I Want A ‘MOM’s Club’ (alternate title: God Help My New PTA)

I took my eldest to Kindergarten today. While the emotions are ravaging my mind and soul tonight, I can’t help but exhale a bit.

He did great. He seems great. Life moves on.

So while the Mom in me grapples with time passing and children growing, the woman in me is rather pissed off.

Expectations are killing me.

As most of you know, I work.

I work like millions of Americans and like millions of other mothers and fathers.

What is making me angry, and what I can’t wrap my head around tonight, is why my parenting expectations are so much higher than my husband’s.

He works, too.

But there are special ‘clubs’ at school for Dads, catering to ‘finding opportunities for father’s to participate’ in school functions. Me? It’s just expected.

So there I was, signing up for a few volunteer positions (because if I didn’t god only knows what doom it would spell for my child or our future at a brand new school) and my husband is afforded the luxury of ‘Dads Club.’

Which, mind you, he nearly skipped signing up for because…you know…he works.

I realize there are larger things at work here like society and culture and biological predispositions…but stay with me.

As a thinking person I realize that regardless of work, I need to be involved in my child’s school. It’s not convenient. I have a million other things to do, but ‘work’ is not an excuse to get out of it.

The only thing that makes this even slightly manageable – I work from home. What about the millions of mothers who leave the house to work daily? Who punch a clock? And is my work diminished because I DO work from home?

You just work from home…you can come sell cookies and help organize the fundraiser.

Why are all these working women expected to participate, while their male counterparts are given a pass? Or a special fucking club, like if they show up they are already 10 steps ahead of any other working father on the planet.

Reminds me of the Dads (of which my husband is one) that actually change diapers and give baths and suck out snot with the bulb thingy. You’d think they had walked on water from all the praise they received for participating in their child’s life.

Every time I think we’ve made progress, I am confronted with the reality of our society expecting everything of  women when it comes to raising children. Nevermind there is another capable adult in the mix.

Oh, that guy? Yes well, he works.

No one thinks anything of raising an eyebrow if I dare text on my blackberry while sitting at a school function, yet those same no ones don’t even glance when the guy in the suit gets a call during Kindergarten RoundUp and he spends 3 minutes whispering into his cell.

Obviously, he’s a guy. In a suit. It MUST be very important.

Me? Oh you know, not much at all. Just feeling like not paying attention to my child’s teacher momentarily to do something as UNimportant as reply to Barack Obama and John McCain’s staff.

It has nothing to do with gender roles or societal norms. It has everything to do with being a parent.

Which is why, at my very first PTA meeting, I just might have to ask for a MOM’s Club. You know, to find those ‘opportunities’ for involvement in my child’s education.

Or maybe I’ll just sign up for the Dad’s Club.

School’s in session.

Comments

  1. The more things change, the more they remain the same. Everytime that I think we’ve actually moved into the 21st century, there’s a reminder, staring me right in the face, that we still operate in a 1950’s mindset. My sister in law is the master juggler – works at home, runs a business, juggles three boys and their activities and school and volunteer work. Ringling Sisters and BBC…coming to a school near you. Time to rebel sister – national “we’re not going to take it” is a step in the right direction.

  2. Wow- hit a nerve there! It is so hard to juggle it all and see the SAHM’s get to bake cookies and read for the class when I have to work! Dad’s get a medal and we do the grunting. Do you think there is a bit of ‘women should be in the home’ underlying attitude in the lack of support?

  3. Man. You have NO idea how this strikes home this week for me. I’m back at work after maternity leave with 1 Middle Schooler, 1 Pre-Schooler, and one infant. And yes – I’m having the same type of irritated thoughts. Except for yours are better articulated.

    Our Junior High orientation this year? Was at 10am on a Friday morning. Because every child has a parent at home that doesn’t work and can do that with ease, right? And while there, I heard several teachers apologizing to the Dads there who had to miss work to make it. But the women? They all assumed we were just SAHM who don’t work and therefore not inconvenienced in the slightest.

    (I’ll go back and grumble in my own corner now. Sorry for being a comment hog.)

  4. PS- Not that I resent SAHM’s just jealous!

  5. Love the fact that I’m sneaking on my computer to read this as I prepare to head out to our first grade orientation… want to be early so I can beat out the other “working” moms for volunteer spots that I can do from home at night. (i.e. grading papers) – This is what we are reduced to.

