But a flexible schedule doesn't necessarily make volunteering easy. Work-at-home moms, like everyone else, need to work within the bounds of their own lives and be careful not to over extend themselves.
That said, volunteering sets a great example for children, can be an opportunity to make friends, helps add to or sharpen you professional skills and, perhaps most important, does some good in the world.
For me, volunteering is an important part of why I work from home. It's something I like to do, and so I use the flexibility in my schedule to volunteer my time. But I have made some mistakes along the way. I've taken on too much, found myself saying yes to something I really didn't want to do or struggled with something I wasn't prepared to do. So here are a few things I have learned:
- Carefully think out a volunteer commitment. Whether it's a one-time event or an ongoing commitment, know what you're getting into. Ask questions about the duration and the timing of the commitment. Then consider: How will this work with your family's schedule and your professional work? How much "take home" work will there be?
- Do what you enjoy. There are so many places to volunteer one's time; there's no reason for you do something you don't like. But sometimes a friend will ask you to join her cause. And for friendship or a desire to help, you find yourself saddled with something you don't like. But even within most organizations there are many different types of volunteer jobs. While some hands-on types like to work up a sweat for their favorite non-profit, others might prefer fundraising or committee work.
- Get the kids involved. Volunteering with your kids can be a great bonding experience. All the reasons to volunteer that are good for you (making friends, learning skills, etc.) are good for children as well. But when it's not practical to volunteer with your kids, make them feel part of your team. They are giving up time with you, so take time to tell about what you did and why. Show them that you appreciate their interest and sacrifice.
- Act professionally. Just like at work and at home, when you volunteer, people are counting on you to show up on time and do your best. Also ask for training or help when needed. If you don't know how to do something but would like to try, request help from a veteran volunteer rather than figuring it out on your own.
- Exit gracefully. If you decide to stop volunteering because your home or work life changes or you simply decide a particular volunteer job is not what you wanted, give notice just like you would a job. If possible, help find a replacement. But be firm.