Whether as the room mom or the hapless volunteer, most moms of school-aged kids have at least one horror story. It’s easy to get caught in PTA politics and indulge petty differences.
But wise moms know how to avoid the drama and encourage everyone to help out at school. Keep your cool and your place in the parent pecking order by following these simple guidelines as you start a new school year.
1. Use your nice words.
When you ask for volunteers, be sure to say “please.” Thank them whether they agree to help or not, and then thank them a million times more when they actually show up and pull a shift. Remember, not everyone can whip up Pinterest-worthy cupcakes and crafts. Some parents just want to send napkins and paper plates. Gratefully accept what your volunteers offer. Generally speaking, they will do their best to not only look good for you, but to also look good for their child and their child’s teacher.
2. Think long-term.
Unless you are planning a graduation party for your high school senior, chances are that you’ll be working with that parent again and will need their help. Your kindness will go a long way in securing a future and frequent volunteer. Tracy M. thought she was being pro-active when, as the first parent volunteer to arrive at a crowded bookfair, she started ringing up sales. “The woman in charge came in raving that ‘I ALWAYS work the register’ and then proceeded to physically push me out of the chair. I was ON THE FLOOR!” Needless to say, Tracy has not signed a clipboard since.
3. Make it easy!
Volunteers can be feast or famine. Sometimes you’ll get dozens of offers of help, sometimes you’ll get nada. Make sign-ups easy so other parents know exactly what’s needed with an online sign up. There are several out there (Volunteerspot or SignUpGenius). Web-based resources are excellent ways for a room mom or other event organizer to list in detail the many and varied ways help is needed. A direct link to the sign-up helps other parents can see what jobs have been accepted and what jobs still need to be filled. Since parents can sign up at home after the kids are in bed, they may be in a more rested, generous mood.
4. We can’t all be the queen.
If one parent has organized an event, don’t step over her hard work and do your own thing. It’s not only disrespectful, sets a terrible example for your children, and creates a ton more work for yourself. Denise J. remembers one Valentine’s Day Party where she had organized games, treats, and activities for her son’s class. “Another mom decided she needed to do it all, so she brought the cupcakes, the games and all the prizes as well. I was trying to play BINGO, and she was simultaneously trying to organize musical chairs. We sent the kids home with extra cupcakes, candy, and party favors. It was too much and no one had a good time.” (Rumor has it the dentists in town were also miffed.)
5. Communicate details.
If a volunteer says that one job is taken care of, ask for specifics. You each might have two different meanings for the word “covered.” (VolunteerSpot is also great for this, and eliminates the long Reply-All email chain.) Heather D. agreed to work the concession stand at BINGO night. The organizer told her that other workers were lined up but never shared the sign up sheet or her phone number. One teenage girl showed up to work a two-hour shift of a five-hour Bingo night. By the end of the evening, Heather was up to her elbows in nacho cheese and had sworn off of doing anything else for the PTA.
Got a room mom horror story? Share it in the comments!