Author Topic: Balancing paid vs. volunteer work: I want to do ALL THE THINGS.  (Read 955 times)

startingsmall

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I've had this on my mind for a while, so I figured I'd put it to the smartest group of people I know. Any thoughts/insights would be much appreciated!

A few months ago, I left my full-time job as a veterinarian. I went to a part-time job, working just 2 days/wk from 9-5:30. Sweet. I was burned out on the profession, had a pretty successful side hustle going with freelance writing, and just wanted a chance to reset. I also wanted more time for my family (husband & 5 year old daughter) and volunteer work. I was fine with the fact that my downshift may slow progress towards FIRE... though, honestly, I seem to be making a good bit MORE with the current arrangement (even factoring in the cost of COBRA) than I was with my FT job. 

In my mind, though, I think I thought that going to PT would give me time for everything. I envisioned getting to do all of the volunteer work I wanted, spending tons of time with my kid, keeping a clean house, etc. In reality, though, it doesn't seem to be working out that way. I have a lot of things that I'm into, and I'm kind of a workaholic, and there just aren't enough hours in the week.

Current paid endeavors:
- Two days per week as a part-time employee at a veterinary practice. $50k/yr.
- Occasional relief work for a friend's veterinary practice. $650 for a 10-hr day. I'm doing 3 days there this month, with a strong likelihood of being offered more days in the future. I've also had a couple of requests from other clinics, so I need to decide whether I want to do more of this or just stick with my friend's clinic (which is a great environment - may not find that elsewhere!).
- Freelance writing. Pay ranges from $50-80/hr, depending on the project, working an average of 5-20 hrs/wk over the last couple of years. I'm currently working on a big project that will bring in about $4000 over the next month, so that has me busier than usual. This particular big project is likely to become a recurring thing - I'm writing a course for an online degree program that needs to add a bunch of classes within the next year or two.

Current volunteer endeavors:
- Lead my daughter's Girl Scout troop. We aren't doing any activities over the summer, but this will start up again in September.
- Serve on my county board of health. This is a minimal required commitment (a few hours every 2 months) but I'm working on becoming more involved by serving on a drug abuse prevention task force and attending a national public health conference next month. I like public health.
- Sing in church choir and occasionally play the violin at church. Not a big time commitment, but it is something that has to fit into my schedule.

So.... I'm fine with all that, but here's the thing. I initially became a veterinarian because I wanted to work with wildlife. Now that I'm only working part-time, maybe it's time to explore volunteer opportunities in that realm? Realistically, though, I don't see any way that I can add that on top of what I'm already doing... and I don't know what I'd want to give up.

I'm kind of leaning towards waiting ~5 years until we're nearly FIRE, then ditching the steady PT job or the relief work for wildlife volunteering. Or, if my daughter decides to quit GS before that point, I could always swap in wildlife for Girl Scouts.  But maybe that's wrong and I should find a way to fit it in now.

Thoughts? I realize this post is pretty incoherent, but so are my thoughts on the issue. I need more hours in the day!! Any input, even if only marginally related, will be much appreciated.


Hargrove

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Re: Balancing paid vs. volunteer work: I want to do ALL THE THINGS.
« Reply #1 on: July 17, 2018, 07:47:47 PM »
I think we would need to know more about what you want with wildlife endeavors. Could it be another profession, or volunteer-only? Geography-specific or portable?

Can you figure out a priority chart?

Which is higher priority: working with wildlife, or having the house together?
Which is higher priority: having the house together, or being a workaholic (can you slow down one for another)?
Which is higher priority: FIRE or job satisfaction?

Some people find a perspective shock can make being a workaholic less of an issue, others just... will be workaholics. However, if you want to keep working, good news - you won't stop bringing in money after you FIRE either, so maybe you could feel just as you will in FIRE today by quitting the regular PT job and doing just the writing right now.

The simple math of relief days may be some comfort. Relief days, assuming no benefits at the part-time job and 8-hour days there, pay 8% more money than the regular job.

startingsmall

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Re: Balancing paid vs. volunteer work: I want to do ALL THE THINGS.
« Reply #2 on: July 17, 2018, 07:56:36 PM »
I think we would need to know more about what you want with wildlife endeavors. Could it be another profession, or volunteer-only? Geography-specific or portable?

Can you figure out a priority chart?

