How Do You Deal with the Groupie PTA

Updated on June 20, 2008
K.B. asks from Auburn, WA
21 answers

I would really like to know if any of you have or are dealing with this. The PTA I belong to really have its groupies. Most of them are very nice and I enjoy talking with them however they're a few that have their attitutes and really make you few like they're looking down on you. I keep telling myself thats it's no big deal and just ignore it and be positive, but sometimes I really have a hard time with it. I'm a stay at home mom and I really enjoy helping out in my childs class, but honestly there are times that I really don't want to be there to deal with some of the stuck up attitutes. I always try to say hi and have a friendly smile and get that forced smile and hello tone back. the sad thing is it reminds me of high school. I know that this is really silly and I should be focusing on spending that quality time with my child at school, but the worst part about it is that one of the moms son is a friend of my son and I'm not quit sure how to handle that. My son has been wanting to invite him over for playdates and I've sent emails and have never heard back. Please let me know what you think and what you would do.

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D.R.

answers from Portland on

Oh sweetie, that is a typical PTA. I have been involved with my kids school PTA for many years, I finally stopped trying to be a part of it. I was even PTA pres! It's something that I do not want to be a part of. I help in my childrens classes but that is it, no more. I hear the same from other Moms who have bee involved. I don't know why it's that way, but they are all very cliquie.

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L.H.

answers from Seattle on

Hi K....I'm not down playing anything you're saying but I'm going to give you the backwards perspective. I have been actively involved in our PTA for all 4 years my daughter has been at her school. There were moms of older kids who sort of intimidated me because they seems so close and I was on the outside. I looked at it as a challenge and I thought to myself "I'm going to get in with that group." So I just stepped up and started to volunteer and chair some things. I've been on the board for the past 3 years now. Once those moms saw that I was actually going to HELP I became their new best friend.

As a board member, I get frustrated because I (and all of us on our board) try really hard to be friendly and inviting to everyone. An event will be coming up and we'll send out a flyer asking for volunteers, no one steps up. So we send it out again threatening to cancel the event if we can't get volunteers...still nothing. So at the last minute the same 20 of us who end up doing everything have to do it if we want the event to happen. Everyone comes to the event, complains about it, and then accuses us of being clicky!!!!!

Now, your PTA may be way different and the people really are being snooty. In which case, that sucks and I'm really sorry. In that case my advice would be just step up and do stuff anyway. If they tell you you can't do something because one of them are doing it or they try to force you to do things the way they've ALWAYS been done, then maybe the PTA isn't for you (I wouldn't blame you). I just know for me personally, I'd be more than happy to turn over any of the 75 things on my PTA to-do list this week to anyone who wanted to do them anyway they want to. But at my school that won't happen because I've asked 10 times and no one will help.

L. H

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M.H.

answers from Seattle on

Hello,

Years ago I worked for an animal shelter where there were LOTS of volunteers. I got in trouble with some of them (not handling their requests properly) and the animal shelter sent me to seek help on how to handle the problem professionally. The lady who helped me, changed my perspective on volunteers and made a huge positive impact on my interaction style in life and with the volunteers. Here is what she said in a nutshell.

People who volunteer love to be needed - that is why the do it for no pay. They usually want to know that they are needed and if they don't feel needed and appreciated they quit volunteering. She said the number one why to let my volunteers know they were being noticed was to learn their first names and to say hi to them everytime by name. "Hello, Linda". This one tiny, tiny, tiny step made a HUGE difference to me and my daily interactions with people. Once people know you know their names and you acknowledge them by their names, they have a harder time not liking you.

Now, when I go to my daughter's school, I have learned most names and if I think they don't remember mine, I say "Hi Linda, I'm M., Sally's mom."

The best way for me to remember first names is to repeat them, multiple times within the first meeting and if I forget it, I ask again.

Hi, my name is M., Sally's mom - I can't remember your first name" When they tell me. "AH, yes Linda. Thank you Linda, I will try and remember for next time." and if we are finished..."Bye Linda".

As a side note. There was a mom in my daughter's class that never said two words to anyone. Her daughter loved my daughter. I finally invited her over to my house for a playdate (I made the phone call after multiple emails - later found out she never checks her email) when she came over to my house, she thanked me for inviting her daughter over, said she would never do that as she is just to shy and has a very hard time talking to people. We are now nice friends and she did eventually invite me over to her house. She is a VERY nice person, but shy can sometimes look snobby.

Best of luck!

M.

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B.C.

answers from Seattle on

I've been in this situation and can relate. I found that especially PTA board members try to project an aura of exclusivity and superiority (and see it as their job, so you'll be confident in all they do). That this "aura" comes across as a huge negative is something I think they never realize. Heaven help you if you mention it to them and it offends them!

