As a nine-year veteran stay-at-home mom, I confess my sin of not being a PTA mom. I never attend meetings at either of my kids’ schools and rarely volunteer. However, I was thrilled to receive a sturdy, star-shaped magnet from my son J’s school for paying my $5 membership fee. Every time a school or PTA volunteer request is issued, I waver about participating. While I usually have the time, I lack enthusiasm about getting involved.
One reason I don’t readily volunteer is because my daughter E’s school is about 20 minutes away, and J attends afternoon kindergarten. The mornings dry up before it’s already time to prepare him for school and feed him lunch. I shy away from volunteering at J’s school because I don’t know anyone there. Also, I selfishly crave that time without my children to fulfill my own needs and purposes. I want to read, write, clean without questions, accomplish errands without visiting the toy aisle, plot my future career moves. And, contrary to popular belief, I’m not eating bonbons or watching soap operas.
One of my close friends is President of her school’s PTA-equivalent organization and plans to stay in the position. Two other close friends whose children attend E’s school are running unopposed as President and Vice President. Another friend organizes charity work like school clothing drives. I greatly admire their hard work, dedication and willingness to devote their extra time to improving and maintaining their school’s activities and education.
Like most moms, I’ve been extremely involved with my children. I’ve arranged play dates, registered them for classes, advocated for their personal causes and cheered them on at activities including playgroups, libraries, crafts, music, swimming, gymnastics, cheerleading, social skills, soccer, wrestling, t-ball, CCD. I’ve taken them to zoos, parks, movies, pools, beaches, farms, school and birthday parties, historical points of interest, amusement places. Maybe I’m burnt out by the amount of time and effort I’ve spent focusing on them.
All this activity does benefits me. After a neighborhood friend moved away, I remember feeling lonely and desperate and joined a local moms’ group. I pushed myself to attend daily activities. The kids and I made friends and kept ourselves happy and busy. In fact, I still volunteer for the parent organization, overseeing local chapters and compiling a seasonal, regional newsletter. If baby #3 popped up, surely the cycle would begin anew.
So I accidentally volunteered for J’s field trip at his sad, wide-eyed urging and pleading. With his nut ingestion allergy, I automatically get to chaperon, wielding my trusty EpiPen. Forgetting about this minor perk, I waited to volunteer until the last moment, hoping I wouldn’t be selected and could reap sweet relief.
Entering the school bus, trying to locate an empty seat, I wondered if I was lucky or doomed to win the coveted chaperon gig. The kids ear-piercingly hollered and whooped while I dreamt of a strong gin-and-tonic. While in the museum, I kept losing sight of my son and another boy who liked to run. “Slow down”, “no running”, and “inside voice” fell on out of earshot ears. Couldn’t I have chosen a less intense school activity to immerse myself in?
One thing I noticed was that I hardly knew any parents. Two friendly, fellow t-ball moms whose sons weren’t even in J’s class greeted me. I didn’t know how most of the parents knew each other – activities, school, neighborhoods or their past, but my introverted self felt vaguely uncomfortable. No one was overtly unfriendly, but I felt like a stranger. Except for the occasional name dropping, I barely knew who J’s friends were and, better yet, I didn’t know their parents. Would he be able to build lasting friendships without me knowing his friends’ families? How would I even arrange for him to invite anyone over?
It occurred to me that all this must change. After seeing the effects of my lack of motivation, I realized that what’s important is being there for my kids just like always and continuing to be part of their lives. In order for me to feel comfortable in school situations and meet other parents, I need to volunteer for them while I still can. Although joining a school organization or volunteering in class is not for everyone, and you must feel comfortable with your personal contribution and commitment, I don’t like being on the outside looking in. Next year, maybe I won’t just pay $5 for a magnet, I’ll volunteer my time and service.
This is an original post for Jersey Moms Blog by M.B. Sanok, a New Jersey mom.
Photo credit given to The Daily Green.