Pulled in too many directions? Conflicting roles may be holding you back. Leslie, a researcher and endocrinologist, was frustrated after losing a weekend morning to painting furniture at her kids’ school. Leslie sighed and told me, as part of my academic career-coaching work, “We really shouldn’t have taken this on. We thought it was something we could all do together, but the kids couldn’t help much, and they ended up playing in the next room while Jeff and I worked. I’m disappointed because we didn’t have much time with the kids this weekend, and with school starting, things will get even more hectic.”
To understand why it is hard for someone like Leslie to say no to
volunteering, one needs to consider role conflict. Leslie’s gender
socialization told her that as a caring mom, she should be actively
involved at her children’s school, but the demands of her academic
career left her with limited time. The school’s culture of volunteering
created external pressure, but there was internal pressure as well. In
the end Leslie realized that although she could not take on big projects
or weekly commitments, she could occasionally take off a couple of
hours to volunteer in the classroom or watch a performance. This middle
ground fulfilled her desire for involvement without causing undo stress.
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