For many years, before getting married and hopping on the ever-consuming fertility crazy train, I worked with kids through a number of volunteer organizations. I love outdoor activities, so much of that volunteer time was spent helping urban youth get outside and experience all that nature has to offer, including hiking, camping, canoeing, and even skiing. I also volunteered for awhile as an after school tutor through an organization in Washington, DC that would bring disadvantaged youth to Capitol Hill once a week and pair them with young, eager staffer-volunteers like me.
I enjoyed volunteering because it allowed me to spend time with kids and feel like I was helping others, while often spending time outdoors. The hours spent volunteering would be at times fun, at times frustrating, often joyful, and sometimes tedious, but I always thought it served as good prep for parenting, which I’m sure involves all of the above.
After I got married and we started trying to conceive, I basically stopped all volunteering because my work demands were picking up and I knew I needed to devote my time and energy to my job, getting pregnant, and staying married. While I missed volunteering, I naively figured that once we had kids I wouldn’t have time for it anyway.
Fast-forward five years later, and I find myself thinking a lot about how to incorporate kids into our lives in a way that is different from what we imagined. I have resisted this for a long time, as it felt like giving up or giving in to the idea that we would never be parents. But as I’ve grown to accept our situation, I’ve realized that I may be ready to figure this out.
For those who may be wondering, I am an aunt several times over. Between the hubs and me, we have 8 nieces and nephews who range in age from 2 years to 22 years old. I even have an adorable great-nephew! We love them dearly, but they are all back on the east coast and we don’t get to see them that often as we would like.
I also have lots of friends with young kids who I love, and I feel lucky to be able to spend time with them when I can. One of my good friends recently asked me to be the backup emergency contact for her kids at their school, and I know it sounds cheesy but I was really touched.
At various junctures in my career, I have also considered getting off the executive ladder and going back to school to become a teacher (middle school science, if I had my druthers), an idea which has returned to the forefront recently. Before making that jump, however, I think it would be helpful for me to spend some more time with kids that age.
I’m just not sure how best to do it. Unfortunately, my job continues to be demanding and involve a fair amount of travel, so volunteering isn’t as easy as it might sound. I can’t easily commit to after-school, or any regularly scheduled time, really. I looked into “Big Sisters,” which would provide more flexibility, but apparently they’re maxed out locally and really have a need for “Big Brothers.” In reality, my volunteering time would probably be best spent on something like helping to fundraise or write grants or something more administrative, but I just don’t see that scratching the kiddo itch.
I also keep thinking about trying to help the kids who might need my help the most. A good friend recently told me about being a court-appointed advocate for children, which is very appealing as I would be reaching the most needy of children. I would also surely use some of the skills I’ve developed over the years to influence people and get things done. But honestly, it sounds hard. Really, really hard. Am I ready for that? I’m not quite sure.
It feels like progress to acknowledge the itch and to be willing to explore my options after resisting for so long. I’m open to ideas, and would love to know if/how others have incorporated kids into their life after accepting that they wouldn’t have their own.