I’m Taking a Break from Volunteering (Here’s Why!)


FRG Leader. Spouses’ Club President. Classroom helper. AFTB Instructor. Meals on Wheels coordinator. The list goes on.

I’ve volunteered in the military community for the past 10 years.

I love the military community with my entire heart. Nothing makes me happier than helping the spouses and families in my community. There are times I’ve gotten so worked up about how those families are being treated that I have forgotten to cook dinner for my family.

Which leads me to my plans for next year. After spending this year volunteering full-time, a sort of culmination of my first 9 years as an Army wife, I’m taking a break.

Next year I will not volunteer.

The military community needs volunteers, but I'm throwing in the towel. At least for now.

The military community needs volunteers, but I’m throwing in the towel. At least for now.

Okay, that’s a really bold statement for someone like me. People probably won’t believe me when I say it. How do you go from volunteering 20+ hours a week for years to nothing?

With practice.

This year I committed to volunteering for several things…and committed to NOT volunteering for other things. I did well with this internal agreement: I knew that one volunteer commitment was going to take up all my time, so I needed to make sure I didn’t over-commit.

Despite the pleas and the begging, I stuck to it. It felt good.

My final commitment this year is up on June 1st. I’m going full out until then, but I am looking forward to my “free time” that starts then.

The military community needs volunteers, but I'm throwing in the towel. At least for now.

Okay, here’s where my friends start laughing.

You see, I’m replacing my volunteer time with something else. Our third child is joining the world in early June and I’m attempting to be reasonable about just how much time I won’t have.

And I’m also trying to be reasonable about how long it will really take before I’m back in the volunteer game again. I figure by Christmas time I’ll have volunteered for something, probably small, maybe just a few hours helping with a blood drive or something. One of those commitments where I can bring the kids and just show up as a worker bee.

But, really, cutting back on volunteering is a good thing every once in a while. Years upon years of active volunteer time is as draining as anything else. Reducing commitments gives you an opportunity to reboot and reprioritize.

Because I’m taking time for my family.

I know the community needs volunteers. that come about needing help with several activities each week. I get the pleas from the PTO for fundraising help and I think, Can I add this to my schedule?

After almost 10 years of volunteering, both on and off the installation, it’s time to make sure my family is taken care of.

In the past, there was enough time for both. There was enough support for my family available that I could justify the few childcare hours or the pizza delivery because I chose to cook for someone else.

One underlying reason prompting my step-back is completely selfish: I don’t think the military is doing a very good job of taking care of volunteers and families these days. Not at all compared to how they were even 5 years ago…which is to be expected as the funding from wartime disappears. So now, it’s up to me to take care of my family.

Some would argue it also means I need to take an active role in taking care of other families as well. I agree with that, we need to take care of each other, especially as the resources and funding continue to fade away. But first, I need to get my house in order. I need to take care of my family, so that we can help take care of others.

And so, I’m taking a break from volunteering this next year. And I encourage you to consider your motivators and reasons for volunteering and your passion. Maybe some time off will help make you a better volunteer when you return.

Rebecca Alwine has been a military spouse for almost 10 years, traveling the world and learning about herself. She’s discovered she enjoys running, loves lifting weights, is a voracious reader, and actually enjoys most of the menial tasks of motherhood. She is an avid volunteer, has a Masters in Emergency Management from American Military University, and a Bachelor of Arts in Geography from the University of Mary Washington. You can follow her on Twitter and her website, www.whatrebeccathinks.com.