“Mama, why aren’t you in the PTA?”

by Janelle Hanchett

Not too long ago Ava asked me that question:  “Mama, why aren’t you in the PTA?”

Awwwww. That kid. So sweet.

There I stood in the kitchen with my tattoos and questionable attitude, throwing together some jerry-rigged meal of non-organic clearance items while yelling at the 5-year old and the husband simultaneously, singing kid unfriendly music between rants, trying to convince myself that 8pm is in fact a reasonable time to start dinner, wondering what sort of hellish after-school activity will plague me tomorrow …and she wants to know why I’m not in the PTA.

 Sweet innocence.

I figured “well, this conversation was bound to happen someday.” –  Kind of like the sex talk. You don’t want to have it, but you must. It’s just one of those things.

So I laid it out for her: “Ava, there are two kinds of mothers in this world: those who are in the PTA and those who are not. You come from a long line of women not in the PTA.”

And I left it at that, hoping she’d drop it.

But she didn’t drop it – because she’s Ava. She never drops anything. Except her stuff as she’s trying to get in the car with 75,000 items NOT IN HER BACKPACK (though oddly, her backpack is one of the things she’s dropping, as it bangs around, (since it’s empty and therefore floppy), whacking other items out of her arms and onto the ground). Damn. Nine-year olds are weird.

(Don’t you wish I could stay on topic? Yeah. So did my high school English teacher.)

So of COURSE the dreaded question comes next “What do you mean?”

And then I have to decide…truth? Kid appropriate bullshit? Truth? Kid appropriate bullshit?

That night I chose edited truth. “Well, some women are into that sort of thing. Some women are all PTA-ish – you know, they dig that stuff – the organized mommy movement and such. They fit in and like planning and cheerfulness and whatnot. And perhaps more importantly, they usually don’t work, which means they have time and, most likely, money, (or insane drive and devotion) – and since I have neither, I’m not in the PTA.”

The unedited truth would have sounded something like this: “well, Ava, I hate organizational meetings. The only thing I can imagine worse than an organizational meeting is an organizational meeting of mothers debating which gift is the appropriate one for Teacher Appreciation Week or who should bring the gluten-free cookies to the next open house – because there’s just so much talking and so little action and I inevitably find myself asking the same glaring question: WHO.GIVES.A.FUCK. Basically I’d rather stab myself in the eye with a spoon than get involved with something like that.”

But I didn’t say that. Because that would be inappropriate. 

Though even my edited version seemed to hurt her feelings a little, so I explained further.

“It’s not that I don’t want to be involved in your education and school. It’s just that it isn’t really my ‘thing,’ as much as I’d like it to be. Part of growing up is realizing what you’re good at and what you’re not good at. And I’m not very good at that sort of thing. I tend to scare people with my bad attitude and general disdain for group activities (That was a thought. Not an outside voice item.). I prefer to get involved other ways.” (Um, yeah, still looking for those “other ways,” but I’m sure they exist. Somewhere.)

I mean the PTA emails ALONE irritate the hell out of me. 

For example, I was not joking about the Teacher Appreciation Week. It started out with a seemingly innocuous email by the lead PTA person…”Hi it’s [upbeat PTA woman]….blah blah blah….teacher week….etc…we decided that every parent should give $30.00 to buy gift cards for the teachers.” Hmmmm. I considered this. Here were my thoughts:

  1.  Dude, $30.00? That’s a damn lotta money. I don’t really have $30.00. Screw you for assuming everybody has an extra $30.00, you damn out-of-touch yuppie. What happened to the good old $5.00 limit?;
  2. Why should I pay $30.00 to show my appreciation anyway? I show my appreciation by paying the freaking tuition each month; and
  3. Moreover, how the hell does MY paying $30.00 show my KID how to demonstrate appreciation to those who help her, which is allegedly the point of this exercise?

And then, of course, my final thought: “There is no way in hell I’m participating in this activity.”

So I write a (very) edited version of the aforementioned thought pattern and [wrongly] assume that I won’t hear any more about this, having decided with Ava that we would make beeswax candles for her teacher and write her a letter of gratitude, possibly giving her some roses from our front yard (if they’re not “gross” by then).