  6. First – I dare you to sign up for Dad’s Club. You would be awesome.

    Second – I know you’re new at this so allow me to let you in on a little secret: PTA Moms? They’re fucking crazy. Okay I’m sure some of your readers are PTAM’s and maybe they aren’t crazy, but there were a couple here that were enough to scare me off. One woman thought nothing of ripping into a student for taking pizza on pizza day when his mother paid but this crazy woman had lost his form. She all out LOST IT on him. She did this to many teachers and parents too. Then we found out she was stealing from the school closet (pop, chips, money, etc).
    Another spread so much gossip (that people were buying hook line and sinker) that no one but her little mean girls posse would talk to her. A friend of mine on the PTA left her abusive husband of 15 years and the gossip-monger told so many lies, no one would talk to my friend – it was awful enough to go through that but to have people staring at you b/c of lies they heard? Very hurtful.
    My observation has been that the in-charge moms on the pta are controlling and mean – and they have their own agendas. If you join, be prepared to steer those cows back to the issues at hand.
    Personally, I stay away from the whole mess and leave the bake sales & cattle drives to them!

  7. I plan on joining the PTA at my daughter’s school this year. And I personally can’t wait… can’t wait to tell stories on my blog of a friend who is on the PTA and has all these hilarious run-ins with crazy PTA moms.
    ;)

  8. Also fun is trying to help out at school when you have younger kids, even if you are a stay-at-home mom. Read to the class? Sure, but my three-year-old will be sitting on my lap. Sell cookies? Only if you don’t mind the toddler standing there, screeching because he can’t help himself to the treats. Paint scenery for the class play? I don’t think I have to explain how that would go.

    I don’t know who’s doing all the work, but it’s not me. The other mothers tried to “console” me, saying that they “didn’t help much” when they had small ones at home, but I still felt bad.

  9. Something about having a penis confers special privileges. I’d try to explain it, but I’m PMSing like a big dog and can’t think straight.

  10. Every woman I know who works outside the home has the same gripe:

    every damn thing is schedule in the middle of the freaking day!

    My son’s “meet the teacher” tomorrow? 11-12 Which means (because I commute, as do 95% of workers in my area) that I have to take the entire day off work. So that I can take one hour in the middle of the day to find his classroom and drop off school supplies.

    And it happens all the damn time.

    It makes you feel like you must be the only parent who works.

  11. If it makes you feel any better Erin, when the cell phone of the parent of EITHER gender who is accompanying their college student to advising and registration rings LOUDLY IN MY EAR SEVERAL TIMES, I make them take it outside. ; ) Then again, I have to tell many of my students not to answer their phone while in a counseling session, so the problems on this level are way deeper.

    I’m not a mom as you know, but my mom was, always, a working mother. She was totally focused on us when she was home and she did what she could at school, which was a lot given her schedule. To tell the truth it didn’t bother me at all that she wasn’t super-involved(In fact, I probably would have been freaked out by having her around more…) And it seems that the race to be involved in the years since has ratcheted up so much that it puts all kinds of extra pressue on. Just reading about it gets me riled up.

    Dad’s Club is a goofy, antiquated idea, and I’m not sure why in this era of gender neutrality it’s even happening.

    Oh, and judgmental people and stupid schedulers can #suckit.

  12. OMG – I should have warned you about this! Long time, burned out PTA moms hover like vultures around fresh meat – you know, the new Kindergarten moms – looking for someone to take over these heinous jobs.

    Yes, YOU WORK. Keep repeating that as a mantra. You want to do your share at the school, but you also don’t want to get sucked in to anything that is going to be awfully time consuming.

    I got through our six years of elementary school by webmastering and editing the PTA newsletter (jobs that did not require me to be there a lot or get too involved in crazy politics). But I also chaired Book Fair and held officer positions (jobs that DID suck me in). Before you volunteer for anything, call your more experienced friends (you know who they are).

    And DON’T LET THEM MAKE YOU FEEL GUILTY when you can’t work on the “Harvest Festival” or the gift wrap sale (both of these are KILLER projects). YOU WORK.

  13. Hi! Former PTA President (and all the other offices) and former Elementary School Secretary here! Wait stop running away!

    OK, yes everything is scheduled during the day because, guess what? The TEACHERS work also! Their workday is (usually) 15 minutes before school until 30 minutes after school. ANything else is their time. If you had a client that needed to meet with you, you would schedule them during Your workday right? same idea.

    Yes, some PTA parents ()notice I didn’t say Mom’s) are nutso. BUt isn’t that a faction of all “groups”? YOu can only change things from the inside. If you don’t like the way something is happening, don’t stand around bitching, that isn’t productive at all. Get involved!

    Erin, I could so see you being a hell of an asset to your PTA, either with the school website, or as a community Liasion. We held debates during local elections and things like that.

    Let me know if you want to talk.

