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Closet PTA Mom

As I’m desperately working to finalize the yearbook for my daughter’s elementary school, I keep thinking…WHY did I raise my hand for this? HOW did this happen? Did I really volunteer for this?!

I mutter, “Man, this is a lot of work. How did I get myself into this?”   My husband, who looks at me and chuckles, “Cause you’re a PTA mom…”   


When my son entered Kindergarten in 2009, we had just moved to the area. I recently left my job in NYC, and while there was plenty of unpacking, organizing and decorating to do, I knew my mind would start wondering “what next?” I’d eventually start looking for new employment. In the meantime, should I get involved in the community? Or the school? PTA maybe?

The PTA.  The Parent Teacher Association.  Those stereotypes though…..The movies portray board members as power hungry individuals who truly believe they are elected-officials.  The television shows portray them as gossiping snobs.  I don’t know.  I just came out of 16 years in HR – the last thing I feel like doing is playing politics in my son’s school. No, no, this would not be for me.

The elementary school years would be a long haul for us though…between both kids we will be there for 10 years.  (Note: We are presently in year 8.) Maybe I’ll do the Class Parent thing and volunteer to help at some events along the way, but I would certainly NOT be PTA mom.

  • Year 1 –  Kindergarten son: I volunteered in the classroom a bit during what they called “Team Space,” where you help the children with different activities – not a PTA role.
  • Year 2 – 1st Grade son: I decide to submit my name for class parent. I was not chosen.  I think I dodged a bullet…not ready to be “that” committed. I dabble a bit and help in the classroom throughout the year, but still not a PTA mom!
  • Year 3 – 2nd Grade son:  The PTA sends out an email about needing two chairs to coordinate the “School Directory & Handbook.”  Close the email, Melissa.  Close. It….wait, hmm…I can do that. It’s behind the scenes and how difficult could it be?   I’m officially a co-chair, but still not really in the PTA.
  • Year 4 –  3rd Grade son: I continued on with the School Directory & Handbook.  This time my excel expert husband is solicited to streamline and modernize the process a bit.  I spread the word to the PTA that if volunteers were needed for events, just give me a call.  The call came to assist the Carnation Sale Chair with her event.  Sort carnations and deliver them to the classrooms? Easy peasy.
  • Year 5 – 4th Grade son and my little gal is starting Kindergarten!   I’ll be Class Parent for her Kindergarten class.   And boom – I’m now automatically the co-chair for Carnation Sale.  And yes, the continued effort of the Directory.
  • Year 6 – 5th Grade son/1st Grade daughter:  I continue with the norm of the Directory. Carnation Sale Chair’s daughter has graduated and I’m officially on my own as Chair of that event.  Oh, they need help with the yearbook, I see. Should I?  I did yearbook in High School and in College. Surely I’m an expert and I raise my hand.   And Class Parent for my son’s 5th Grade class…
  • Year 7 – 2nd Grade daughter:  I’m back to having only one child in the school.  (My son is off to middle school)  Pretty much of a repeat of Year 6.  Status quo is good. Take nothing else on!
  • Year 8 – 3rd Grade daughter: (current status)  Directory, check.  Carnation Sale, check.  And since the Yearbook Chair is no longer in the school, mama’s got to take on a bigger role.

Recently received an email from PTA Vice President to confirm my interest in continuing on next year: “……we are trying to compile a list of volunteers to chair committees next year. I was hoping that you would be interested in continuing your work as a chair person for next year….”

Put off responding for a few days.  Well, I’ll continue on with the Directory. And they’re cutting back the carnation program next year because supposedly kids got upset, so that will be an abbreviated program. Maybe I’ll drop yearbook?  Eh, screw it….I’ll do them all again….I wait about a week to respond – cause I’m not a PTA mom – and declared:   “Happy to stay on for all chair positions I currently have – directory, yearbook, carnations.”

  • In other words…..Year 9 – when my daughter is in 4th Grade – Will be a ditto to Year 8……although we hope to finally go electronic with that Directory because deciphering handwriting on those written forms is a shit show.
  • Year 10:  Who knows what my daughter’s 5th grade year might bring? It’ll be my last year as an elementary school mom.  Should I finish up my tenure on these committees or take a break?  Too far away to plan…

See? PTA mom, my butt.

It’s not like I’m on the board or anything.  So I volunteer.  So I chair a few committees…..

So I know all the names of all the students, what street they live on and what class they are in – because I co-chair the student directory .

So when I meet other parents for the first time and they respond with “Oh!  You’re Melissa Jacobowitz!?!  I see your name all over the place!”

So if I see a post for volunteers and my first thought is “I can’t possibly do another thing!,” as I simultaneously open up the Sign-Up Genius app (which is utterly genius, BTW)

So there are times when my child’s backpack is weighed down with envelopes of slips/money sent home for a fundraiser…..and I already know who some envelopes are from because I recognize the parent’s handwriting.

So what if I get the urge to look for Boxtops on all grocery items in my house, including the icky packaging from veggies that I just steamed in the microwave.

So what if we’re not at a school function and people say, “Oh, I thought you guys would be there!”


My husband is right (and that’s not a phrase I say lightly….)  My name is Melissa and I think I may be a PTA mom.   After 8 years of denying it, I’m outing myself.  Or it’s possible that all the events I’ve volunteered for over the years have already outed me….maybe I’m the last to know!

I swore that I wouldn’t let this happen!  It is for the kids though – the social activities that bring about school spirit and promote efforts for families and the community.   The fundraising dollars are put into school trips and enrichment programs.  I’ll admit that I’ve even had a little fun along the way.   And I met my Directory Co-Chair who is one of my favorite people ever…. (although she’s even more of a PTAer than I am!)

Unfortunately I’ve encountered some of “no good deed comes unpunished,” which is a bummer.  For example, parents upset about an incorrect apartment number noted in the school directory; children upset about a broken carnation, etc.  Understood.  I’ve witnessed a little more politics than necessary, but that happens in the best of organizations.   And believe it or not, I did have one friendship flounder over PTA stuff, however I have to believe that’s the exception and not the norm.  Cause there are some really great folks in the PTA. These folks who do a hell of a lot more than I do and I must give credit where credit is due. They are the real PTA parents. Dedicated, loyal and at every event – they deserve a huge thank you for keeping things going for our kids and our school…

And as a parent/guardian, if you’re not able to participate, don’t sweat it.  I know that guilt, as I was there when my kids were younger.  As our friend Hillary Clinton so truthfully stated, it take a village –  and we are yours.

So as I’m about to press that “submit” button to put that yearbook into production, I do a little jig cause it is DONE.   Even though there’s a part of me that will be holding my breath for the next 4 weeks until it’s delivered and distributed – because that’s when the PTA’s real customers – the students – will see it.

Another year of elementary school PTAing done.  Well, at least I haven’t suckered myself into the PTA at the middle school……well, except for that one hour of working the Teacher Appreciation Luncheon….


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