PTA Politics.

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.

 

KelleyS
09.10.08

I always thought it was just me, but, why is it that I can be a competent, very senior level professional at work and a darn good mother at home and yet I feel totally inept when face-to-face with a professional volunteer at my kids' school. You know, the moms that are always there, doing something good.

I was actually jealous, for a time, of a mom who had a daughter in my son's class. She was always there and always doing something good. One day I noticed that her daughter didn't seem all that well-adjusted to school and I realized she may need to be there for her daughter.

At that point, I was no longer jealous. Now, I try to be grateful that there are moms who are willing and able to spend time.

However, I have noticed and experienced that working moms are sometimes "pitied" when they cannot be at all events all the time and working fathers are complemented whenever they show up.

I think many still expect the mom to do it all and think that even simple efforts by fathers go beyomd the call of duty.

Azucar
09.10.08

Honestly? Why didn't you let her have it?

The ONLY reason she is acting this way is that other people let her get away with it. About 10 seconds after she announced that the dads needed to report so they could leave, I would have made some sort of "What am I? Chopped liver?" joke.

If you don't let the bully get away with it, they will stop being an obtuse bully (or at the very least, they will know they can't push you around.)

AmyF
09.10.08

My mom says that my husband and I both walk out the door for work (well I work from home), but we both go to work, but I carry this imaginary backpack with me with all the things I have to keep track of with regards to my kids. My husband does a lot, especially at home, but I'm the one who has to keep track of all the appointments and details and who has what and when. I dare you....ask a man if his kids are immunized and see if you get a blank look or a look of panic wondering if his wife got his kids immunized.

I love that that guy said that. I would have been offended if I were him. It sounded like that woman did not want men interfering.

Amy
www.sofiabean.com

amcuprill
09.10.08

I'm surprised there were any dad's at the meeting at all.

tarheelmom
09.10.08

Nice article. I am also the mother of a 1st grader, and run my own business, and have a 3 year old to chase around. I am a member of the PTA, but have not attended any meetings. Those women scare me. I mean I can appreciate what they do for the school, but I do not think I can be apart of that group. It seems like high school all over again!

teresahb
09.10.08

You crack me up!! My daughter just started kindergarten and you are right, the rush to recruitment is crazy. You'd think they were starting an army. Although, maybe they are! I am looking forward to getting involved, as well. I also volunteer in my daughter's classroom on a regular basis, which I love. But I will not be able to deal with crazy, militant PTA moms. I would have to speak up if that were to happen! Maybe then I'll have a funny story too. Good luck to you with your busy life!!

freuten
09.09.08

Keep your chin up sista!

I've also been amazed by the ferocity of the hard-core PTO leadership. A friend of mine (and a truly sweet and generous lady) was essentially chased out of the PTO 2 years ago when her son started the 1st grade. A small part of me thought that was just her because I saw her as being somewhat on the meak side. Then I joined and realized what she meant. I'm no shrinking violet (actually I'm a kamakazi-butt-kicking-soccer-mom and part-time-police-officer) and I've felt intimidated by these ladies. Sigh.

Last year I put a lot of time into volunteering in my son's classroom, working on their class project, and attending what meetings I could(I was working full time & had a brand new baby) and I felt kinda miffed when I ran into one of the PTO mom's on the first day of school and she declared that they'd made some major policy changes over the summer...I thought I was a member...shouldn't I have had some input?

Since then I've decided to let go and enjoy their knowledge and expertise for as long as they have children in the school - why reinvent the wheel? I'll just help out where I can. Grins.

akonold
09.09.08

I agree that it's unfortunate that there has to be a divide between working moms and stay at home moms. Unfortunately at our school, the PTA has decided that meetings will only happen during the day because it is inconvenient for the SAHM's to have meetings in the evenings. It may or may not be intentional but it tells me that working moms are not welcome.

Of course if a working dad decided to pop in, he would probably be applauded for taking time off work to volunteer.

michellesarrail
09.09.08

Risa - you are such a great writer! Keep us updating on the ongoing PTA saga.

CopywriterMom
09.09.08

Wow. How offensive. And I agree that it's so tiresome to rehash those stereotypes. I would have been angry enough to let her know (afterward) that as a working parent myself, I expect to either have everyone there for the entire meeting or to be "dismissed" with the other working parents at future meetings.