Which is higher priority: working with wildlife, or having the house together?
Which is higher priority: having the house together, or being a workaholic (can you slow down one for another)?
Which is higher priority: FIRE or job satisfaction?

Some people find a perspective shock can make being a workaholic less of an issue, others just... will be workaholics. However, if you want to keep working, good news - you won't stop bringing in money after you FIRE either, so maybe you could feel just as you will in FIRE today by quitting the regular PT job and doing just the writing right now.

The simple math of relief days may be some comfort. Relief days, assuming no benefits at the part-time job and 8-hour days there, pay 8% more money than the regular job.

Thanks for responding!!

The wildlife thing is unlikely to ever be a paying job, because paid wildlife vet jobs are few and far between. (That's why I never ended up in wildlife work.) Also, we are tied to our current geographic area... so that decreases my already-low chances to zero. There is a nearby rehab center that I could volunteer with, or I could volunteer for the state doing wildlife population/disease surveys. I attempted to volunteer with the state at one point in the past, but them changed jobs and had to give it up because I didn't have the availability anymore.

Having the house together is definitely a low priority. Current priorities, I would say, are making at least a sustainable income (I'm the breadwinner in our family) > Girl Scouts (partially because I love it, partially because it's quality time with daughter) > wildlife = public health > writing > relief > PT job. I don't enjoy the church choir stuff, but I'm a pastor's wife so I'd need to find another volunteer role in the church if I quit choir...  which wouldn't really help.

I really feel like I could cut back some on paid work, but I need to stay in the PT job for at least a year and a half because I received a signing bonus. And, realistically, I like the stability of having that PT job... versus the completely unpredictable relief/writing work. I worry that the relief/writing work could go away very quickly if the economy took a downturn.

Maybe I should plan to maintain the status quo for the next 1.5 years, then leave the PT job for wildlife volunteer work at that point if things are still going as they are now? Because you're right... the only thing that PT job is really offering me is stability. (They do pay for my professional licensing, too, but that's only a few hundred per year most years.)
« Last Edit: July 17, 2018, 08:02:31 PM by startingsmall »

Hargrove

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Re: Balancing paid vs. volunteer work: I want to do ALL THE THINGS.
« Reply #3 on: July 17, 2018, 08:42:51 PM »
sustainable income > Girl Scouts > wildlife = public health > writing > relief > PT job

Great! So since you didn't even list having the house together, can I recommend forgiving yourself for not having the house together? Is it not reasonable to ask for SO's help keeping the house together?

All your money-making SPECIFICS are lower priority than your money-making GENERAL. So, your goal for the sign-on-bonus' duration does in fact sound like it should be focusing on making the work pay that you enjoy more (and which demands less)

Choir is a necessary volunteer pursuit that you don't enjoy...? Is it personal (as in, you're not considering being primary breadwinner so your SO can be a pastor is already a boon for the church) or social (appearance upkept or a big concern for SO)?

startingsmall

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Re: Balancing paid vs. volunteer work: I want to do ALL THE THINGS.
« Reply #4 on: July 17, 2018, 08:49:08 PM »
sustainable income > Girl Scouts > wildlife = public health > writing > relief > PT job

Great! So since you didn't even list having the house together, can I recommend forgiving yourself for not having the house together? Is it not reasonable to ask for SO's help keeping the house together?

All your money-making SPECIFICS are lower priority than your money-making GENERAL. So, your goal for the sign-on-bonus' duration does in fact sound like it should be focusing on making the work pay that you enjoy more (and which demands less)

Choir is a necessary volunteer pursuit that you don't enjoy...? Is it personal (as in, you're not considering being primary breadwinner so your SO can be a pastor is already a boon for the church) or social (appearance upkept or a big concern for SO)?

Not sure I'm following your last comments. If I didn't have a volunteer role in the church, it could potentially jeopardize husband's job. In previous annual reviews, the fact that I sometimes miss church social events has been repeatedly brought up as a strike against him. (Yes, it's insane.) His job doesn't contribute a huge amount to our household finances, but it's important to him as he derives much of his self-worth from his job... so doing something with the church is something that I do for him so that he can have a job that he enjoys.

Hargrove

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Re: Balancing paid vs. volunteer work: I want to do ALL THE THINGS.
« Reply #5 on: July 17, 2018, 09:21:10 PM »
Wow. I had no idea your husband was reviewed based on whether you were there volunteering.