But OH NO it’s not the end. It’s not the end because people don’t understand the “reply-all” function (or they are hell-bent on making me bash my BlackBerry into the ground until it falls helter-skelter into 5 crushed pieces of plastic), which means I will receive no less than twenty-seven irrelevant and superfluous emails registering in favor of the $30.00 gift card scheme or  acting as ‘friendly reminders’ (which are not friendly at all, just annoying) or asking deep critical questions such as “what about the specialty teachers?” “what do they get?” “what about the after-school aids?” “how much does each one get?” “do we have the kids sign a card?” “if so, what sort of card?” “who’s going to get the card?” “what about the teacher’s husband’s mother?” “does she get a card?”


Say it with me people…





And that, my friends, is why I’m not in the PTA.

Cause I can’t even handle the cyber decision-making.

  • Melissa M.

    I LOVE IT!!! I have the exact same reasons for not being in the PTA.


  • Kimberly

    Your last two posts have left me speechless. In a good way. As in, you’ve said everything and all I have left is something along the lines of Ditto. Or Amen. Or Exactly.

    Oh! I just thought of something. I’m still waiting for MY gift. I guess when you work in the ghetto, you don’t get a gift for doing your job.

  • sherilinr

    i’m a tattooed homeschooling mom & this is starting to make me think i should write myself a memo about the gift i maybe should be getting for myself in honor of teacher appreciation day. maybe i could double it up with mother’s day & get something really good.

  • Stacey

    $30 from every parent? For real? You know someone is pocketing all that money and the teachers are getting flowers from the yard and maybe a knick knack from the Christmas Tree Shops, right?

    • Sara

      Ha this actually happened here. One of the librarians (the SUPERINTENDENT’S wife) embezzled from the PTA’s library fund.

      I went to a private school that my parents’ sacrificed everything just to pay the tuition for, so my mom felt the same way about the PTA. Don’t worry, though, because there will be opportunities. My mom was the coolest stage mom when I was in high school (no melt down, force your child on ridiculous diets parenting) and when I was an RA in college, she was always the first person to offer to help with my events.

    • Isabelle

      I am in a private school which costs 20 000 euros a year ( my parents work there, the only reason we can afford it!) and on top of paying 600 extra euros for our exams, 600 for a trip that was only supposed to cost 300, the PTA demanded 130 euros to buy gifts. I hate the ideology that naive, non working mothers have– money does not grow on trees!!!

  • Chantel Elder

    I am not a Mom so that means mom things in general don’t usually peak my interest. So when I say your blog is awesome I mean it totally and completely. LOVE it!

    • renegademama

      Damn, that is saying something! Thank you so much!

  • Erin

    See, here is where we differ. I hate everything about the PTA that you just mentioned, but then I join anyway because I want to be in charge and I know I can do it better than all of them. As a general rule I think committees can’t do shit. I, however, can do anything.

    • renegademama

      I love this so very, very much. If more people like you were in the PTA, I can guarantee I’d join in a hot second.

  • Elena (running in heels after child)

    Kid appropriate bullshit or the truth, it is a daily dilemma.

    I don’t know why but I remember asking my mom why we did not have a yellow ribbon up during the first gulf war, I know this debate went through her head. I don’t remember her answer, probably a short truth.



  • limabean

    I agree with a lot of what you said, but I bet plenty of women in the PTA share similar sentiments — they aren’t all eternally cheerful Stepford moms, I bet.

    I remember when I was planning my wedding, I didn’t give two shits about what color the napkins were or whether the centerpiece bows matched, but those were apparently Very Important Decisions to the vendors, and SOMEONE had to be the one to jab a finger at a particular option so that things could move forward, you know? It wasn’t that I was in some fluffy, tulle-filled fantasy world, living out my dream of dictating whether the linens should be sage or celadon, it was just a bothersome task that needed doing, so I did it quickly and efficiently and then moved on to the stuff that did matter to me (music and alcohol selection, of course!)

    That said, I tend to be the grumpy eye-roller in group situations too, and $30 per kid is insane — I would balk at that too.

  • Mahalia

    Thank you, so much for this. My daughter is starting kindergarten this year. I am a young mother, covered in tattoos. I do feel pressured to join the PTA, eventhough, I’m not entirely sure what the PTA does. (as I also come from a long line of “non PTA” women, they were too busy busting their asses to provide for their families.) I’m fully aware that I do not fit in to “norm”. But seeing women like you who aren’t afraid to say fuck the norm, it makes it easier to follow suit. So sincerely, thank you!

