Why I'll Never Be A PTA Parent

by Kristen Mae
Originally Published: 
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I’m a work-from-home mom, so I’d probably be considered a prime candidate for joining the PTA. My schedule is “flexible” (read: I taxi my kids all over and then work at my laptop until the wee morning hours). But I stay as far away from the PTA as possible.

I’m happy to volunteer at school functions, if I’m doing something that makes an obvious and measurable difference to the school. But I won’t sit in on one of those meetings ever, ever again. I attended several PTA meetings at my kid’s school back when my oldest was in kindergarten and I was still trying to be a “Perfect Parent,” and that was enough for me to realize that I am not cut out to be a PTA parent.

Bless those of you who are willing to sit in those meetings month after month without ripping your hair out or strangling someone, but I just can’t do it. I can’t sit through the meeting minutes, the rehashing of what’s been done, the drawn-out discussions and debates of what is yet to be done, and the inevitable overzealous parent who needs to discuss the district website for 30 minutes even though that’s out of the scope of the PTA but let’s humor her anyway because we are trying to be good volunteer mamas. I can’t sit through the in-depth analysis of every tiny, insignificant detail of the school’s functioning.

Who cares which shade of blue we use to repaint the monkey bars? And no, Kelly, this is not the time to suggest we reconsider having monkey bars on the playground at all because kids might break their arms on those things. The agenda item is to pick a color, so please for the love of all that is good and holy, do that.

And it doesn’t matter which fundraiser you pick, Brenda, 90% of parents will not participate because we hate fundraisers and, OMG, do you honestly not realize that we can’t actually sell tubs of cookie dough to anyone in our social circle because everyone in our social circle is a parent at this school and selling the same damn cookie dough? Wait, and you want me to recruit other parents to sit through this? Hahahaha, NO.

Participating in those meeting gave me heart palpitations, but it also helped me discover that I am more of a free-range parent—I’d have been a great parent in the ‘80s, the type of mom to shove her kids out the door in the morning with a fistful of ice pops and tell them not to come back until the streetlights came on. Those meetings taught me that I don’t actually want to be privy to every detail of my kids’ day or environment.

I’m already taxiing my kids at night to various activities, making sure they stay on top of their homework and music practice, and doing the countless administrative tasks that go along with parenting. I have a real job that I would like to occasionally not have to put off until midnight to do. If I’m going to add an extra commitment, wrapping myself up in the bureaucratic minutiae of my kids’ school would definitely not be it.

The other thing that rubs me the wrong way about the PTA is that no matter how well-meaning its members are, it invariably gets cliquey. At my school, the kids of the PTA parents who organized the school dance got to put on a special dance performance for the entire grade, something none of the other kids even knew about. It was great, the kids were fantastic, but the whole thing was also weirdly arbitrary.

Students have no control over whether their parents are in the PTA, so it seems odd that by virtue of coincidence these kids got this special privilege ( and other special privileges) without making the opportunity available to other kids whose parents aren’t a member of the PTA. What if there were other kids who were much better dancers? Shouldn’t they have had tryouts or something?

I have nothing against any parent who feels drawn to participate in their school’s PTA. You do you, and props to you if you’ve got the patience and motivation to put in the time and effort to improve your kids’ school. As long as you’re not behaving like Christina Applegate’s character in Bad Moms, lording power over us lesser-involved mamas and shaming us for bringing store-bought cookies to the class party, we’re good. I know for some people it fills their bucket to be super involved in their kids’ lives, to know the ins and outs of their school, and to feel they’re playing a part in its improvement. And if that’s you, more power to you.

I’ll just be over here recycling this 200-page cookie dough catalog.

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