In about a week I will officially be done volunteering for this school year. I’ve been the parent in charge of the Parkway Elementary Safety Patrol and Spirit Week, co-in charge of the 5th Grade Fun Day, co-in charge of the Challenge 24 Math Team, helped with teacher appreciation and will pitch in next week for Field Day. Besides all that I’ve been a somewhat active member of the West Frederick Middle School PTSA (helping with the family giving drive, restaurant nights as well as membership and publications for new students), a parental volunteer for the spring drama performance of Charlie and The Chocolate Factory, pitched in items for the 8th grade formal and will help out next week at the 8th grade picnic.
I’ve definitely hit the PTA wall this year. I’ve been volunteering in some capacity since 1998, when my eldest entered her “Time For Two’s” Preschool class and usually I pace myself pretty well. But this year, I’m not sure what happened. I didn’t anticipate begin in charge of certain activities and the ones I knew I would be running, were more work than I expected. I survived. I’ll be fine, but I feel the need to lay out some tips for other mom’s out there to help them avoid splattering like a bug against the PTA windshield of life.
I’m basically a Stay At Home Mom (SAHM) that works here and there. Therefore, I expect to do more than a working mom when it comes to school volunteerism. I figure I’m doing your part at the school so that when I need an accountant or a physical examination, you’ll be there for me. Because of this, I will NEVER throw a working mom under the PTA bus. But let me tell you a little secret. The working moms that are volunteering a lot at school, they’ll not only throw you under the bus, they’ll be the one driving it when it runs you over. They keep score. And because they’re taking off work, damn it, to help out, they’re curious why the hell you can’t also? I’m not kidding. So to all the working moms out there, do something – anything – to keep the other working mom volunteers from becoming snipers on the roofs of schools with loaded shot guns:
- Respond to emails. Even if you can’t help, hit “reply” and say that you can’t help because you have to work and thank them for all that they do for your kid. Like Glenn Close in Fatal Attraction, “They wont be ignored”.
- Send in some cash. When you see the SAHM in the grocery store buying cupcakes for the class party, give her five bucks because you may think that she’s turning in a receipt and getting reimbursed – trust me – she’s not. Help her out.
- See if there’s anything you can do at home in the evenings or on the weekends. Sometimes the help needed is to research the best moon bounce deal. You can do that online at night. Maybe the next time you run to Costco, you can pick up some stuff for the picnic. You’re going to be there anyway – kill two birds with one stone.
- Be specific. You’re busy. We get that. So say exactly what you can and can’t do and trust that the other PTA moms will respect that. Helping out even one time, helps out a lot. In fact, if everyone did a little, a lot would get done and no one would snap.
- If you don’t have the guts to set up your parameters and enforce those boundaries with the other PTA moms – grow a pair. It’s the PTA for Christ sake, not the Mafia. You can say no. No one is going to break your knee caps. But avoiding everyone and every request for help because you don’t want to get sucked in to a situation you don’t have time for is a lame-ass excuse. You’re an adult. Say what you mean and mean what you say.
- If you really can’t help it’s not a problem. Besides work, we realize that you actually have a life and other responsibilities and instead of volunteering at school you might very well be swinging a hammer at Habitat For Humanity or manning the 24 hour suicide hotline on your days off. Just don’t bitch about about the school volunteers and don’t expect the ones actually doing the work to do things your way.
Now, a few tips for the many SAHM’s that volunteer a lot for the PTA. I don’t mean to break ranks and criticize from within, but some of you are little nutty and need some feedback. Understand that this comes from a place of love.
- You chose to quit your job and stay at home. Using the PTA as your pseudo power base to make you feel productive and important is not appropriate. You’re there to help parents, teachers and students, not to fill the hole created when you stopped earning a paycheck. If you need outside recognition to function properly, consider getting a part-time job where you will be paid and expected to boss people around.
- Decide if you’re a worker bee or a leader-type and then do what’s recuired in that role. Don’t be a leader then micro-manage the shit out of everyone because you can’t delegate. Likewise, don’t be a worker bee that insists on doing everything your way because you can’t follow a simple direction.
- Decide what’s most important to you and stick with that. If you’re a health nut, don’t sign up to oversee the candy fundraiser and then spend weeks trying to find an organic, gluten and dairy free candy bar that doesn’t taste like ass. You will drive your committee crazy. Instead, offer to write a few paragraphs each month in the PTA newsletter about healthy eating or bake vegan cupcakes for the next Valentine’s party. This isn’t rocket science. Do what you like. Like what you do.
- Knock if off with the “reply all”. Emails get sent out to large lists of PTA people. Unless you’re told to hit reply all and keep everyone in the loop – just hit reply! Don’t stuff my in box with your bitching, moaning, suggestions and/or excuses. I don’t need to know. I don’t want to know. I don’t have to know.
- Your willingness to help out your child is wonderful. Your compulsion to do everything for your child is a problem. When you help out with the dance, stay focused on the punch bowl and the balloon arch. Signing up so you can spy on your kid, review the DJ’s song lists, suggest dress code changes and ensure that only healthy snacks are donated, is not appropriate. Your kid is one of a diverse mix of races, ethnicities, intelligence, and socioeconomic status. Add to that the different rates of maturation, raging hormones, personality quirks and basic trends and you start to realize that school activities need to reach an extremely broad range of children. Everything can’t perfectly fit the needs of your child. Suck it up and roll with it. Trust that your child might actually benefit and that change may do him or her some good.
Clearly, I could blog about this for weeks. I know for certain, I haven’t covered all PTA tips in this one post. Please feel free, dear reader, to fill in the blanks as you see fit.