When my son was born, I was under the impression that both everything would change and nothing would change. I knew, from everyone I spoke with, that my world would never be the same. When it came to my community commitments on boards and volunteering, however, I wanted everything to remain in place.
I have a supportive spouse and parents who live in the area to help with childcare in mornings and evenings. But after trying to call into a board meeting with my two-week-old son wailing through my attempt at announcing I was on the line – and a few more cancellations due to traffic and last-minute work issues, among other problems – I realized something would have to give. When you try to do everything, you end up getting nothing done.
Enter Rena Kates.
Rena is a lawyer — a prosecutor in Baltimore City State’s Attorney’s Office’s Juvenile Division — and has a two-year- old with another baby on the way. She started a project where parents bring young children to a senior citizen center to play with and learn from the residents. In a world with so much digital interaction, inter-generational communication with non-family members has lessened significantly. It is invaluable for children to have exposure to people from different generations who are not their parents and grandparents to learn about how the world has changed, for better and for worse; not all stories from older people are about walking uphill both ways to school.
Rena’s project also is a demonstration of how, with limited time for family and a demanding work schedule, children can be integrated into community engagement. “Take your kid to volunteer” should be the new slogan for lawyer parents who want to give back and have family
time all at once. Bringing your baby to the board meeting is a topic for another day, but for a lot of volunteer project,s it is a great way to give back to the community without giving up on family bonding time.