I’m NOT the PTA mom.
In fact, I’m a Mompreneur. What does this mean for me, exactly?
I have been a work-from-home parent for three years so I haven’t signed up for every single volunteer slot, and rarely step inside the school building unless it’s for a performance or to check my kid out early. It’s not that I don’t WANT to do all the things – in fact that’s my biggest “strengthness”.
What’s a strengthness, you ask? It’s that pesky thing that is both a strength and a weakness depending on the circumstance. My desire to do it all is an amazing gift, and I can run circles around lots of people in lots of arenas of life. But it’s also a weakness when I bite off more than I can chew and realize I’m not actually happy in the end – and neither is anyone else.
I had to establish my expectations for myself as a parent when I decided to start a business from home. I remember telling my daughter’s preschool teacher that I stay at home, and her eager interest mentioning all the volunteer opportunities. My mom was there and made sure I realized to be clear about what staying at home actually meant for me – I have flexibility but I also keep really busy with the business that provides for our family.
I’m not a hobbyist or someone who works to pass the time (and yes those people exist). I don’t do this for “extra income”, I do it for our ENTIRE income. Simply put- if I don’t work, we don’t eat. So when it comes to PTA vs FOOD, the answer is pretty obvious.
Here are a few ways I found to contribute even when I had to manage a full-time business on top of being a full-time parent.
1. Set the boundaries BEFORE back-to-school night.
Those booths and sign up sheets can weaken even the strongest resolve, but you have to know ahead of time what your year looks like, your work days and days off are, so that you can find what fits into your life, and not move things around with your job to make it work. If you have a significant other who works from home or leaves the house for work, see if you can split responsibilities in any way. These are both of your kids after all, and I’ve seen PLENTY of dads pitching in at the school!
2. Set expectations with your child.
Make sure they know that if mommy doesn’t come to every volunteer event, it doesn’t mean she loves you less than the other moms! Point out that everyone needs a chance to take turns helping out the teacher, and your awesome business-owning skills are super important in helping the teacher. Ask what is important to them and be open to their answers. If they say it’s really special for them when you show up at the school, keep that in mind and find a way to honor their feelings while still protecting those boundaries you set.
3. Look for jobs that don’t require your time during the day.
I’ve signed up for helping grade papers, assembling end-of-year binders, baking a treat for the bake sale, etc. I still felt like I was contributing without having to disrupt my day. This is also a grace to those who have young kids at home and can’t bring them along. Show your kid how exciting it is that you get to be the teacher’s helper and ask them about the kids in their class as you see their names.
4. Pick ONE thing.
The class has anywhere from 20-30 kids in it, and that means there are 20-30 other sets of parents who would probably love a chance to pitch in as well. You don’t have anything to prove in signing up for the Halloween party, the Christmas festival, AND the Valentine’s party.
5. Find other ways to let your child know you’re invested.
Let’s be honest – most of the reason we do this is so our kids get that chance to light up with pride when we walk into their classroom. I loved hearing my kids say “that’s MY mom!” to their classmates. If your kid’s school allows this, drop in for lunch with your son or daughter unexpectedly when you have a free afternoon. Take in a treat on their birthday, or offer to read a story to the class.
No matter how you work it, remember YOU are the parent, and nobody knows your kids like you do. Their happiness and your sanity matter more than your imaginary scorecard they keep in the office to see who’s helped out the most. PTA or not – you’re still marvelous.