October is here, that beautiful time of year when leaves dance their way to the earth, kids discuss Halloween costumes, and mothers feel guilty for not being involved enough in the PTA.
Throughout September, the voice of the PTA follows parents wherever they go. Representatives speak at Back to School Night. Flyers come home in school folders. Emails clog up inboxes.
“Join!” says the PTA. But we know deep down that’s not what the PTA really means.
“Give us every last drop of your free time and energy!” That would be more accurate.
“You’ll get to feel that you’re better than all the other crappy parents!” Now that’s a slogan that could get them somewhere.
But as much fun as it would be to stick out our tongues at the PTA, we don’t, because that would be self-defeating. They do so much for our kids. PTAs raise much-needed money for the schools. They build community by hosting fun festivals and events. And everyone knows that kids with involved parents are better off.
PTAs, basically, kick ass.
We are the sucky ones—the slacker parents who prioritize keeping time windows open for impromptu nights out with our friends and late night Netflix binges instead of working to improve our children’s future.
It’s not the PTA’s fault that their do-good-ness fills the rest of us with a sense of shame. (Now we’re getting to the guilty heart of the matter.)
So whose fault is it then? (The need to blame someone is starting to get pretty intense around here.)
I’ll tell you who your fall girl is. She wears many faces, but her name is always the same. She is the Supermom.
The Supermom tells us that good parents always put the needs of others before their own. She doesn’t think about things like rest or downtime or creative batteries. She breathes in fear and exhales anxiety. She whispers in our ears that we can have it all.
Back when I was first starting out as an elementary school parent, when I was still eager and earnest, I came face to face with the Supermom. It was an epic battle. She almost won. It all started the day the PTA president asked me if I would head one of the PTA’s committees.
I felt so honored. I pictured myself becoming a critical part of the school. I would make things happen. They needed me. I said yes.
But then my husband, who is magically immune to the powers of the Supermom, asked a key question:
How was I going to write if I spent every waking moment emailing and calling and list-making and photocopying and stapling my way to a better school for our children?
The Supermom whispered in my ear: You’ll find time. You can do both.
My husband shot back: We have an infant and a preschooler; you can’t do both.
I was dazed, but I could still see. And I saw only one path in front of me: the selfish one.
(But is it really selfish? To choose what’s best for yourself? Is that not best for your children in the long run?)
I called the PTA president, and I told her no.
I shook my head in stunned disbelief. What had just happened? I had been in the clutches of the Supermom.
She has a tight grip.
But I shook her off.
© Amy Daniewicz