My comments were to ask whether you felt pressure to show up for his sake, or didn't consider you were already contributing by making it financially possible to be a pastor. So, sorry to hear that one. I didn't imagine it would imperil his job (so you do feel pressure to show up for his sake, but he's not making the pressure, apparently!).

startingsmall

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Re: Balancing paid vs. volunteer work: I want to do ALL THE THINGS.
« Reply #6 on: July 18, 2018, 07:49:00 AM »
Yeah, ministry is totally bizarre. Job reviews factor in spouse engagement, on-call 24/7 except for his 3 week vacation (and even then, they still tend to call us!)... and all for less pay than a teacher.

Seriously. He has a BS in Biology, a master's in divinity (3-yr degree) from a seminary, and after 3 years in FT ministry he still makes less than a first-year teacher with a master's in our state. And our state is in the bottom 5 for teacher pay. It's nuts. But he loves it, for some crazy reason? Shrug. Hopefully we'll someday end up at a bigger church where he can at least make a little more.

Sibley

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Re: Balancing paid vs. volunteer work: I want to do ALL THE THINGS.
« Reply #7 on: July 18, 2018, 07:57:56 AM »
The "job" of pastor's wife is pretty insane - you don't get paid, but are expected to help run the social side of the church, have picture perfect children and house, be active in the church, etc. Fair? Hell no. But still a fact of that life. Eventually we'll collectively get past it. It's similar to the expectations on wives of some political offices (only wives, not husbands).

Startingsmall - I think you're falling into the trap of trying to have it all. That is not possible. So give up on that (unrealistic, impossible) ideal and go with priorities. Put together a life that is overall providing the financial resources and personal satisfaction that you're looking for while meeting your different obligations, with whatever combination of activities works best. These don't have to be static. They can change over time.

jeninco

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Re: Balancing paid vs. volunteer work: I want to do ALL THE THINGS.
« Reply #8 on: July 18, 2018, 11:43:41 AM »
I really like Sibley's second paragraph!  And I identify with it, as I do a balance of part-time (contract, so varying month-to-month) work, volunteering, being around for my family/kids, cooking, organizing the family calendar, etc. I like your plan of working PT for the next year and a half and then re-assessing -- I really like my part time work as it is usually challenging, satisfying, and pays well. But if you ask me in the middle of a project when I'm slammed, I might roll my eyes at you!

Also, your daughter is nearing the age where she can help with the house stuff, and your husband should be helping. She will need plenty of instruction on how to accomplish tasks, and what a "good enough job" looks like (and that will change as she gets older), so get comfortable with a teaching period. You and your husband, if you haven't been working on this together, also should agree on "acceptance criteria" so neither of you repeat the other person's work. Streaks on the bathtub? Forgot to wipe off the faucet and handles in the bathroom? Didn't get under the toilet seat? missed a room vacuuming? I'm not actually kidding here -- this works better with a group if everyone understands what "done properly" looks like.

My experience with this balancing act is that all the residents of my house can spend an hour/week working together and get the place clean "enough". (And that hour includes going grocery shopping for the week and starting the laundry. Advantage of a smallish house! However, there are 4 of us working at it...) It helps to (1) declutter first (and continually), and (2) lower your standards a bit. Also, when I actually notice dust on surfaces, I grab a damp cloth and wipe it off. Similar for things like baseboards -- quarterly cleaning, if I notice. I also tend to spend a bit of time thinking about setting up "homes" for things that allow them to be easily put away, especially if I notice that they consistently aren't being put away where I think they should go.

My point is that "having the house together" is  hardly anyone's high priority, but that by working together and communicating clearly about what you expect, the job can basically be done as a team, in a fairly short amount of time. And I maintain that having a comfortable place to rest your eyes makes for a better life. Then you can return to figuring out how to balance all the other (more fun) stuff...

startingsmall

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Re: Balancing paid vs. volunteer work: I want to do ALL THE THINGS.
« Reply #9 on: July 18, 2018, 08:40:14 PM »
The "job" of pastor's wife is pretty insane - you don't get paid, but are expected to help run the social side of the church, have picture perfect children and house, be active in the church, etc. Fair? Hell no. But still a fact of that life. Eventually we'll collectively get past it. It's similar to the expectations on wives of some political offices (only wives, not husbands).

