The Moms Group Trap

If you have school-aged children, then you might have inevitably joined the PTA, PTO, or some form of volunteer group. Much like a clique, these volunteer organizations vaguely hide behind the term “volunteer”. They’re more or less a social group of moms (and very rarely dads) who meet during the day and sometimes evenings to discuss the future of your children’s school activities. But they’re really not all that bad. While some form tight groups after years of being together, there are a few that are accepting of new blood. And when you do find the ones that open up their arms to you, take that initial step into their embrace and consider yourself lucky to be included.

I’ve worked in the education system for many years but only in the elementary area less than 8 years. When my son first started 1st grade, I was advised to join the school’s PTA – Parent Teacher Association – and be a Room Mom as quickly as possible. Heading the advice of my fellow mom friend, I did join the PTA and fortunately was also selected to be the room mom for my son’s 1st grade teacher. I can earnestly recall that while my experience as a room mom was fulfilling, my role as a PTA chairperson wasn’t so much. Even with a couple of friends who were in the same PTA, I felt shunned and ignored for the most part by the PTA Board. And sadly, after speaking with several other moms later on down the line, most of them were also left in the dust, desperately wanting to help the school in any way possible.

While my friends shared similar experiences as mine, I still had high hopes for the school’s PTA Board. The Board consisted of the President, VP, and head of the main branches and oddly, they were all friends because their children were all friends. From the perspective of a parent and not an employee of the school, I felt like an outcast amongst the group of mom friends. Surely their kids knew each other since birth and they all took vacations together (this I found out to actually be true later on!), and hosted lavish drinking parties on weekends like they were college roommates. They were like the old motto, “live together, die together” or something to that effect. And if you didn’t look like them, talk like them, and dress like them, then you’re not really part of the group. Fortunately my innate independent nature prevented me from feeling the need to push my way into the tight ladies group. I attended as many meetings as I could and helped out as much as I was “allowed” to. I say that with a heavy grain of salt because while I signed up to volunteer for other events aside from my own, I received only the obligatory emails sent to the general public. Little did I know, that some of us who weren’t already part of that group never received the more detailed messages about where to meet and when to meet to set up for the events.

If you’re like me and most moms who have also experienced the same nonchalant snubs from the PTA, then you probably have some interesting stories to tell. As I think back to the first years when I joined, I later on realized that perhaps the divide between those moms and myself was because I was both a school staff member and a PTA member. There were some pretty bad blood according to some resources between the PTA and the school staff. Unfortunately by default of association, I was reckoned to be snubbed due to my employee status. With that knowledge deftly put on the back burner, I didn’t begrudge those PTA moms. In fact, I felt bad for them and for their desperate need to cling onto something that gave them no joy or satisfaction. They only cared for status and fame and the titles of “President”, “Vice President” or “Secretary”. And while things still got taken care of, fundraisers raised money, and recognitions were made, the bad blood still carried throughout the years. Even as administration changed and PTA members came and went, the stigma of the PTA moms and school staff not getting along left a bad taste for me and many others.

Now that my son is no longer in elementary school, I still volunteer as a PTA Chair because I work at the school and I always want the best for those kids. As years went by and some of the remaining PTA members stayed on, they realized for the most part, that they did not have a good reputation. Why? Because of the bad blood, the exclusion, and the need to do everything within their little clique. New parents who were interested and enticed to join the PTA were left scratching their heads, wondering why they signed up when they never received invitations to volunteer at events. They paid their dues but that was it. Slowly, but surely, the PTA changed hands and mantras. Slowly new board members and chairpersons brought in new ideas and new attitudes. Were they all still accepting and inclusive? Probably not 100%. But that’s okay, because as a parent, you just want the best for your children. If you have to pay money for fundraising instead of showing up at events, then do that instead. Don’t be shamed for not helping out. Don’t feel shame for not having time to set up game booths or make posters. Some PTA’s pay for 60% of a school’s funding, and that’s quite a lot. In the end, as long as you’re able to donate some money to your child’s school’s PTA, then those funds will trickle into where they need to be. But if you’re still brave enough to join the PTA as a board member, chairperson, or just to help out, then I have some survival tips for you.

Now, years later after the old Board swept through the school like a swarm of locusts, the new PTA Board and members seem like a breath of fresh air. I don’t see as much cliques nor do I feel the PTA is exclusively picking out new members like a 5th grade soccer team. I always have high hopes for school clubs and organizations because in the end, we all want what’s best for our children, right?

Tips on How to Survive the PTA:

  • Join the PTA and pay the membership fee. Paying a membership fee helps get you signed up for events and the ability to vote if you’re on the Board.

  • You don’t have to be on the Board or the Committee to be a part of the PTA.

  • You can sign up to volunteer for as many or as little events as you want. But be realistic – if you sign up but never show up, then your name will be remembered – trust me, it has happened with pretty much all PTA’s. Sign up for the ones you know you can volunteer for.

  • Don’t be afraid to ask questions. If the PTA doesn’t answer your questions, reach out to the school Principal or Secretary.

  • Attend the General Association meetings if possible. These meetings highlight the upcoming school events and any additional info you won’t find elsewhere.

  • Reach out to the PTA President and Board. If they aren’t friendly or forthcoming and you truly want to help, then attend a general meeting and talk to them there.

  • Get to know at least one or two PTA members. You can share information and/or attend meetings together.

  • If you have previous experiences, then be sure to let PTA know so you can apply your skills. Even if the PTA doesn’t utilize your unique skills, it’s still good for them to know for any future events/clubs/activities.

  • Don’t take things too personally. If you’re turned off by the nonchalant attitudes but still want to help, reach out to the Committee Chairs. The Committee Chairs are heads of certain programs such as Jog-a-thon, Book Fairs, and Dining fundraisers, and any afterschool clubs. They might be easier to track down and speak with as they directly handle these programs.

  • If you don’t receive any communications from the PTA, make sure you’re actually signed up. Oftentimes parents think it’s the school’s job to post events hosted by the PTA. While most Principals do send out newsletters, make sure you actually joined the PTA and entered the necessary contact info online.

  • Don’t feel obligated to attend PTA functions outside of the normal school functions. While getting to know the other PTA members is a great idea, don’t feel you need to be at every single event.

  • When in doubt you can always try again next school year. Or if you want to make a positive impact, sign up as a Board member or join a Committee.

It shouldn’t matter if you have time to volunteer or not, work full time or part time, or even just too tired to do any extra volunteering. We all have our problems to deal with, and speaking from someone who has millions of projects going on, it can be a struggle volunteering your time year after year. Best of luck!


Disclaimer: The product(s)were sent to the author for review by the manufacturer/PR. All reviews on “Happymomblogger” remain unbiased and unpaid and are the sole decision of the author. The opinions of these product(s) were not influenced in any way, shape, or form. As always, please read the ingredients carefully when trying new products.

Please read the labels and ingredients carefully and follow all manufacturer’s instructions (if any). The products selected for the giveaway were generously donated by the companies/PR to help readers learn more about their products. The winner’s choice in using/consuming these products are entirely up to the winner and will not hold the author and her family liable nor the companies/PR liable. These products are made with non-toxic ingredients but always be safe with what you use and consume.


*photo courtesy of