I am one of THOSE PTA moms – and Proud of It!

In the last few months I’ve read several blog posts railing against the PTA moms at various schools.  The complaints are usually the same – they’re overbearing and pushy, busy bodies trying to vie for the principal or teacher’s attention, do-gooders who get off on making the rest of the parents feel bad.  Yeah, yeah.  I get it.  At my very first Parents’ Association (PA) meeting at my daughter’s private preschool I actually raised my hand and told the PA President that I thought she was condescending and wrong when she made a derisive comment about how no one gave enough to the school and not to count on scholarship parents for anything.  That led to quite the nasty back and forth, and needless to say confirmed all my worst fears about those kinds of groups – and let’s be honest, those kinds of moms.

But, a year later, I was co-chairing the school auction.  It was an ungodly amount of work, but in the end it was hugely rewarding when we raised more money for the scholarship fund than ever before.  When my daughters started public school in Kindergarten there was no doubt in my mind that I would be involved.  I didn’t exactly know how, but I felt so lucky to have gotten in this school that wasn’t our zoned school that giving back and ensuring the school’s success was a given.  This school is quite honestly famous for it’s parental support.  It’s been through 4 principals in about 10 years but the parents have never let the programs wither.  We have over 1000 kids and yet we’ve lost an insane amount of money in budget cuts, so it’s up to the parents to make up the slack.  We raise an enormous amount of money that pays for everything from stocking the art room and bringing technology into our classrooms to basics like childcare at PA meetings so all parents can attend.

My first year as a parent I was the Kindergarten Representative, my second year I was the Class Parent Liaison and this past year I was the Co-Treasurer and next year I hope to be Co-President.  I spend an inordinate amount of time at the school.  Do I get to see the Principal more than most parents?  I suppose so.  Do I catch glimpses of my kids walking down the halls?  Sometimes.  But that is just the byproduct of being at the school for so many hours during the week.  Having this insider’s view of the workings of my children’s school doesn’t make me slick or duplicitous or self-righteous.  Actually it has the opposite effect – seeing our horribly shrinking school budget numbers, our soaring admissions numbers and the needs of our teachers makes me want to throw up.  I know how important our parental giving – whether in time or money – really is to the success of our school.  And so if I get overzealous in my cheerleading for the school auction or pledge drive, or if I really try and hammer in the fact that giving just an hour to a book sale can make the sale happen, well I’m not going to apologize for that.

In the end what I hate most about the PA mom bashing is that is serves the same purpose as the stay-at-home mom versus work-outside-the-home mom debate.  That is, it serves NO purpose.  We all want our kids to go the best school possible.  And we all want to give our teachers the tools they need to do make the schools the best.  So instead of waging a war against each other  (and trust me there are plenty of PA moms who resent the fact that “no one” volunteers) we need to keep the goal in mind: our kids’ education.  I know I am fortunate to be at a school where I think most people feel like they can give an hour once in a while to help at an event, or solicit an auction donation, or show up to a PA meeting, or go on a field trip one morning.  Even when it’s hard as hell, people find a way.  So, please no more lumping all of us PTA moms into the sit-com stereotype mom with no life.  Does it make for good comedy?  Of course.  Does it make for good schools?  What do you think?

This post originally appeared at nyc moms blog

17 thoughts on “I am one of THOSE PTA moms – and Proud of It!

  1. I’ve been a PA mo for many many years, I started out small, just helping out, baking and helping with making and distributing copies etc. 3 years later I became the Vice President but still took on those other roles. A Vice President of the PA don’t really mean anything and I never went to leadership meetings becuz I didn’t know I had to. When my eldest started Jhs, I kinda shy away from the elementary school where my youngest was still going to becuz even before then I felt odd between the big shots, they knew a lot of ppl and rubbed elbows with a lot of important ppl in the neighborhood. I just didn’t feel like I fit in. They were also brining in their own parents to support the school more..parents from different neighborhood were now at our school. They were never appreciative of the things we’d do, it was as if it was expected, they had their own click and the principal will hire them or family members of them but tells the other parents whose been volunteering for years that she cannot hire parents. As I got more involved with my other child Jhs, I learn more, I learned we as parents and members of the PA has to have leadership meetings with officials of the school. I became a very hands on parent and hosted many fund raisers that the kids enjoyed..the next year I was nominated president and it was like a full time job that I enjoyed, the staff are all wonderful ppl, the principal which I’m working on to help us is an easy man to deal with. We have a great support system, however this year as my first year as president I felt like it was a one woman army, I struggled a bit becuz of not enough help but in the end our small school did well. We the PA funded 2 dances, teachers luncheon and t-shirts for our running team. I have so much more planned for next year and now that I’m learning more I plan to utilize more options.

