If you have a child in a public school, then you have probably had some glancing interaction with the PTA, even if it was to avoid making eye contact lest they suck you into their cult and wind up the room parent for the whole year. At least that's how I felt about it. I used to see groups of moms gathering on the playground and think "yeah, those are the PTA moms". Except, since I didn't attend any meetings, I didn't know which moms were actually "PTA moms".
So I went to a couple meetings and found out that the population was much smaller than I had originally thought. The entire PTA was less than 10 people. And that included teachers. I attended a few meetings and next thing you know, I was sucked in. Except I wasn't a room parent, I was PTA Chairperson. I think it was due to my past board experience and the fact that I had two legs and a heartbeat.
We have not only helped fund $60,000+ in school resources (field trip buses, math carts, swimming lessons, laptops, etc...) but we have been able give direction to the school in how we want to volunteer and how we feel about non-scholastic issues like security and community involvement.
But the real story is not what has happened in the school. It's what happened in the moms.
Well, I can't speak for all the moms, but I can speak for myself.
In the last year I went from a mom with a kid at school, to a mom who had other mom friends who could read my thoughts with the roll of an eye or the tilt of a head. Mom friends who would ask me if I was OK on the bad days and would actually care about the answer. Mom friends who actually liked my kid and would go out of their way during the rough weeks to tell me good stories about my kid at school. Mom friends who would look me in the eye and say "I don't believe you that you are ok, I think you need to see a doctor" when no one else would stand up and say it.
They sang karaoke at "meeting B" and organized a community garden for 20+ families. They shared wine and martinis and we helped each other through rough points and watched movies together and watched each others' kids (the only moms I'd trust!).
And this past week those mom friends organized a beautiful conspiracy.
They knew about the miscarriage and the dog and they brought me dinner three nights in a row. The first time I thought it was just a one-of. Chicken and Rice that was super yummy and a homemade cherry pie. Day two I didn't realize the conspiracy so I made dinner, but I got apple pie and ice cream for dessert. And tonight I got homemade organic chicken soup and biscuits.
I mean, I love my husband but even he hadn't offered to cook me dinner! (He did have wine ready for me when I came home from the hospital.)
One of the moms is a dog trainer and not only did she take on the burden of actually picking Finn up and returning him to the shelter, but she brought me chocolate and magazines for my days off work, to ensure I'd keep myself on the couch and relaxing instead of what I was inclined to do: Clean the house! Catch up on laundry! Oooh Yard Work!
Now, could I have met these women if I hadn't volunteered with the PTA? Yes, sure. But we wouldn't have spent so much time together, we wouldn't have had so much to talk about (because you know as well as I do that you can only talk about your kids so much...) because we had problems to sort out, budgets and volunteer shifts and BBQs and field trips and plenty of time to get to know one another in a non-judgmental environment. (Because the playground feels judgmental, thanks to our personal experiences with it as kids!)
With all that is going on in my life, I may not be volunteering as much next year and that's ok... because PTA is not a life sentence. I can't take time off and volunteer later... it really isn't a cult that doesn't let you go.
But it does allow you to make friends who won't let you go. And I look forward to many, many more years with them.