Back to School Pressures: Parental Version


“Back to School” is popping up everywhere! I’m not sure the kids are feeling it just yet, but it is in full force for us parents! Emails from school administration, school supplies are front and center in stores, fall clothing ads are filling up my snail mail, and lots more school related posts on social media. In the spirit of jumping on the bandwagon, I started skimming through some. I came across a post titled….Stop Whining and Join the PTA. Here we go sanctimommies…..whatcha got for me today?

Paraphrasing here….but here are some points the author made: If you haven’t joined, you are doing a disservice to the school community. I don’t think it’s too much to come help out once in a while. Just don’t send in the annual family dues and then never show up to a meeting. Do it so our students continue to be enriched. It’s always the same group of parents who spend hours upon hours raising money and planning events to enhance the experience of all of the kids at school.

Personally, I think it’s a little dramatic, but I hear you mama. We all know that every Parent/Teacher Association and school can always use more help and resources. I’ve seen it, I’ve lived it and I may have muttered similar things at times, but something was not fully sitting well with me.

And then there it was. The statement that if she can do it, we can all do it.

Say No to the “If I Can Do It, So Can You”

I have to believe the author did not have bad intentions – in fact, I think she was truly hoping for more assistance and participation in school events and such. Still, she had me at the, “If I can do it, so can you…” Why must we do this to people?

Helping out with the PTA is just one of the many return to school tasks. The return to school brings pressure in a slew of areas for parents/guardians too. More structure and stricter schedules, homework and project help, school events, activities galore, more coordination and less spontaneity for just about anything and everything! All of this takes time, energy and resources. 

Personally, I do my share of PTA stuff – and that is my choice. As much as I’ve tried to fight it, deny it and even hide it – I am a closet PTA mom. I work full time out of my home office, which results in availability that others may not have. I’ve taken on roles that lead to hours upon hours of commitment – that’s my choice, because I can and because I want to. Some do way more, some do less.

That said, I simply cannot bring myself to question or assume the intentions of fellow parents. There are a gazillion and one reasons (not excuses) why someone may not be able to participate in school functions. We have no clue what’s really cooking in other lives, even if we think we do. 

One Size Fits All Has No Place Here

We are not all the same. No one has the same life. Among many, here are some explanations to consider:

Professional Obligations: This is the most obvious, understood and accepted reason. Related are reasons such as working part-time/hourly, occupations where you are on call, jobs where you don’t get paid unless you work (i.e. hairdresser), recently started a new job and can’t take off, or you are out of vacation time.

Personal Issues: Family makeup might prevent participation, such as a single parent, possibly with one income, younger children at home, eldercare obligations, or a traveling spouse/partner. Monetary constraints may prohibit one from donating money. Ongoing illnesses, including being handicapped or suffering from depression may come into play as well.

Comfort Level: Language barriers may result in not understanding what the school/PTA might be asking for and also result in a parent not feeling accepted. Social anxiety, which can bring discomfort in social interactions where one is concerned of being judged or evaluated by peers may also be the cause. Some are more shy or introverted and prefer calm, minimally stimulating environments. Others feel intimidated and self-conscious and do not enjoy any spotlight or pressure. A few may have been burned under similar circumstances in the past. 

And let’s not forget those who have simply paid their dues – in all sense of the word – as full on participants in the PTA for an older child!   

Help Me, Help You.

There is so much pressure on us adults! Why judge? We’re doing the best we can.

I worked five days a week in New York City when my kids were in day care/preschool – my commute and my job were tough, I didn’t drive, and I was still suffering from years of postpartum depression. Granted, there were “less” events involved in the day care/preschool years, but I was unable to be much of a part of anything school related. That’s where I was at the time.

Overall, people mean well –  especially when it comes to their kids. Parents want to support their children. The bottom line – many times when a parent is not “present,” in all likelihood, they’re performing some sort of family responsibility. Now, I’m not saying that you won’t come across parents that completely look the opposite way when asked to contribute or participate, but that’s the exception and not the norm.  

On another note, out of sight does not necessarily mean out of mind. Behind the scenes there’s a crew of folks that donate money, offer sound advice on ideas, cook up food for events, and/or donate raffle items for fundraisers – and some may host play dates so other parents can commit to their PTA roles. Just because someone may hardly ever walk into the school, doesn’t mean they aren’t helping in their own way.

There’s certainly a guilt associated with not being present. I’ve experienced it myself and I’ve heard it from other parents on more than one occasion. Why put it out there and make them feel worse? Not cool sanctimommies!   

In fact, I’m all about turning it around and providing support to a fellow parent, if needed and wanted. I’ve extended a helping hand to fellow parents, including carpooling or even playing parent to a child at an event if their parent couldn’t be present. The ability to understand, be compassionate and help families goes a long way. Cut them some slack. Be kind. Be a friend.   

On that note, I’ll just add.…If I can do this, so can you! 

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Melissa is a Bronx native who moved to Westchester County after she and her high school sweetheart got hitched in 1997. She and her husband live in Mount Kisco with their son Corey (2004) and daughter Mia (2007). Melissa spent many years working in Human Resources and currently works in enrollment and marketing for a child care organization. Melissa is a two-time survivor of Postpartum OCD. She initially became interested in writing to raise awareness for perinatal mood and anxiety disorders but has discovered that writing is a newfound aspect of her life that she thoroughly enjoys. Melissa is excited to write with the Westchester County Mom team and hopes you’ll enjoy her stories of the trials and tribulations of a born-n-raised city girl raising teenagers growing up here in Westchester.


  1. Melissa, THANK YOU for this, from a mom of two who also cares for my elderly parents that live with me. It’s moms like you who increase feelings of community, sisterhood, and belongingness rather than take a crap on those ideals with judgment, insensitivity, and competition. You’re the best.

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