I'm lucky in that they DO accept a bit less of me than most churches do of their pastor's wives. We don't live in the parsonage (it is downright unsanitary and disgusting - we requested a small housing allowance instead of living in the moldy parsonage), so I can count on one hand the number of times we've had church people in our home. They do judge the heck out of my appearance and my daughter's... and while I don't really run the church social life (it's a church made up primarily of elderly relatives - they don't want some young 'outsider' playing too much of a role), I do have to put in appearances and play the part sometimes.

And yeah, you're definitely about wanting it all and how unrealistic that is. Thanks for the reality check!

jeninco - Daughter and husband do help a little bit with cleaning up, but my standards are different than theirs. We have 3 cats (2 long-haired) and a dog living in our house, so I feel the need to run the robovac daily (which means picking things up off the floors beforehand and emptying it a couple of times as it does the house), vacuum the couch a few times a week, etc. Also, husband will sometimes scoop litterboxes but only if reminded - so a lot of times  I scoop them myself because if I think of it when he isn't home, I'm afraid I'll forget by the time I get to ask him. I'm trying to learn to overlook the towers of dirty dishes in the sink... but I don't know if I'll ever master that, so I'll probably always be the one who takes care of the dishes

asauer

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Re: Balancing paid vs. volunteer work: I want to do ALL THE THINGS.
« Reply #10 on: July 19, 2018, 07:10:29 AM »
So here's the thing my friend, you are not working part-time.  You're working full-time.  Add all of your hours per month at the clinic, fill in work, instructional design, writing and the admin (email, billing, calls etc) that goes along w/ it.  I'd be willing to be you're averaging 38-40 but not realizing it b/c the time is spread differently than when you were a FT clinician.  You may even be working less than when you were at the clinic but it's probably still full time which is why you feel like there are not enough hours. 

I've had this on my mind for a while, so I figured I'd put it to the smartest group of people I know. Any thoughts/insights would be much appreciated!

A few months ago, I left my full-time job as a veterinarian. I went to a part-time job, working just 2 days/wk from 9-5:30. Sweet. I was burned out on the profession, had a pretty successful side hustle going with freelance writing, and just wanted a chance to reset. I also wanted more time for my family (husband & 5 year old daughter) and volunteer work. I was fine with the fact that my downshift may slow progress towards FIRE... though, honestly, I seem to be making a good bit MORE with the current arrangement (even factoring in the cost of COBRA) than I was with my FT job. 

In my mind, though, I think I thought that going to PT would give me time for everything. I envisioned getting to do all of the volunteer work I wanted, spending tons of time with my kid, keeping a clean house, etc. In reality, though, it doesn't seem to be working out that way. I have a lot of things that I'm into, and I'm kind of a workaholic, and there just aren't enough hours in the week.

Current paid endeavors:
- Two days per week as a part-time employee at a veterinary practice. $50k/yr.
- Occasional relief work for a friend's veterinary practice. $650 for a 10-hr day. I'm doing 3 days there this month, with a strong likelihood of being offered more days in the future. I've also had a couple of requests from other clinics, so I need to decide whether I want to do more of this or just stick with my friend's clinic (which is a great environment - may not find that elsewhere!).
- Freelance writing. Pay ranges from $50-80/hr, depending on the project, working an average of 5-20 hrs/wk over the last couple of years. I'm currently working on a big project that will bring in about $4000 over the next month, so that has me busier than usual. This particular big project is likely to become a recurring thing - I'm writing a course for an online degree program that needs to add a bunch of classes within the next year or two.

Current volunteer endeavors:
- Lead my daughter's Girl Scout troop. We aren't doing any activities over the summer, but this will start up again in September.
- Serve on my county board of health. This is a minimal required commitment (a few hours every 2 months) but I'm working on becoming more involved by serving on a drug abuse prevention task force and attending a national public health conference next month. I like public health.
- Sing in church choir and occasionally play the violin at church. Not a big time commitment, but it is something that has to fit into my schedule.

So.... I'm fine with all that, but here's the thing. I initially became a veterinarian because I wanted to work with wildlife. Now that I'm only working part-time, maybe it's time to explore volunteer opportunities in that realm? Realistically, though, I don't see any way that I can add that on top of what I'm already doing... and I don't know what I'd want to give up.