  14. Lisa Hyatt says:

    Have one child in 8th and another in 3rd so it’s now been 9 years of school dynamics from a high end private school, liberal Montessori school, a Charter public school, to public Elementary. (I know..My poor kids have been moved like military kids) Men focus their volunteering efforts on the fundraising committees to build buildings or hire more teachers. I’ve seen them get elected to the board to pick new administrators. Oh, there’s always a token woman just like corporate boards, but by in large it’s the boy’s club. Women are always chairing the gala fundraiser for scholarships and are the ones in the classroom. I volunteered with one Dad in Kindergarten doing all the cutouts, filing and grading papers. He then passed away 6 months later from Cancer. Is that what it takes to get them in the trenches? Maybe the funding for schools wouldn’t be cut every fricking year if we would boycott the classroom and start at the top. Teachers lose their aides and we step in dutifully. My sister grades papers at night because the teacher was choosing to not grade the homework due to time constraints and would just go off the tests for grades. WTH!@ I figure the more we raise funds and enable the system by stepping in with our free work, the less that school funds will be there. In California we passed a state lottery for school money and the state just cut the budget by the amount the schools were now getting from the gambling. Asinine! Maybe if the Dad’s had to volunteer they would realize the real needs of the school.

  15. Queen of Spain says:

    I signed up for the school’s website and earth day and will do class work.

    I’m a trooper.

  16. Vent on girlfriend! By the end of the year you should have them all caught up. Hopefully.

  17. Oh you aren’t wrong.

    I’ve sung this dirge many times.

    And it only gets better! Just wait until you bump up against ideological differences like I did with the Red Ribbon and Abstinence programs.

    School is fun!

    (What’s your husband’s opinion, that you said he disagreed?”

  18. You are a trooper Erin! Good for you! My kiddos aren’t in school yet and we just might home school when they’re ready.

    But if we put them in public school I will help out wherever I can and not just because I am a stay at home mom. I will help out because I am a parent and because I love my kids and because my most important job is being their mom.

    Stay at home moms work too, we just don’t get paid for it.

  19. Queen of Spain says:

    WEll,I think his argument is that I didn’t acknowledge the role many very able and wonderful dad’s do play (which, I thought I did…but I guess not) and that I do not need or have to sign up for these things. Which I disagree with. But he can speak for himself if he so chooses.

    And yes, Kat. SAHM are totally working. Agreed!

  20. Maybe it’s just me, but are schools asking for parental participation way more than they did when I was growing up? I think I counted last June having to be at 6 parenting things (and that didn’t even include my tuesday stints as lunch room monitor – yes, I work from home, and no, I don’t have younger children so it was doable and I actually enjoyed it but probably because it was working directly with kids and not the PTAmoms).

    BUT, My mom cracks up at the things expected of me. She says the only time she ever went to my school was when I was sick or in trouble.

    And, while we’re on the topic, OK, we’re not, but I’m bringing it up anyhow: what’s wrong with longer school days (this is an ongoing gripe with me …) Schools are still run on an agrarian schedule so that kids could work the fields after school. Don’t know too many kids working the fields these days. Although, I do know a few that would definitely benefit from some hard labor … but, they give them so much homework, it’s like homeschooling them in the afternoons and evenings, why not just add 2 more hours onto the day!

  21. My husband was talking to all the workers women involved in our summer children’s program at church. He was planning the big week-long event, and said, “We need more dads involved.”

    One of the older women piped up quickly and said, “But they are working.”

    Without batting an eye, he said, “And what better reason to take off work? Or a long lunch? Or work around their schedule?”

    You could hear the senior adult gasp suck through the air.

    Take off work? To help with children? When all the women folk were right there ready to bake cookies and burp them babies (yes, most of whom are working fulltime?!?!)?

    I’m surprised it didn’t make the paper.

  22. totally loved this post. This is also my first year at Kinder and the orientation had me wondering “where can I write the check to so that I don’t have to sign up for anything”. Even at preschool I have observed that the things “with daddy” are scheduled first thing in the morning and the “with mommy” things are in the middle of the day. I heard one mom say that she negotiated with her kids at the beginning of the school year which events she would attend. Tell your husband you are not mad at him but at the system that does not properly accomodate for the reality of a working mom.

  23. Hey! I’m a four-year veteran of the Working Mom Club. It doesn’t really exsist in our school district, but in my mind I’m the club’s president. You’ve inspired me to start a petition for this club, though!

    I’ve come to believe there are no working moms in our school district – they all married well and instead spend their time as Moms Who Volunteer. Yes, and many, many “volunteer” on the PTA. They do look down their newly Botoxed noses as me, because – ya know – I’m a Working Mom, but that doesn’t phase me.

    I love being a working mom and my son has learned oh-so much because of it. He’ll be a better person/husband/dad when he grows up!

  24. I’m on year 9. And I feel your pain. I’m getting better at caring less. Getting sucked into less. But you know what? The feeling never really goes away. Sorry. Good news is, once they hit middle school, the expectations are much lower for parents. Now if my little one could just get to middle school, I could get some work done!

