Maria’s Musings & Advice: Take My Place, Please!

By on Oct 20, 2016 in Advice, Moms | 6 comments

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fall-festivalDear Maria,

I’ve been a volunteer at our church and kids’ grade school for nearly 20 years. I’ve held bake sales, led scout troops, and now I’m chairing the fall festival. My husband coaches the soccer team. Come spring, our youngest will graduate and go on to high school.

Knowing this is coming up, we’re both trying to find someone to step up and take our places. My committee members are very sweet and hard workers, but no one wants to be queen bee. The assistant coach’s child is graduating, too, and no other parent has responded to our many notices in the school newsletter asking for a new coach.

I’m starting to get nervous. I’d like the chance to pass along all I’ve learned to someone, but I can’t twist anyone’s arm to take my job. My husband is a great coach, but I don’t know of anyone who knows soccer like he does. Any suggestions?


Done My Time

Dear Done My Time,

Thanks for all you’ve given to your church and school through the years. Volunteering is a great way to be involved in your children’s lives, and, you impacted a lot of grateful families with your service.

My husband and I were involved with our neighborhood association for most of the 20 years we’ve lived in our home. My longest stretch came as editor of the newsletter (10 years!), a monthly task that I often resented. It was always the one more thing I had to do, after family, work, and house stuff. (You know what it takes.) Despite our good intentions, our efforts were subject to lots of opinions, and sometimes conflicts arose. I certainly had my share.

So, when I passed the project on to a talented neighbor and friend, you’d think I’d be nothing but happy, right? I was relieved, but also sad. There was a hole in my life where that commitment used to be. My outside said I wanted to be done with it, but part of me held on. Perhaps there are some ways you’re clinging to your place at the school, and don’t realize it? Sometimes we get stuck in our way of doing things, and it’s hard to let someone with new ideas step in and take over. You say you want to pass along all that you’ve learned, but maybe you also want to be assured that your successor will do things the way you did? There may be ways that you’re unwittingly pushing away people who genuinely want to help. Try to think of it as a relay race, where you’ve run your stretch, and hand the baton off to someone else. They may not run like you. Cut that loose.

In my case, a moment of clarity came when I realized there was a lot to be thankful for: the service the newsletter was to our community; my friend’s offer to take it from me; the found time I now had. I tried to sit with the space, and not rush into the next thing, to try and see where life was leading me. I discovered I could downshift for a while.

For you and your husband, do your best in the time left as festival chair and coach. It’s not your responsibility to ensure that these two programs continue—it’s really the community’s job. If the other school families value these programs, they will find a way to keep them going. Perhaps the best way to let that happen is to simply step aside, with no successor in line. A scary thought, I know. But, I’ll bet you two have run your programs so well for so long that no one has really felt the need to take a leadership role. Stand down, and see who steps up. Let one of those grateful parents take a turn. Enjoy these lame duck months, because I bet it won’t be long until you’re up to your elbows again at the high school. Good luck!



What I Learned from the Sunset:

  1. wpid-imag2495.jpgStop and pay attention: sunsets come on slowly but change quickly. If you see a beauty and think, “Oh I’ll take a good long look when I get home,” you’ll miss it.
  2. Just because the sun is gone it doesn’t mean the show is over. On vacation in Key West, my one goal was to see the sunset over the ocean. My husband and two girls and I search for a spot to watch, but all the front row seats were taken on every pier. As the sun went down, we strained to see around the crowd. But after the sun sank in the water, people got up and left their tables. My enterprising husband quickly secured one, and the four of us ate dinner in the glow of the colors that lasted far beyond the sun’s disappearance.
  3. Some days are better than others, so hold on ’cause a good one is coming: One evening, the colors may not show. Others, the sky’s on fire. Remember on the gray days that tomorrow may surprise you.
  4. We haven’t heard the last word: Sunsets are spontaneous beauty that comes just when the day is done, with nothing more to say for it. Just when we think it’s all over, life may have other plans.

Dear Readers: In a quandary? Life got you down? Need some perspective? If you’d like to submit a question, click here. I look forward to hearing from you, or “for a friend.” Please add your thoughts, and suggestions in the comments section, below. 

Disclaimer: The advice offered in this column is intended for informational purposes only. The opinions or views expressed in this column are not intended to treat or diagnose; nor are they meant to replace the treatment and care that you may be receiving from a licensed professional, physician or mental health professional. If you have specific concerns or a situation in which you require professional, psychological or medical help, you should consult with an appropriately trained and qualified specialist.  This column, its author, and the publisher are not responsible for the outcome or results of following any advice in any given situation. You, and only you, are completely responsible for your actions. We reserve the right to edit letters for length and clarity, and all comments are moderated.


  1. Julie

    October 21, 2016

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    Your sunset piece reminds me of a funny conversation I had with Cadence last night. The sunset was beautiful, and I kept saying so. I kept saying, Oh look at the sunset! because as you noted, every time I looked, I saw something new. “Mom, that’s the THIRD/FOURTH time you’ve said that!” My daughter cracked up. It was a precious little moment of giggles with my girl. Thanks for noticing and sharing what the sunsets have taught you. xo

  2. Carol Oldendorf

    October 21, 2016

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    I have been involved with all three of the parish’s I have belonged to in starting with the 7th grade serving cake at parish dinners and picnic. I have done most everything you can think of and love every minute of it. My most recent involvement is with the Lay Formation which is a three year course and big commitment on my part. I find involvement with my parish very rewarding in so many ways and I don’t even have children. If I ever resented it then it would be time for me to step down. I have learned to say ‘no’ graciously to things that are of no interest to me. I would hope you still keep some time to serve in your parish in some way. Remember we are servants!


    • Maria

      October 25, 2016

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      Carol, this is great news! I’m so happy for you that your volunteer experience has been so rich and rewarding. And that you have learned how to say “no” in a kind way at the appropriate times!

  3. Tracey Yokas

    October 25, 2016

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    I love your point in this advice Maria about the chance that Done My Time may be holding on without even knowing it. I am just now diving deep into my volunteer work for NAMI, but I can already see that this could be so true. We devote so much time, energy, and care to the organizations we support. Even if we grumble a bit in the process. As you point out, the work we do feeds us in so many ways. We might not even know that we’re holding on even as we’re trying to let go. And you are so right. Sometimes it’s just time to walk away without a successor in place. It’s hard and it can hurt. I had to do this once in a for-pay job. It was during a very difficult time in my life. They had not yet found my replacement and asked of me to continue to provide services which were, due to circumstances, beyond my capabilities. I know I burned a bridge or two leaving that job, but the alternative was to have it impact my health and well-being to a greater degree. In the long run, we must take care of ourselves. Organizations won’t put us first, either because the can’t or they simply don’t want to. Wonderful advice. Per usual!

    • Maria

      October 25, 2016

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      Hi, Tracey, what a tough call for you in the job situation. I agree it is so important that we pay attention to our health and make good choices for ourselves, but I guess as women we sometimes give too much and stretch ourselves too thin. I learned the hard way about stepping down without a successor, when I was head of the young adult group at my parish when I got out of college. As I wanted to step down from being president of the group, no one was stepping forward. And a good friend of mine said to me, “Why do you continue to feel responsible for this group?” It hurt me because I cared deeply about the group and wanted to see it keep going. But he was right. The group needed to be able to continue without me. And it did! Some of the folks who stepped forward were ones that I never expected to, and they wound up doing a great job.

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