  2. My daughter is now in middle school and I’m very disappointed in the politics of the PTA and favortism given to their children. I’ve always been an active parent and donated whatever I could to the schools whether it be supplies, clothes or my time and get no recogonition (which I don’t need or want) but boy, if you are an honorary member of the PTA you get all the accolades and special treatment as well as their children.

    I had spoken to the Media speicalist about a postion my child was interested in at the school. She strongly encouraged my child to apply since she was so well suited for it. Later, during another disgussion with the Media Specialist, she seemed to change her tune and suggested my child had lost or not returned a book to the library of her Elementary school; of course, she couldn’t be sure it was my child since she had seen so many names. With total confusion, I explained of knowing nothing about about this book issue. During same conversation, this teacher said she was looking for child that was quirky to fill the postion in libraray. AGAIN, total confusion became me!! What did she mean by quirky and why the change in qualifications? Well, needless to say, I know exaclty how this will turn out. This Media Specialist will NO DOUBT choose a child from an active PTA parent. I GUARANTEE IT. I guess her original requirements of looking for a quiet, mild mannered child with a great memory is no longer of top priority.

    If this is the way things are going to be in a school, I can accept it but would prefer the school teach the children about how political life can be, pros, cons, ethics of, etc…now wouldn’t that be a real lesson!!

  3. What really gets me is that the people who complain about things are the ones who aren’t involved to begin with. At least the ones who are involved are actually making an impact. For those who are involved, keep up the great work!

  4. Pingback: Parental Involvement in Schools – How Thomas Friedman Missed the Point «

  5. “…I actually raised my hand and told the PA President that I thought she was condescending… “.

    “In the end what I hate most about the PA mom bashing….”

    …Sounds like a basher that doesn’t like bashing.

  6. Stacy and Mona,

    Unfortunately, my experience has been like yours. I can’t tell you what a relief I feel reading what you’ve written above. For four years now I’ve felt very uncomfortable and had a very hard time navigating the volunteering scene at my daughter’s school, but I couldn’t exactly explain what was going on. You’ve explained it beautifully. Thanks.

  7. Thanks ladies for letting me know I am not alone. This is my first year as President, although I have served as a volunteer for many years and an excutive board member for two years. I find that bullying amoung adults is the worst situation we deal with. We do many assemblies for our kids on bullying and show how wrong it is…..we really need our volunteers and excutive boards to attend an assembly on this matter as well. We have a past President who due to her constant bad mouthing, pointing fingers and rudeness chased away all our parents. No one would work with her. I am trying very hard to get them back involved. But as long as she sits on council level, no one will join our PTA. She threatens them and as you know it is easier to back down and protect ourselves and family then to stand up to a bully. Several of us have put in complaints to our state PTA and they just slap her hand, so to speak. This may be my last year seving our PTA. I no longer believe in what they represent. Not when the state allows parents to continue to bully volunteers.

  8. Thank you so much for posting this! I really needed it. I’m on my second year as president of our PTA and I work hard to make sure we are inclusive and that if I ask for help that we need help and will not waste your time. And yet sometimes I feel like I’m losing a battle. I’m not sure where all the stereotypes even come from. Personal experience I guess-“I pull down my hat and hide as I walk into school so they don’t catch me”, “Oh, I don’t want to do PTA-I just want to help out in the classroom” (Don’t want to be depressing on this one but we utilize very few in classroom volunteers-trust me I’ve tried!) instead we need lots of parents to help with programs, assemblies, etc. and that’s organized through PTA cause it saves the counselor, principal, etc. time. “Oh, I’m a working mom” Then there are all the negative comments in the media.