  25. Amen, sister!
    That very topic is what I’m gearing up for when school starts for my kids next week. I wasn’t working this summer and already am overloaded with volunteer requests that I took on since I had a break, but usually say no because life is crazy as it is with kids and work and homework and maybe the tiniest bit of free time. But when I start working again in the Fall, I’ll get flack for giving up those volunteer roles. The Dad’s Club would infuriate me. I totally think you should join and then offer sweetly that you thought it was the working parent club!

  26. Stay strong, sister.

    I didn’t volunteer for a single thing last year (Tacy’s first year in kindergarten). I attended conferences (actually, Kyle and I split them), an evening event or two, and I made sure that homework was done and forms were returned on time.

    Oh, and I was pregnant for the first half of the year, had a newborn for the second half of the year, plus a two/three year old. So even if I didn’t work, volunteering would have been nearly impossible.

    You have a younger child, and you WORK. End of story.

  27. Give yourself permission to say no. Trust me, I taught. The most important thing is maintaining contact with the teacher and talking to your child after his school day.

  28. I don’t have kids but this blog is funny and so insightful for me if and when I have my own kids. haha. I’m not even married yet (don’t intend to be for a while).

    My mom was a working mom and she had 3 kids. she managed to pull off being the Chief HR Officer at a large corporation and raise some decent children.

    My mom never attended my PTAs (I grew up in Singapore) nor did she ever volunteer like my friends’ mothers, but she did come to the things that were important to me like my dance performances etc.

    When I was younger, I did sometimes wish my mom was there more, that she baked cookies for everyone in my class. But now that I’m older, I see how liberated she was more than 20 years ago. Now I have only admiration for her – she still works long hours because she is passionate about her work and really has been an example for my own work ethic.

  29. Awesome.

    Oh, and those moms who do stay at home? Let’s remember that they can’t run the PTA *and* the church *and* the preschool and still manage to do what they intended to do by staying home in the first place.

    Ahem.

    Just something I’ve seen happen around here…. Expectations are a bitch.

  30. OK then. Y’all keep congratulating each other on not helping out at school, and I’ll keep on carrying your load at class parties and school events. Oh and keep sneering at me, it’s great for morale.

  31. Midwest Mommy says:

    Love your post. Love it, love it, love it.

    I live in the midwest, in an upper class school district. While we are so lucky to be in a great school district, the expectations of the moms is truly ridiculous. Many moms are guilted into major volunteering under the “we need to maintain our high academic standards and the teachers need our help”. Our teachers (who are very good at what they do) have become a tad bit spoiled and quite honestly they don’t do much at all after the 3:30 bell. Moms are called in to help with small group projects, art projects, testing assessments, field trips, assemblies, picture day, hearing screenings, field days, correcting papers, cutting out letters for bulletin boards, lunch duty, recess duty and a LONG, LONG list of other activities.

    It’s really gotten pretty ridiculous. Our teachers are even given days off to do grade card preparation and given 1/2 days off to catch up 1 or 2x month. In short, they don’t even put in an 8 hour day, and the mommies are picking up the slack.

    Guess what? This “don’t burden the teacher” is what also leads to the school trending towards moving the majority of activities to be within school hours — from Veteran’s Day to Greet the Teacher, Student Recognition, Music Shows, Parent Conferences, Book Fairs, Teacher Appreciation, etc. This leads to more and more pressure on the moms trying to juggle it all, whether SAHM or Working moms.

    So there are 2 forces at work here, the overzealous helicopter moms, as well as the school district who is happy to exploit their free labor and keep asking for more, more, more. After all, you don’t want those test scores to drop, right?

    You know what, I need to maintain my high expectations at home as well, so maybe the school ought to send some folks over here to fold laundry and clean toilets for me.

    I should have seen it coming on my oldest’s very first day of Kindergarten in this district. Parents (moms) were required to attend the entire first day (snicker), and the teacher ended the day with a cynical voice announcing, “and parents, here is YOUR assignment” while she promptly handed us each a packet of construction paper to trace and cut out 4 sets of the alphabet for her bulletin boards. I felt like flipping her off.

    Sorry to vent, but its gotten ridiculous. At our school, both the Moms and Dads often attend these daytime events TOGETHER. Yep. Take our Halloween party which starts at 2:30 — 3/4 of the attendees were both the Mom and Dad together. While it’s nice to see parental involvement, …it just raises the bar of parental expectations once again to a crazy level. And what the hell do these families do that BOTH parents are available at all hours of the day to drop everything and go watch little Johnny carry decorate a foam paper bat? There are so many parents in the classroom you can’t even move on party days. It’s insane.

Speak Your Mind

*