  • Christine

    This is me! You are me! I hate the PTA! But in my children’s school they hunt, and I mean, HUNT you down for money. And it’s always the same mothers. “Could you please give £5 ( I live in England, but I am American ) so that we can buy a gift for Mrs. Whoever?” I’ll say, ” Yea, yea, sure.” But it’s borderline harrasment. They stop at nothing. And this morning I noticed all the same dorky moms/mums patrolling the car park in their high visibility jackets. Power hungry or what?! And even if I did park in the space in which you forbid, WHAT are YOU gonna do about it! Cry to the Headteacher/ principle? Who is a knob/dick as well. And they all stand around in an illuminati circle before and after school talking about their buttholes ( what else could they possible be discussing?) however, I am very friendly with them and polite because it’s nice to be polite…if only they knew that I gave them secret names like Dorky Mums Uk.

  • Baltogal

    you fucking ROCK. I have really tried to be the PTA person- really. I cant fucking stand it. I mean there is so much going on in public education these days (private schools in my area are 26k a year) but what I have learned is that that there is no way to be proactive and truly advocate for my child via the PTA. Nope, nada. BUT if I want to spend 125 hours debating which bullshit item from Pinterest we will HAND FUCKING MAKE and will be given out on each day for teacher appreciation week then we can get down and dirty with some serious conversation. Save me. I just hate it.

  • Temptress Mama

    OMG I love your blog so much! One of my best friends since childhood told me I had to check it out, and damn! I get so into reading it that my 7 month old son can be climbing all over me and I don’t tear my eyes away from the screen until he bites me (true story).

    Anyway, I agree 100% about the PTA. They are just horrible, and I’m already dealing with that shit in spite of the fact that my son won’t be in school for at least 5 years. But of course, there’s those damn moms out there on the streets, knocking on my door asking for money, and I just really want to say to them “I have a kid. Do you REALLY think I have the money to spare for whatever school fundraiser you’re peddling your overpriced chocolate that tastes like ass for? Do you really think I have the time/energy/patience to care what you’re even saying? Go away. You’re wasting my time. And on a related note, I will NOT be doing the same thing. If the school thinks they’re going to get me to take my kid door to door to sell candy or whatever, and not PAY me for it, they are mistaken.

    Yeah, I’m not a nice person. But then again, these moms with their overly perky and annoying offspring are usually the same types of girls I avoided in high school. You know, the ones running for student government or raising awareness for one lame school spirit thing or another. I was the girl who would miss first period just to avoid going to the spirit assemblies, so there you go.

    As for the email responses to the PTA moms, I think they would benefit from one of your “reply cards”. You could make up a bunch of graphics with sarcastic responses like “If I had $30 to spend on a stranger I’d hire a hitman to murder whoever came up with Teacher Appreciation gifts”, or whatever the polite way of telling them to fuck off would be 😉 For selling candy, send them a card that says “I just spent $5 on a candy bar, but it tastes like ass, so I gave myself a refund on the purchase. Here’s the invoice.” Feel free to use or improve on my ideas; I am sleep deprived and too lazy to make my own graphics anyway.

  • Deana

    How have I never found your blog until now? I second everything you said here. I will never be one of those Suzie Join It All’s and have no need to validate myself through the PTA. Don’t even get me started on Teacher Appreciation week, or Christmas present for teachers! My daughter has special needs, and therefore about a dozen teachers and therapists, and if I gave them all gifts I would go broke. I tend to just write them a note and TELL them how much I appreciate them, but the gifts and the breakfasts and all the other organized crap is way over the top. Besides, I can’t stand to be in the room with those Suzie Join It All’s for very long, and frankly, I don’t have a huge interest in other people’s bratty kids. Seriously considering homeschool for all the bullshit activities that take away from actual learning and just give me more work to do.

  • pwrt

    Now write a blog about why you don’t put your kid in private school. Oh wait! No you said something about tuition. There are too many people out there with one excuse after another as to why they don’t want to be part of the PTA! Probably the same reason why people don’t go to church or help with any community event! Oh and then they go and bash those that do!

  • Done With Psychos

    I just left a Facebook group that was desperately trying to help the PTA. We continuously got slammed by power hungry PTA moms who nastily snapped at us on the wall because we were postin information about their events! The worst time I’ve had with the school is with PTA events. Psychos. Not all of them, only the ones I’ve dealt with. I’m still in shock. Ripping up my donation check.