I’m a PTO mom. I volunteer because I like to know what’s going on at my kids school. I like knowing your kids by name and saying hello to them in the halls of the school and in the aisles at the grocery store. Your child is part of my community. You are a part of my community. The school is our common place. The school is where we can meet together for a common goal of making our kids and their school better.
When my son started kindergarten, I was working full time. My husband took the boy to school while I took the girl to daycare. I did not understand how to get involved or how to get to know the other families at the school. And to be honest, I didn’t really want to add one more thing to my schedule.
At the first school party, I took off work and realized I did not know any of these kids or their parents. It was shocking to see that my son was exposed to all kinds of new people that I knew nothing about. This unfamiliarity was even worse when my son had an incident at school and I had no one to call. The mother that called to complain to me knew people…she had connections…she had the teacher’s phone number. I had nothing. This made me feel helpless. I had to figure out how to get to know the parents and teachers.
The only thing I knew to do was to become involved in the parent-teacher organization on the campus. But how? This was such an “elite group of non-working, well-off women”. It’s a selective organization of ladies that meet for coffee and play tennis while the kids are at school. How are they going to accept a non-tennis playing working mom? How do I get my foot in the door? How do I handle possible rejection like I’m back in middle school? (Because that fear never really ever goes away!)
To my surprise, I got “in”. These women were not exclusive! They were so inclusive. Once I took the first step, which included sending an email to my kid’s teacher, I was in the “club”. I was included. I was involved. And I grew to love the ladies (and dads) and the families that they represented.
When we had to change schools, the hardest transition was leaving our school family and the very active parents. We moved to a school with no parent-teacher organization and to a community of parents that have not been very active. The transition from not involved to spending time at school is hard. Taking that leap over insecurity and possible rejection takes guts.
Since I remember being on the outside, I want to debunk some PTO mom myths…the very same ones that I believed before I knew better.
- PTA/PTO Mom’s have it all together. We definitely do not have it all together. At all. Not even close. Some of us fake it pretty well, but others of us wear our failures on our sleeve like a badge of honor. When you see us at school, we are on a mission or have one task to execute. Once I’m done with that bulletin board and step into my mini-van, the “together” melts away…just as my toddler melts into his temper tantrum.
- Our husbands have great jobs and fully support all our school efforts. Actually, not all of us have husbands. Not all of the husbands have great jobs. The one constant regarding husbands/partners and their thoughts regarding our volunteerism is probably that WE ARE ALWAYS AT THE SCHOOL.
- All we do is PTO. Sometimes it feels like all we do is PTO/PTA. It’s time consuming when you are in the middle of a fundraiser or working toward a specific project or event. Some of us stay home with littles (don’t tell me that’s not work). Some of us work from home (I can’t even pretend I have the discipline to do this). Some of us work outside of the home. Sometimes we only have 30 minutes that we can spend on something PTO related. Or there will be days that we can’t think about it because our lives get too busy.
- We don’t really need any more help. We need SO MUCH help. We always need more help. We always want someone new to get involved in an area that they are passionate about. We always feel like we are asking people to do something/donate something/send money/meet for a meeting. The asking gets just as exhausting as our flyers feel to you. Please help. If you see me at school, I’m gonna guarantee I need help! If you have an extra 30 minutes on Sunday, I have something you can do that will help our school. If you have no skills, I need 100 feathers cut from random scrapbook paper. I have the supplies, if you can sit and cut for me.
- We really like being in charge. Nope. (Well sometimes that the case, but we really need her because she gets stuff done.) We welcome your input and even your takeover of the fall fest/carnival/turkey contest/Santa shop/valentine dance/spring fling/car wash/fundraiser/talent show. We probably have a folder we would gladly hand over to you as we weep with joy over the help!
This community of parents can be so supportive because your kids are the same age, at the same school, fighting the same battles everyday. Don’t you want to be a part of the PTO? We should be on the same team. We can even get some t-shirts…if you will take the lead.
If you are not a part of your school’s parent-teacher group, why not? They need you. We need you. The kids need to see you and know you. If you are, reach out and include someone new. Your involvement gives strength and security to our kids and our community.