I'm kind of leaning towards waiting ~5 years until we're nearly FIRE, then ditching the steady PT job or the relief work for wildlife volunteering. Or, if my daughter decides to quit GS before that point, I could always swap in wildlife for Girl Scouts.  But maybe that's wrong and I should find a way to fit it in now.

Thoughts? I realize this post is pretty incoherent, but so are my thoughts on the issue. I need more hours in the day!! Any input, even if only marginally related, will be much appreciated.

Sibley

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Re: Balancing paid vs. volunteer work: I want to do ALL THE THINGS.
« Reply #11 on: July 19, 2018, 08:30:50 AM »
Ok, another trap you're falling into. If someone won't clean to your satisfaction, then it's better for you to do it yourself. This is incorrect.

75% clean is still more than 0% clean.
There's a difference between what is good enough vs. what you'd ideally like. Right now, you're only willing to accept ideal. You need to figure out what's good enough and accept it.

So:
1. Not sure how old your daughter is, but age appropriate chores, stat. Even 2 year olds can do some stuff. Do a chore chart, whatever. Daughter starts helping out, regularly. Rotate chores between family members if you want.
2. Husband needs to get his act together. He lives there, you're supporting the family so he can have his personally filling but crap paying job, he needs to be contributing in other ways. If he's not willing to do so, then you and he need to have a come to Jesus conversation: either he be an equal contributer, or you're going to have a SERIOUS problem. This has destroyed marriages, do not become a statistic. Forgetting isn't an excuse. He can figure out how to remind himself to do whatever.
3. Your daughter needs to be taught how to clean. This is not something people are born knowing.
4. If your husband doesn't know how to clean, he needs to learn. Google exists if he doesn't want to ask you.
5. If nothing is working to get the point across, then you take yourself on a nice extended vacation to visit family or friends. Hubby, daughter, and pets can stay home and get a lesson in why it's important that everyone be active contributes to the household.

To help with cleaning, purge unneeded stuff. It takes a lot less time to vacuum if you don't need to pick up a bunch of clutter.

jeninco

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Re: Balancing paid vs. volunteer work: I want to do ALL THE THINGS.
« Reply #12 on: July 19, 2018, 09:15:21 AM »
Ok, another trap you're falling into. If someone won't clean to your satisfaction, then it's better for you to do it yourself. This is incorrect.

75% clean is still more than 0% clean.
There's a difference between what is good enough vs. what you'd ideally like. Right now, you're only willing to accept ideal. You need to figure out what's good enough and accept it.

So:
1. Not sure how old your daughter is, but age appropriate chores, stat. Even 2 year olds can do some stuff. Do a chore chart, whatever. Daughter starts helping out, regularly. Rotate chores between family members if you want.
2. Husband needs to get his act together. He lives there, you're supporting the family so he can have his personally filling but crap paying job, he needs to be contributing in other ways. If he's not willing to do so, then you and he need to have a come to Jesus conversation: either he be an equal contributer, or you're going to have a SERIOUS problem. This has destroyed marriages, do not become a statistic. Forgetting isn't an excuse. He can figure out how to remind himself to do whatever.
3. Your daughter needs to be taught how to clean. This is not something people are born knowing.
4. If your husband doesn't know how to clean, he needs to learn. Google exists if he doesn't want to ask you.
5. If nothing is working to get the point across, then you take yourself on a nice extended vacation to visit family or friends. Hubby, daughter, and pets can stay home and get a lesson in why it's important that everyone be active contributes to the household.

To help with cleaning, purge unneeded stuff. It takes a lot less time to vacuum if you don't need to pick up a bunch of clutter.

All this. Make a list of everything that gets done/needs doing in a week. Everything! Including "Scoop cat boxes every other day" , "Vacuum couch every other day", and "pick up crap from floor and start robo-vac every night". (Don't forget "empty robo-vac and clean out hair from roller-brushes every morning") Solicit items from other household members, so they feel like they have a stake in this. Be sure to include the stuff that happens in the back of your mind, like "plan, shop for, and prepare 21 meals/week".

