Got kids: need help?

Don’t panic, I’m not trying to be a life coach, but in addition to writing and publicising books like Homemade Kids I spend a lot of my time trying to get people to do things.

(A quiet plea here – please buy this book or suggest a friend does
as it is currently Amazon’s 380,000th most popular book,
ie it’s not getting out much – one or two book sales can
rack it up to the 18,0ooth most popular seller…).

Everyone knows if you want someone to do complete a job you ask a busy person. But most of the people I ask to help me do things – organise a fun run, plant bulbs in the street tree pits, shop for the car boot sale, run a stall, take on an admin task for the school’s PTA (parent teacher association) really are too busy to help. Sometimes I haven’t asked them, but they make their boundaries clear – for instance a friendly note from a mum joking that she is knee-deep in admin “three children should come with their own admin secretary” is almost her email signature. And she’ s not lying – three kids are a lot of work, and a lot more if they are at different schools or you are involved in activities at their school and working or looking for new schools or any of the myriad daily tasks involved in running a life that makes you think “we” rather than “me”.

Throw in illness – either your own, your child’s or your parents and it all gets very complicated.

You can’t force volunteers to help with your nursery management committee, or take on the babysitting circle organising or whatever it is that’s needed, but you can usually make running an event a more doable activity if it involves their own  friends or when they do it they find they have a good time. It sounds rather Svengali but I think of it as more happy parasite – everyone ends up a winner so long as we all have the energy when doing a community task.

Recently this comment was sent to me: “Where I live (names Scottish city) unfortunately, is lacking in volunteers, and the few that we have can’t do everything. One of our Nearly New Sales might not go ahead for that reason, but let’s see. We just need to persuade more people to volunteer – not sure how we do that though…”

Ever since I read this note I’ve been trying to think how you persuade more people to volunteer, especially groups who specialise in having members who are pregnant or looking after very young pre-schoolers. Obviously try not to make friends with people following Gina Ford’s rather strict routines – but if you can’t help this (or do it yourself), then organise events at the times when those routines insist on the baby being up and about.  Early evenings are not good for new mums. Even later evenings are hard  – think of 6-8pm as danger hour and avoid it if you can.

But yesterday -at 7pm – I went to a fantastic meeting in the pannelled rooms of Toynbee Hall run by  Climate Rush – a group who have every intention of changing the world for the better. As their red sashes say “well behaved women rarely make history”. Turns out that their inspiration, the Suffragettes relied on cake and a nice cuppa, sometimes even sandwiches, before they set off on their actions. They made friends, shared stories, kept the action creative and vitally everyone’s effort was seen as a help towards getting votes for women. So selling newspapers, or baking those cakes was as valid as chaining yourself to a railing. As must be obvious a mix of skills are needed to make an event work well.

Worrying about climate change, and how it is going to effect the next generation, and all those ones not yet born, is an easy way to keep my family living a green life (at its most basic this means thrifty, creative and eco-friendly). But these aren’t necessarily motivators for many of the people – and lots of them busy women – who will come along and help run, say, a car boot sale, secondhand uniform sale, street party or a draught-proofing workshop. Making it fun might.

So if you need help to get something off the ground, watch an episode of The Apprentice on TV, be appalled by the lack of comaraderie of the women and from then on refuse to take the martyred or shouty approach. Doing something for the community may sometimes be a slog but it’s making:
*** where you live better,
** it’s creating a network of friends and helpers you can call on when things are not going so well
* and it can be a lot of fun for you and your children.

Let me know how you actually get people to do things won’t you? There are sure to be a lot of tricks. 

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