One of the best things you can do to foster real-life relationships is to give your time. Obviously there needs to be balance, so don't overcommit yourself as I have a tendency to do. I've recently had to back out of a few commitments because it was just too much, and was skewing my priorities. So now I only volunteer for things that are directly helping my family, my friends, or my work. It sounds selfish, I know, but at this point in my life, that's all I can handle. And I'm pretty sure I wouldn't be a good volunteer for something I'm not 100% passionate about.
This is one commitment I've made that is important to me:
I happen to be blessed with the most beautiful nieces and nephews in the world. When my youngest niece (E) was born, her mama (A) still had one year of university left before she is finished her degree. I offered to look after little E when the time came for A to go back to school. It just didn't seem fair to me for them to have to pay for full-time daycare when I am available.
Fast forward about nine or ten months, A asked me if I was still interested in looking after E. To be honest, I had totally forgotten about my offer and was looking forward to focusing a little more on my work with my 5-year-old in school for a few hours each day and only my 3-year-old to keep occupied for that time.
But of course I said yes! I had to mentally rearrange my plans. So I don't get my little bit of extra freedom this year. It's not a big deal. I've waited 5 years, I can wait one more. And I do get Wednesdays off.
I'm so happy to be able to help out, and I'm glad I can be more flexible than a daycare with pick up and drop off times, and even last-minute changes are no big deal. If I didn't have E, I'd probably be out shopping a lot more often, so it's definitely a good thing for our finances!
The best things about my side of this arrangement: my kids and I get to spend more time with their youngest cousin, I sweep my floor more often so E doesn't eat anything gross or dangerous, I feel good about helping my sister-in-law, and the kids are learning how to help care for a little one and to be more responsible for their stuff. And I'm sure many more things that I can't think of right now.
So, how to you give your time? Do you find yourself volunteering too much? Or maybe not enough?