November 03, 2007


If you read my personal blog, you know that I am a volunteer with our local, regional opera company. I don't know a lot about opera, so my education to this live form of art is part of the fun. It has been a successful social strategy to make new friends in my new hometown. My talents in copy writing, marketing and fund raising do not go unappreciated. I was recruited last minute to work backstage for our recently completed run of La Boheme and it was the first time I have ever been on that side of a production.

Having performed for 15 years at the local high school, the set was richer, bigger and better than ever before because the opera company moved into the new performing arts center that was just completed in our quaint little downtown. Just a 500-seater, but not a bad seat in the house. Our local children's chorus supplemented our all-volunteer adult chorus and together they really created magic in the Second Act.

The parents who's children participate in such activities are a very dedicated lot, going back and forth to rehearsals, waiting patiently behind the scenes. This year, a few
even allowed themselves to be recruited for non-speaking, non-singing roles that were critical to a scene. Many of them helped with set changes, moving furniture and props, in the cramped rehearsal space when we were still waiting to move into the new theater.

I appeared backstage late in the game because the "opera house" was so large our crew needed supplementing, especially for the "Olympics of set changes" that we had to do between the First and Second Act, without an intermission. I remember introducing myself around to one of the Dads, one of these special parents who gives 110%. He asked me, "Are you a Mom?"

I knew what he meant, and I simply replied, "No, I'm just a Teri."

There's not a lot of room in the wings, and a friend standing nearby giggled a little when she heard that. Well, this made him curious. Why was I there then? How did I get involved? I told him that I was the opera company's newest board member and he inquired politely about the responsibilities. I was rather please about the direction of the conversation, considering how it started!

As childfree women and men, I suspect we have a lot more time to volunteer in such capacities. We are not all driven career women. We are not even really purple, we are all the colors of the rainbow. It felt good to be in the company of those who know me, my status and appreciate me. I think I will be with this group for a long, long time. They are already becoming like a second family to me.

Purple WomenTM, do you volunteer your free time? What are your causes? How is your social life? What mark will you leave in your community?

Flickr photo courtesy of
aussieSkiBum (cc)
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Shannon said...

I think that volunteering is in the top five things I enjoy most about being childfree. We live in a small community and volunteering here is beyond rewarding. My husband is on the volunteer Fire Department, and is currently taking classes so he can join the volunteer Rescue Squad. I volunteer with the Fire Department's Auxiliary, and with the Ladie's Aid in town. We visit nursing homes, and deliver meals on wheels, as well as do visits for those who are sick or homebound. We also volunteer for Chamber of Commerce events as we are members with our small business, and volunteer to help out within our industry to promote and educate people about our product! This helps us to be involved with the community and is how we network and socialize with the people we live and work with. I wouldn't have it any other way.

Angry Grrl said...

My current volunteer schedule is rather light (as I'm recovering from volunteer burnout), consisting solely of being the social coordinator for our local literary club.

Prior to that, however, my husband and I were very active in the speculative fiction literary community here for many years. I was President of the Board of Directors for the our annual literary conference for several years; one year I served as conference manager, another year I served as assistant art director.

This put us in touch with people who shared our interests, and within that group, we found some childfree friends.

I tried to connect with the local No Kidding! chapter but didn't really hit it off with anyone there. To me, the vibe felt like conservative soccer moms/dads, just minus the kids.

My volunteering batteries are slowly recharging now, and I'm about to jump into the Senate campaign, if they'll have me, of one of the Democratic candidates who's opposing Elizabeth Dole in '08. His name is Jim Neal, and he's openly gay. It should be an interesting ride...

Teri said...

Shannon -- Whoa! Where do you hide your wings?

AngryGirl -- This is a great time to be in politics. I have thought about going to work for someone I could support. I won't give up my full-time temp job until I find that person.

I will continue to volunteer my talents to the opera company as I could not afford to work for them. They don't pay at all!

