When a friend decided to shell out $50,000 in private school fees for two of her children, the last thing she expected was the school to turn around and ask her to supply free labour.
As part of the enrolment paperwork, she was asked to specify which school committee she would volunteer for. Thinking it was voluntary – as the word suggests – she sent back all the papers, except the one relating to volunteering.
The next thing, the school was on the phone asking her to complete and return ALL the forms.
The expectation that mothers will provide free labour for school and other kid-related organisations and events extends well beyond the private school set.
Another friend is involved in organising the fete at the local public primary school. It’s the equivalent of a fulltime job.
“I work when the kids are at school and then work when they go to bed and set the alarm and get another hour or more in the morning before everyone else is awake. But I’m just one and there’s another four people doing that who also work,” my friend says.
I’ve done my share of mummy volunteering too. As president of my daughter’s childcare centre, I had to deal with government regulations, legal liabilities, hiring and managing staff, dealing with parent complaints, venue management, fundraising and lobbying my local MPs for government funding.
I was effectively running a small business with nothing to show for it except for some warm and fuzzy feelings. But warm and fuzzies don’t pay mortgages. Nor do they increase your super or help you to build a CV or give you financial independence.