Parents to avoid?

PTA parents get a bad rep online but it's time we changed the story, says Daniel Etherington

If you spend time on social media and online forums, it’s highly likely you will have come across videos and discussions where PTA parents are stereotyped and criticised. Recently, PTA chair Lucy Simmers drew my attention to a video in which being a class representative and an active PTA member was described as a ‘red flag’. Just read the quotes below – they all reflect real online comments.

‘PTA mums are so cliquey’

‘I only ever hear from them when they’re asking for money’

‘What’s the point of PTAs?’

‘I don’t want to be ‘that mum’’

‘They’re all SAHMs (stay-at-home mums) who get the validation from the PTA they used to get from work’

‘Avoid. Avoid. Avoid. Heinous baggages all’

‘I hear horror stories about the bossy committee members’

Thankfully, a rational and sensible theme runs through most of the conversations. Posts on the parenting internet forum Mumsnet under the heading Am I Being Unreasonable generally also highlight the good PTAs do. When questioned about the ‘red flag’ remark, the social media influencer who created the video confessed it was ‘just for comedic effect’. Maybe so, but dealing with these kinds of comments can be tough. So how do you cope with it?

Hold your head high

The best defence is to stay positive and maintain a sense of humour. My wife (our PTA fundraiser) and I find the TV show Motherland – which follows a group of adults navigating parenthood – helps us see the funny side. Lines such as: ‘I really want to make sure we don’t do the same old cake sale crap this year.’ (Season one, episode two, Auction of Promises) aren’t offensive. Laugh off the stereotype if you can!

Challenge the myths

PTA volunteers and members aren’t all stay-at-home mums, bitchy, bossy or ‘baggage’. Some of us are working dads! Moreover, we’re ordinary members of the school community with a range of other commitments who see value in helping out. Contrary to the online suggestion that PTA parents are constantly on the lookout for volunteers, it’s good to remind people they don’t have to sign up for anything; they’re not joining a cult; they can just dip in and out when they have time. ‘Just be yourself and be as approachable as you are,’ says Friends chair Gemma Rowlands. ‘I explain to people that an hour of help now and then is actually okay.’

The PTA can offer a social experience, not just through organising events but because of the camaraderie that comes with being involved. Emma Richardson, former lead fundraiser, says: ‘I have made some great friends through the PTA and have had a few experiences where I really felt like I was in an episode of Motherland.’

PTA parents act as role models for their own children. ‘I will always remember how much my own kids are proud that I show up and get involved,’ says co-chair Steffi Edwards. ‘I care much less about being “that mum” because it’s the kids we do it for at the end of the day.’

A new narrative

The PTA’s hard work helps provide better facilities and equipment for the children, enhancing their overall learning experience – let’s hear more about the Parents Taking Action or the People That Achieve. ‘We’re there to help the children, and the money we make helps the school,’ says Liesl Weir, who runs her PTA’s nearly new uniform sales. ‘Don’t let it get you down!’