RE: No Kidding.
Sometimes you have to try two or three outings with the No Kidding clubs to find the ones you connect with. As the leader of a newly established group, we do not have a core group yet. I get a different mix every time. Anyone can propose an outing or gathering. Just ask the leader for access to the group email. Don't take polls, just organize and go!

I am hoping there will be a spin-off group like we had in Toronto, Canada. We had one gal organize a Ladies Night Out, very popular, and there was a spin off group that enjoyed playing poker together once a month!

Don't give up on it. Take some action.

Angry Grrl said...

Oh yeah. I was on the local NK email list for years and years. Went to several events, always got the same vibe (yuppie soccer non-mom/dads). A couple of us tried to organize something more in line with our interests -- a board games night; it happened once, then never again.

For me personally, I just seem to have more luck making my childfree status a secondary interest, once I've identified people who share my primary interests (literature, board games, card games, etc).

But different approaches work for different people, and I'm glad the NK chapters exist and are successful for many other folks. It just didn't work for me personally.

The Wannabe Librarian said...

I volunteer at a local library, in the children's room. It's very cool to see children who have a passion for reading! I've enjoyed this experience so much that I decided to pursue a graduate degree in library science.

One of the unique things about the library workplace is that you can be as social as you want to be. It's perfectly OK to have your nose in a book whenever you want! I don't feel as if I have to be "up" or make conversation with my co-workers. And librarians generally seem like "private" people. No one has ever asked me whether or not I have kids. Yay!!

It's a nice contrast to my former workplaces, where there was more of a consciousness of who does and doesn't fit in. I.e., everybody has to know each other's business. (Especially among women!)

My other volunteer experiences have included literacy tutoring, working with developmentally disabled adults, and volunteering for presidential and local political campaigns. When I finish school and have more time on my hands, I'd like to be a Big Sister. (For some reason, I've never wanted to be a mom, but I've always wanted to play the big sister!)

Thanks for the great question, Teri. I'll remember this the next time I hear that childfree folks don't "contribute"...

Shannon said...

LOL- No wings here! Better chance of little horns ;) Volunteering was just our way of meeting people in when we moved here, and it stuck!

LauraS said...

I went two years without legal working status when my husband was transfered to the United States from Canada. I was going crazy because I was used to working 70 hours a week in my own business.
I began to volunteer with schools and after-school programs and found that I really enjoyed working with kids and teens. This led to mentoring for Upward Bound and Big Brothers/Big Sisters and helping to run a leadership camp for high school students.

I've had to cut my volunteer hours because of other commitments. However, I will always look for ways to help charities which benefit youth, particularly the overlooked 13-18 year old group.

RioIriri said...

I volunteer for a local cat rescue, and we foster kittens.

When I was working previous jobs, I would also volunteer to do reptile lectures in classrooms, but I'm doing that for pay now; I have to keep my snakes fed, after all, and I don't have any other income besides the occasional rare Etsy sale.

IndyPindy said...

Great blog! Amazing that he couldn't imagine why you would be there since you don't have children. At least he was polite.

I am also CFBC as is my boyfriend, who I live with. We both volunteer for a dog rescue, which we feel very strongly about; I currently serve as the Vice President of the organization and have served on the Board of Directors for the past year.

I love volunteering, I love many of the people that I have met through my volunteer activities, and I love knowing that I am contributing something good to the world and helping the animals that I love so much.

There are a few volunteers who have school age kids, but they are the exception rather than the rule. The majority of volunteers are either child free, or have grown children.

I spend a lot of time with my own dog, who recently received his Canine Good Citizenship title. I was so proud of him that I was teary eyed. Don't tell me that you have to be a parent to be fulfilled - I can't imagine being prouder of a child than I am of my dog.

We are waiting to hear back from a therapy dog group in our area. Hopefully within a few months he and I will be visiting hospitals and nursing homes to help lift spirits.

I can't imagine having time or energy for volunteering, or for spending as much time with my dog, if I and kids. I would miss it SO much!