbows deep, and get involved in everything I possibly can. That is sort of how I roll.

But then there's a little boy at home who hasn't seen his Mama all day. And I always, every time, decide to stay with him.

And the same goes for working out. I've been tryiing to add more workouts to my week, and have been meeting with a trainer on Wednesday nights. And it's really cramping my style, to leave the house mid-evening and work out, only to come home just as my son is going to bed. And now I'm adding a second night of workout class to the regimen, because let's face it, one night is hardly even worth the effort and I'm not great about creating fitness opportunities on my own.

I rarely have a date with my husband, and even more rarely a night out on my own with friends. And I'm not whining. It's how I've arranged my life - I want to spend as much time as I can with my kiddo. I get up early, and go to bed early.

So I need to be volunteering. I need to be more involved in giving back to the community. I WANT to be giving back to the community. And as someone who doesn't have a lot of time for evening meetings or travel or weekened-long events, I need to find ways to make contributions that count on a schedule that isn't very accomodating.

To that end, I have found two opportunities in the upcoming weeks that suit our family fine. On Saturday, I'm walking for Autism. (Shameless plug: here's my donation page.) I can take Johnny with me and he can get some fresh air, see a few of his friends who will be walking as well, and we can even count it as one of my precious few workouts. WINNING!

Next month, I'm bowling for Junior Achievement. In fact, I'm recruiting team captains and team members and so far I've collected about 15 bowlers. My husband and friends and I, then, will count this as a Friday night out, so I can call this not only volunteering, but "going out" AND a date! TRIPLE WINNING!

The delicate balance of home, work, civic duty, and play is so hard to strike - I don't know a mom, working or otherwise, who isn't constantly fighting to stay on that beam. But I'm feeling like Mary Lou Retton (yes, I'm that old) right now, having found ways to wrap two or three of those gravitational pulls into one stable bundle.

I'm open to more ideas like the ones above. Please share suggestions of great causes and ways to contribute that those of us who need to multi-task can help out with!


DennisAnderson 6 years, 12 months ago

Keep trying to get into Leadership Lawrence. As an alumn, I can tell you it's a great way to get to know the community. As for leadership experience, there are likely better avenues to test that wouldn't involve the amount of time vs. benefit.

Karrey Britt 6 years, 12 months ago

Kudos to you for doing the walk and bowling! With everyone's busy schedules nowadays, I think just helping now and then is better than not at all. I don't have a kiddo — well unless you count my two furry ones, and I haven't managed to find time to volunteer either. As a kid, I grew up volunteering through 4-H and my church and truly believe in the importance of giving back. I also write often about the need for volunteers. So, thanks for providing some encouragement to all of us who THINK we are too busy to volunteer.

Belinda Rehmer 6 years, 12 months ago

Megan, I so understand your dilemma! I was right there with you what seems like a lifetime ago, since my baby is now 27, but that's exactly how I did it! Find the volunteer opportunities that will allow you to bring your child! There may be a meeting or two necessary before some events, but when you know the end will result in new adventures with the family as well as the help you will be giving to others, it seems to make the sacrifice worth while! AND you are growing future volunteers!

Great blog!

DaniB 6 years, 12 months ago

Hi Megan, I understand your frustration. My child is six, and we're getting ready for our second here shortly. I've volunteered since college so having to make the decision of whether to leave my kiddo during my free time or stay home with him has always been really difficult. Ultimately, my son has almost always won out so my volunteer activities have been limited for about six years or so.

That said, here's what I've done instead. I try to do the Roger Hill Day of Caring and get involved in events where I can bring him, as you mentioned. For example, picking up trash at Prairie Park Nature Center. You may not end up picking up very much trash with a toddler, but you're getting out there, and as Belinda said, you will be growing a future volunteer. The other thing that I've done is get involved in volunteer activities that I can do from home. For example, I've been sewing dog blankets for the Lawrence Humane Society. I can do it on my own time, and it helps our furry friends. If animals aren't your thing, sew or knit blankets for babies or soldiers. Cook pies for dropoff at community Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners (I know you can cook because I read your blog!) There are also a lot of online volunteer opportunities such as the United Nations Online Volunteers ( Through UNV, I volunteered for a group called Youth for Technology that establishes community access to computers and technology in African villages from the comfort of my home. Please message me if you want more information about that program. I don't know if the UNV would count for Leadership Lawrence, but you'd be doing a good thing regardless. Good luck!

mriley 6 years, 12 months ago

Megan- thanks for saying so clearly what many of us experience-- and keeping it really positive and solution oriented!! As a Leadership Lawrence alum myself, I'm glad I was able to do the class BEFORE becoming a mom, as it would have been tough. Now, I look for ways to give back now that don't require evenings or weekends unless she can go with me, OR I take her with me (invited or not)-- like donating to other people's walk-a-thon & whatnot!

But, hang in there-- as many a wonderful mom has said over the millennium to cope with issues big and small, "this too, shall pass". There will be time for Leadership Lawrence and other volunteering opportunities once the little ones are grown, but as we all know, this time while they're small (and WANT to be with us) goes all-too-quickly.

Lastly, cheers to your mutli-tasking-- you're for sure WINNING and I'm going to try to copy your techniques!

Marilyn Hull 6 years, 12 months ago

I went through Leadership Lawrence at the age of 52, when my youngest (twins) were seniors in high school. Only then did I feel ready.

Have you considered doing some writing or social media stuff for a nonprofit on your own time? I bet there are organizations that would really appreciate someone doing a weekly Wellcommons post for them...or maintaining a Facebook page.

I would suggest you find one cause you really believe in, and build a track record of service over time--as you have time.

Megan Green Stuke 6 years, 12 months ago

Marilyn, Those are excellent suggestions and they really have me thinking. Thank you so much for the thoughtful response!

mkinley 6 years, 11 months ago

Wow, I feel almost exactly the same as you! I am glad you wrote this. I know I need to volunteer more, but its impossible to do it all-have a clean house, make healthy dinners, spend a little time with Kevin (soon to be husband) and most of my time not working with Maci! If I could bring her with to do volunteer work-I would be much happier!

Megan Green Stuke 6 years, 11 months ago

Oh Meghan,

Don't forget work out, look pretty, have nice clothes on, do your hair, don't neglect your family of origin/inlaws, keep up with friends, make crafty things...


But seriously, the clean house is the first to go. If I have to sacrifice something, that's it. ;)

mkinley 6 years, 11 months ago

I think I gave up look pretty and wear nice clothes, lol....we broke down and found a perfect inexpensive jogger on craigslist, since our wedding is coming up so we are running as a family (a joy...) I will give that up as soon as the wedding is over.

Crafty things...that is hard one, I buy them and say I made it;)

You gave me a good laugh this morning!

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