Tales of a PTA Drop-Out

Something has to give, and this time it's volunteering at school.

By Amy L. Hatch
Photograph: iStockPhoto

When you telecommute, people assume you have oodles of spare time. I mean, how hard can it be, right? No hour-long drive to the office. Just roll out of bed and hit the ground running! You don’t even need to brush your teeth for that conference call. And you can get laundry done while you type up that proposal.

It’s nothing like that.

Recently I discovered that if I don't leave the house to work in my local coffee shop (praise the gods for free Wi-Fi access), my attention span is akin to that of a kitten dumbstruck by a shiny object. There are too many distractions to get any one thing done. I’m torn in 100 different directions — dirty dishes, client proposal, sticky floors, strategy document… blah, blah, blah.

My point is, there is not a spare moment to be had when you are a working parent whether you sit in a nice, tidy office with a door or you’re in a makeshift workspace in your dining room.

So when the requests for school volunteers come rolling in, the guilt bubbles up to the surface. You know, that guilt about how you can’t do it all (even though you really want to bring home the bacon, fry it up in a pan and be the PTA president)?

I’m sure no one in my kids’ PTA is looking at me askance, but it’s well-known that I don’t “work outside the home.” So when I turn down requests to attend meetings or stuff envelopes or make Play Doh, I feel like a total slacker. They’re not saying it, but I am.

I’m a PTA drop-out.

I just can’t. Even if I did have a spare hour or two, I’m going to be honest: I’d use that hour to get a pedicure. I’m sure that sounds totally selfish, but the fact of the matter is that I rarely get 15 minutes to sit and contemplate… well, anything. I know, cry me a river, right? You have the same problem, but you’re able to find the time to bring plate of homemade cookies for the teacher appreciation lunch!

Here’s the thing. I love my kids and I love my kids’ school. They’ve had a great experience there and the teachers deserve praise and support. But something has to give and volunteering in the classroom is that thing.

I’m definitely uneasy about it, and I have been for a long time. My daughter began her educational journey at a cooperative nursery school and I was the only parent who paid a higher fee so I didn’t have to work in the classroom. Leaving her there when all the other mommies took turns doing crafts and leading “Wheels on the Bus” gave me that slink-out-of-the-room feeling.

Granted, I was rebuilding my career after a long hiatus. But even if I hadn’t been, I’m not sure I would have done it differently. My guilt is maybe less about the not-doing and maybe a little more about the I-don’t-want-to-do-it.

Either way, I know my kids are part of a great school community. And I even raised my hand and said I’d help with the annual Halloween gathering this year.

I may even bring a veggie tray for teacher appreciation day—but I won’t stay to eat it.

Amy L. Hatch is a freelancer writer, social media manager for More.com and co-founder of chambanamoms.com.

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First Published September 23, 2011

Share Your Thoughts!


Ellen Voie10.01.2011

Working at home is a mother's dream job! You get to spend time with your kids but you bring in a paycheck. I free lanced while I raised my children and I still work from a home office.
Work life balance, what is that?

Leanne Levine09.29.2011

Yep. I hear you... especially the part about getting out of the house to get the work done! My schedule is not as demanding, so I'm still a PTA mom, but let me tell you: I'm looking forward to the last one leaving elementary school. That's when I'm calling it quits. Because once you start with the volunteering, they're ALL OVER YOU to do more. Right? Luckily, with age and wisdom has come the ability to just say no! Great essay, Amy...

Eileen Wolter09.25.2011

I hear you. Some people love it; some can do their duty with no misgivings. I too am grateful for the work of my sons teachers and schools and do give but have had to learn what works for me and my family. And sometimes that means writing a check and I'm glad I have the ability to do that - and the emotional foresight to realize it's much better for everyone involved!

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