Then divide the list up. Post it on the fridge, if necessary (hell, post it on a whiteboard with spaces for checkmarks that get erased every week).  These things all need doing, but they are NOT all your job -- you have a job, in fact you seem to have several. You will need to find a pleasant way to say "hey, I noticed that although you did X job (vacuumed the couches) you neglected Y (to put the cushions back/to get the corners/whatever). Can we agree that for X to be done, the job needs to include Y?" (Alternatively, perhaps you have too many cushions, and the job'd be much easier without them? Or you need a special cat-sitting spot covered with a blanket, which was our solution.)

Also piling on with Sibley to point out that your daughter can pick up her stuff from the floor and start the vacuum, for instance. And also to point out that picking-up time should be friendly family time, not punitive. Again, if everyone is doing it together, it's just what your family does to keep the house habitable.

If it helps, we started the boys on vacuum/bathrooms (they switch every week) when they were maybe 5 and 8? or 4 and 7? It took some teaching before they did a good enough job (one of them still skips the bathtub every second time, but I'm not responsible for supervising them: that's MrInCO's job) but the house is, as Sibley put it, "clean enough" most of the time, and it's a job we all share. We have two DSH cats and two long-haired adults, so the place can get pretty fuzzy...

JanetJackson

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Re: Balancing paid vs. volunteer work: I want to do ALL THE THINGS.
« Reply #13 on: July 19, 2018, 09:33:33 AM »
Reading through your original post and your comments, I certainly understand.  I have upwards of 70 notes in my phone with "things I want to do"- which ranges from volunteer work, learning new skills, or small business ventures.  It will never end.

One thing that stood out to me is that you mentioned your desire to "stay ahead of" some of the housework tasks.  While you have it somewhat automated with the robo vac, you (like me) seem like a 'take charge' person who finds things sometimes easier to do if you simply do it yourself.

I'd like to suggest a family calendar- either paper or electronic.  This will help ease some of the need to work on your end (by providing organization, and YOU are the organizer) and will help prompt others to help out with things in a way this is automatic, and that you don't need to remember to do.  A chore chart could be tied in for your kiddo.  I had chore lists as a kid (no allowance, it was basically my rent, ha) and it helped eliminate any questions about what was expected of me.  It worked great, at least until I was a rebelious teen ::eyeroll::
 - haha.
While I don't share my household work with anyone else (SINK here), I find reminders and lists SO helpful in managing even my own workaholic brain.  It took a while for me to stop wanting to "get ahead" on my list, but once I programmed reminders in, now I simply check off the things that I need to do on the day I need to do them and that's IT... I never look ahead anymore and my house, car, and office are tidier and more well-managed than ever.  Plus, since it's so automated, I am getting more done than ever.


As for your schedule, let Girl Scouts run its course and then I'm sure some time will open up.  You may even find that your daughter has some aligning interests in some of your volunteer work and may be able to volunteer at a wildlife rehab center with you (but in a different capacity) or with one of your other interests.  I used to teach exceptional/special education and once a week a few of our students would volunteer at a large community garden.  One student would arrive on that day WITH her mother, who worked in an office nearby.  It was a great way for them to both be involved in something that was meaningful to both of them, but also have a common interest.

Good luck!

tthree

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Re: Balancing paid vs. volunteer work: I want to do ALL THE THINGS.
« Reply #14 on: July 19, 2018, 09:01:20 PM »
In my mind, though, I think I thought that going to PT would give me time for everything. I envisioned getting to do all of the volunteer work I wanted, spending tons of time with my kid, keeping a clean house, etc. In reality, though, it doesn't seem to be working out that way. I have a lot of things that I'm into, and I'm kind of a workaholic, and there just aren't enough hours in the week.

Here to commiserate.  I went down to part time almost 2 years ago to do ALL OF THINGS.  Spoiler: it hasn't happened.  My house is cleaner, and I do see my kids more.  So it's probably a win.

I work 50% time at my "lame" job.  I work 5ish hours per week at my "fun" job (but this job requires a fair amount of prep time to be ready for those 5 hours).  I also volunteer and do some paid work as a sport official, both officiating and managing a group of over 100 volunteers.  DH works long hours, so I am the General Manager of the children and all household things.

I like to tell myself that I have too many passions, and that's why I pile on the things.  But if I am being honest with myself, it is possible that I choose to do all these things so I have an excuse to excel at none of them.  I am really, really, really great at all of these things, but don't have the time to be amazing at any one thing.  Perhaps this resonates with you as well.