I’m not trying to launch a political career or anything, but now that my daughter is in the first grade, I’ve decided to join the PTA at her school. I enjoy being involved in my children’s schools; my kids get so excited and feel so important when their mommy is in charge of something, and I like the feeling of being a part of the community. But that being said, as a working mom, it’s not always easy to fit in the meetings, or to find the time for yet another responsibility. At our preschool, the Parents Association was pretty laid back. You did what you could, you came to the meetings you could make, and they were grateful to have any help at all. But at my daughter’s elementary school, the PTA is run like the United States Army. Meetings are held on the first Wednesday of each month. Each committee is expected to give a brief and succinct report. Receipts must be turned in within thirty days. Unlike the harried mothers of two and three year-olds at the preschool, the grade school moms seem to be professional parent volunteers, and they take their jobs extremely seriously. The attitude is not one of gratitude, but rather, of expectation. As in, ask not what your school can do for you, but what you can do for your school. Or, to be more exact, as in, your child attends this school, and if you want your child to have a good experience here, then you’d better get off your lazy ass and pitch in, or else don’t even think about complaining, bitches. I’ll be honest: it’s more than a little intimidating.
But nonetheless, I enlisted. Well, okay, techinically, I was recruited. At the end of last year, I was called by the former PTA President, who explained that, now that I’ve had a year to “sit back and see how things work,” I should really think about chairing a committee. I told her that I was slightly wary of committing to something like that, since I also have a job and a four year old at home. But she assured me that the PTA was friendly towards working moms. I’m a doctor with a full time practice and four kids, she said, not a little impatiently, and I’ve chaired every committee there is. And I was like, well, that’s just fantastic. There goes my cover. I mean, what do you say to something like that? Sorry, but my two kids and my part-time job as a writer are more demanding than you could possibly understand? Uh, no. What you say is Sir, yes Sir, may I have another.
And so, cut to: last Tuesday, the day before the first day of school. I’m crammed into a pint-sized chair in the school library, with about forty or so other moms, plus two dads. The new PTA President is at the head of the table: blonde, no-nonsense, and totally devoted to making our school the best it can be.
Anyway, all is fine and good, and we’re going down the list of committees in alphabetical order, with each one giving it’s succinct, to-the-point report. But somewhere around Emergency Procedures, the President interrupts. I’m sorry, she says. I’m just going to skip ahead here and let the dads from the Sports Committee give their report, so that they can get out of here and get back to work. I looked at the woman next to me, whom I happen to know is a lawyer who works full time, and we exchanged WTF??? glances at each other. So much for the committee being friendly to working moms, I thought. After the dads gave their reports and left, I sat in my seat and fumed. And then I went home and fumed. And then I didn’t sleep that night, because I was so fume-y and upset about it.
Okay, so here’s the part where I’m supposed to go off on a tirade about how annoying it is that traditional gender stereotypes still exist, and how frustrating it is that even women still perpetuate these stereotypes, and spark a whole set of comments from my readers about how you see? Stay at home moms aren’t supportive of working moms and this is exactly why working moms should leave the PTA to the SAHMs. Except, the thing is, I don’t want to. It just seems so boring, and it feels so stale, and so pre-2008, and so all I want to say about it is just, like, really? Did that really happen? I mean, I don’t agree with a single thing Sarah Palin stands for, and I don’t think she’s all that qualified for the job, but nonetheless, there is a mother of five on the ticket for Vice President of the United States. So can we just all accept the fact that these days, the dads are not the only ones who might need to get to work?
There is, however, sort of a happy ending to this story. I haven’t said anything to the PTA President – I’m just not sure that I’m prepared to break rank and argue with a superior (YET) – but I did see one of the Sports Committee dads the next day at school. He wanted to know what I thought of the PTA meeting, and I half-jokingly told him I thought it was probably better for him, since he got to leave early to go back work and all. And do you know what this man – who is in his early fifties, by the way – said? He said I KNOW. He said he was totally mortified by it, and that he was planning to send an email to the PTA President to let her know that from now on, he would appreciate not being treated any differently from the moms. After all, he told me, a lot of them have more important jobs to get back to than he does.