  9. I totally agree with the PTA stereotype, but there are some PTA mom’s who defy the stereotype just like the author. I wish there were more people like you in PTA’s/PTO’s.

    I think it’s awesome you’re actually working to better your children’s school and you don’t do it so you can helicopter over your kids. For some mom’s, their entire lives are their children and they have no lives of their own so they feel they need to spend all day at their children’s school being bossy and gossip all day about other parents and their kids.

    I loved the PTA meetings at my daughter’s old school, they had them at 5:30 so working parents could attend. At her new school, they have them at 9 in the freakin’ morning. I’m a SAHM but we have only one car that my husband has to use for his job. I think this year will be different, my neighbor is a PTA member and I’m thinking about asking her for a ride to the PTA meetings and I’ll find someone to babysit for however long. I hope to be a bigger part of the PTA this year, and I really hope most of them aren’t catty, but I’ve met some of them and they just look at me like I’m an alien or something, even when I tried talking with them.
    I graduated high school 12 years ago, I thought I left all that drama behind! Guess some women never grow out of it.

    Kudos to you for being the PTA mom all PTA members should be inspired by!

  10. Sometimes pto/pta mom bashing is for a very good reason. How about the group that runs the pto and decides not to include you on the committee’s you have volunteered for, and then complain that they do all the work? And the mom’s who “decorate” for things like graduation and put their names all over the seats to insure the twenty seats they need for ceremony. How about the mom’s who demand that the work you do is very necessary but has no face time, and the work they do is quite minimal but has lots of face time, so they seem like they do it all? I am a reliable volunteer, I will send in money, food, supplies, show up if they need a physical body, yet I get dirty looks from all the pto moms for their perception of my lack of help. The pto at our school is nothing more than a bunch of 40 year old women jockeying for queen bee much like they did back in high school. I stay away from the pto, as do many others because of this, and this is to their detriment. This is not about mom wars, this is about being too mature to want to deal with the nonsense I see my fifth grade girl going through.

    • Stacy,

      I totally agree with you. That was my initial response to my daughters’ preschool PA. I have to say that if a friend hadn’t pulled me in to our elementary school PA I don’t know if I would’ve jumped in. But, I have to say in NYC at least it is what makes the difference between schools that have anything extra (art, chess, music, assemblies, a library) and those that don’t. I hate that you’ve been so turned off by the one at your school and wonder if there’s a way for you and your friends to get involved in your own way, or on a specific project that could help broaden the appeal of your PTO or at the very least show those women that there’s more to strong parent involvement than decorating or making other parents feel less than them. don’t you have elections? Isn’t there someway to get other voices heard?

    • Stacy,

      You hit it right on the head. For years I have volunteered in “non face-time” roles- being a reading helper or helping the teacher in the classroom, etc.. I also religiously send in requested items. I refuse to be on the PTA board- the women are catty, know-it-all, and seem to look down on everyone else while acting like martyrs who do it all while at the same time not accepting help from those who are not in their crowd. It’s funny and annoying to me at the same time. I am a SAHM and I am simply too mature at age 42 to play out the high school drama that I see among these “queen bee wannabe” moms. It’s sad to me that they have nothing better to do with their days than to hand out at their kids’ schools all day. I for one feel good about contributing behind the scenes and dedicating the rest of my day to things I enjoy so that I can be a better mom. I think that my kids are better off seeing me occassionally at their schools- it’s more of a treat that way for both of us. I want them to have some independence- isn’t that the ultimate goal of parenting? It’s just amazing to me how petty some of these moms can be. I refuse to be part of that whole scene, so I will continue doing what works for me!

  11. I wrote a post once called the Unlikely PTA Mom because I thought of myself as the antithesis of one of THOSE moms. That is, until I came across a PTA that was completely welcoming and appreciative of any and all time that we could give to helping the school. I’m now on the PTA Board, and will be a Booster mom next year, too!
    I love that your conclusion is about dismissing the “mom wars” in general. Aren’t they soooo stupid?!?

  12. Thank goodness for PTA/PTO/PA parents! As much as I complain about the expectations for volunteers (something I just railed about on another blog, LOL – I guess I’m a little ambivalent on this subject!) I think everyone who contributes to the well-being of our schools is a hero.

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