I Learned By Playing Hooky from the School PTA

Me and Gaga, sometime last fall.


I am doing my best to gain some perspective over here at ChecklistMommy.

I want balance. I want equilibrium. I want less stress, and less noise.

To get there, I’ve been making some very active efforts at saying NO.

And you know where I’ve gotten the biggest bang for my “NOPE JUST CAN’T” buck?

This year, I backed slowly and steadily and stealthily away from the school PTA.*

To be fair, this hasn’t been the easiest adjustment for me to make. I am GUNG-HO for my kids’ school, and always have been.

When Diddy was 2, I signed her up for school and then I signed up for every single parent opportunity that came my way.

  • Teacher appreciation? Check.
  • Tot Shabbat Clean Up? Check.
  • School-wide auction committee? Check.
  • Need someone to make fundraising calls to parents? Check.

But then I had more kids. And took on more work. And over the last year I kinda stopped volunteering for things at school.

And you know what happened?


They just kept signing me up for things.

And I kept saying okay to that, because I have difficulty saying no to the people I’ve put in charge of educating my children so they can become happy, productive citizens.

At first, this situation stressed me out.

For instance:

LAST SUMMER,  I got an email confirming Committee Chair assignments for the coming this school year. I was shocked to see my name listed as Chair of a Big City-Wide Event.

I tried to resign by sending a passive-aggressive email to the new PTA President, whom I had not yet met, but she is better at that game, and told me our School Head had personally volunteered me for the gig, which of course played to my vanity, so the assignment stuck.



(Yes, I know that says SHIP. I am working on my swearing this year, along with my SHOUTING. More about that soon, if and when it sticks.)

Then, about six weeks before the Big City-Wide Event, I realized I wouldn’t even BE IN TOWN to help run it.

I’d be in London at my cousin’s wedding.

I informed the PTA President and the School Head and they were completely unalarmed.

Apparently no Committee Head is actually NECESSARY for these events.

Once I figured that out, I immediately went on to COMPLETELY 100% drop the ball on the only other School Volunteer gig I’d taken on this year, also fairly reluctantly.

This was a fundraising party that I’d been asked to host.

I didn’t plan this party, as I very purposefully did NOT sign up for committee.

So someone planned it.

I was just going to be the one left holding the bag.

Fine, whatever.

Except I really didn’t wanna.

And I really didn’t have time for it.

And my co-host, who happens to have a truly demanding office job, didn’t have time for it, either.

So at the very last minute we dumped it on HER wife.

Which was genius.

Because HER wife knew what she was doing and handled the entire last minute party with exceptional grace and humor and it went great. There was wine and couscous and cupcakes.

And it happened to be a shopping party at a great boutique in town where I found the insane pink leather jacket you can see here, as well as two great dresses for London, a pair of earrings, a necklace, and, oh, yeah, a bracelet, too.


Plus I learned a life lesson:


Here’s a photo of me, having more fun, in London, while I was supposed to be PTA Chairing a City Wide Event. I’m even wearing the dress I bought at the PTA Fundraising Party I pawned off on my co-host’s wife:

I mean, come on. PTA, SCHMEET-TA.  (Photo by Marica Levy)

I mean, come on. PTA, SCHMEET-TA.
(Photo by Marica Levy)



So here’s my advice to over-stressed, over-stretched, working parents who are killing themselves trying to volunteer at school on top of all their other daily responsibilities:


*I believe this a piece of advice offered in the new book MINIMALIST PARENTING: Enjoy Modern Family Life More by Doing Less, which is on my summer reading list. I’ll tell you more abou it when I finally get a chance to read it, but I will say I was very pleased to peruse the contents and see this idea offered there, as it made me feel like less of a heel for thinking quitting the PTA was a GOOD thing.

**ok yeah, I get it. You still feel like you have to make SOME effort for your kids’ school. I know I do. So here’s what I do: EMAIL-ONLY BASED VOLUNTEERISM. This morning I sent out thirty or forty emails reminding people to bring food for our Teacher Luncheon tomorrow, and/or show up to proctor the classrooms they’d pledged to proctor.Total time spent: FIFTEEN MINUTES. Fifteen minutes is about the amount of time I have left in me for the PTA. Everybody wins!


I'm Just Looking for Some Grown-Ups to Talk To ...

Categories: Spouting Off, Stay Sane, and Tips / Tools / Tricks.

I Learned By Playing Hooky from the School PTA

  • dw
    June 12, 2013

    And the lesson this teaches your children and the rest of your school community is?

    • checklistmommy
      June 12, 2013

      1. It teaches my children they have the right to say NO when they do not have the time or the true desire to volunteer.
      2. It teaches my community that they can depend on me for some things but not ALL things — and that those among them who have let me pull their weight all this time are going to need to step up and pull it themselves.

      Basically, I am living my PTA relationship the way I am trying to live all my relationships: with balance, with joy, and without resentment. Saying NO when I need to is the first step on all counts.

  • […] Mommy plays hooky from major PTA volunteer jobs at Temple Israel of Hollywood. (Checklist […]

Sarah Kate Levy

Once upon a time I wanted to be a novelist in NY. FOUR KIDS LATER I'm a
screenwriter in LA who blogs about parenting, partnering, and the decline of civilization / my home.

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