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To PTA or not to PTA

By Erin Zammett Ruddy, Parenting
updated 10:39 AM EDT, Mon October 1, 2012
Erin Zammett Ruddy confronts the worries associated with joining the PTA.
Erin Zammett Ruddy confronts the worries associated with joining the PTA.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Parents who over commit may be tempted to join too many PTA committees
  • Some crave an active role in their kids' lives but soon get overwhelmed
  • One solution is to sign up for PTA activities that allow you to interact with your child

(CNN) -- That is my question today. Are you involved in your kid's school? If so, how much? As a new mom in the district, I'm being pitched pretty hard by the PTA. And as a chronic joiner/doer/over committer, I'm intrigued. But I'm also wary.

Alex has been in school for a week now. On Monday I went to a breakfast put on by the PTA—I mostly went just to check it out (and to avoid my deadline) but I wound up signing up for six or seven committees. Ack! Many of these "committees" are really just one event that you might help with—a Mother's Day plant sale, say—so it's not that crazy. Right?

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A form also came home in Alex's kindergarten folder to sign up to be the class mom. I remember my mom being the class mom a lot and I loved the security it gave me to know she was so entrenched in the system. She knew the teachers, she knew the other moms, the kids, the school. She was also the CCD teacher, the Girl Scout leader, the carpool driver and pretty much everything else you'd find under the overarching title of Kick-Ass Stay-At-Home-Mom. I don't have the time or desire to be that much of a super mom (for now), but I do want to be involved. And the PTA seems like a no-brainer, right?

That said, I worry about taking on more than I can handle. I'm still feeling the after-effects of my all-encompassing (and beyond worth it) LLS campaign and have already signed up to be a big part of that event again this year. (I'm posting this blog from a café in NYC where I'm spending the day at LLS meetings among other things). My work with the organization is hugely important to me. As is my writing career. And my (limited) free time.

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I try not to do anything half assed but I also have a tendency to not say no enough. At all. And so I over commit and then I feel overwhelmed and I hate to feel overwhelmed. Or do I love it? I can never quite tell. Sometimes I think I'm only good at any one thing when I'm doing 12 things. But back to the PTA. Are you involved in yours? What's your experience been like? Is it anything like you see in the movies with cliques and mean-girl behavior? Are there the Claire Dunphys?

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Bottom line is this: One of the main reasons I left the full-time, editor-at-a-magazine (with benefits and health insurance) world years ago is so that I would be able to have an active role in my kids' day-to-day lives. And, ultimately, their schooling.

So I figure I better get started now. A new friend at the bus stop gave me good advice, which was to sign up for the PTA activities that get you face time with your kid—working an event that the kindergarteners will attend, for example, as opposed to something for the older students. Kids get a kick out of seeing their parents at school, right? And also to do things that get you face time with the teacher—staff appreciation, for example—because, well, that one is self explanatory, especially given my worries about Alex's pain in the ass-ness.

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I signed up for several different committees (including something having to do with gardening and one about recycling, which are both in my wheelhouse) and I figure I'll dabble for a bit, get to see what it's all about and then go from there. It's only week one of about 18 years of schooling so I have time.

Are you involved in the PTA? When did you get involved and what's your experience been like? Would love to hear your thoughts and any advice!

Please share your experience in the comments section below.

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