I'd suggest that you volunteer in the classroom and/or library, directly for teachers, and ignore or avoid interaction with PTA's inner circle altogether. Although you might not get recognition by the PTA for your efforts, the teachers generally need all the volunteers they can get, and it's the kids and teachers you're doing it for anyway.

If there is a PTA mom that is in charge of coordinating volunteers, you may need to get your name put on her list -- whether she calls you or not is her problem. Be patient, because as you've been at the school longer (and had successful relationships with more and more of the teachers, school secretary, etc.), they may discover that you are an asset they can't ignore.

I'd also continue to encourage your son to invite whatever friends he has over to play, but without regard to scoring points with the PTA moms.

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C.R.

answers from Seattle on

Hi K.,

I do know what you mean: some people never outgrow their childhood issues and continue to behave as they did in high school.

Yes, some people are very close and do lots of things together socially and outside of school. We can't be best friends with everybody. But yes, it can be hard if you feel left out.

My advice would be to continue to step up: those women will embrace you for your generosity and team spirit. I'm yet to meet anyone who truly doesn't want assistance (but I have met lots who want all the glory anyway!) or a PTA who truly doesn't want more volunteers.

What I didn't do, was join the country club when I realised that there were a few women whose connection revolved around their membership there and their kids swim teams. So their conversation is always peppered with talk about what they did yesterday or will be doing tomorrow etc. But I realised, they are not doing it to exclude me, or anyone else for that matter.

I worked harder for my kids' school as I saw the benefits of my actions for the school community. I worked harder at getting to know them better, as opposed to waiting for them to get to know me. In time, I invited a few I wanted to know better to a movie: who isn't up for a night out to see a flick? Or have a kid free drink?. I've held a Bunco night, gone to lunches with them, the theatre, and now we have a book club that has grown and been going for almost a year now. And I've discovered what wonderful, generous, kind and hardworking women they are and have made good friends with a few.

In all of this, I've always included my established friends, too. Additionally, there will be other women feeling the way you are. Find those women who want to have a friendly familiar face at PTA events and be a friend to them.

In terms of developing the relationship between your child and his friend, there's a couple of thoughts I have. Have you spoken to the mother, as opposed to just emailing? Talking to her might yield a more personal response: maybe she is just very busy, or her son is less enthusiastic about a playdate? Maybe her child has so many commitments, she is reluctant to pick up something new?

Keep the smiles and friendly chat coming. +Good luck!!

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M.P.

answers from Portland on

Yes, I've felt that the general attitude of the PTA is cliqueish. (Is that even a word? :):)) but when I was the working mother of a foster child it wasn't important enough to me to check it out. I wasn't able to volunteer but when I went to school events I frequently felt like the outsider. Not pleasant.

Now, I'm a grandmother and a volunteer and feel the same left out feeling. Now I realize that I probably am intimidating to many young mothers who I've noticed are also SAHM. PTA and the school is the equivalent of my "career." They don't know me and it's likely that they've not been employed in a position where they meet new people everyday.

When I talk with many of these mothers one on one I feel that they are friendlier and I feel mostly comfortable. When I don't feel comfortable I know that at least part of the reason is because I am very aware that I felt different when my daughter was in school and sometimes still do feel unaccepted because I am different. It's my problem; not theirs.

Many of the mothers are doing several jobs all at the same time and are in the school nearly every day. They spend lots of time together working hard. I know who they are but I doubt they know me and I remind myself of that when I feel rebuffed. When I want to talk with a PTA mother I frequently start the conversation with praise for their work. It makes a difference in how they treat me.

I really appreciated Lisa's post. I hadn't really thought much about the dynamics of my relationship that feels more like a non-relationship with the active PTA mothers. I now realize how intimidating I must've been as an older mother who also arrived at school sometimes in a uniform driving a marked police car.

And as a retired grandmother who seems so confident I am still intimidating. They didn't know then and still don't realize now that under that confident put together appearance is someone who wants to be friendly and helpful but feels a bit shy around their confident put together appearance.

I actually felt less qualified than they were because I was a foster mother and then an adoptive mother who was having what seemed like far different experiences than they were having. Now that I'm a grandmother, I am more confident about my skills and knowledge and more aware of the similarities that we share as mothers. At the same time I still feel somewhat intimidated by them. They are young and energetic. They are doing what I would've like to have been able to do with my own birth child. I didn't realize how much I still feel different and just a wee bit jealous of them until I read Lisa's post.

I think Lisa is right on about the "gulf" between outgoing active PTA leaders and volunteers who feel unrecognized. Hers and Betty and Catherines posts have given good suggestions for ways of narrowing that "gulf" and breaking down the walls that are really so artificial. We are all much the same inside our protected exteriors.

And I cheered right along with Patty. We can take down the wall or we can ignore it and do what we want to do anyway. Both work. Perhaps one way is better than the other because of our different personalities. Either way we can do what we want to do once we figure out how. Thank you, K., for your question.

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D.N.

answers from Seattle on

It is unfortunate that grown women are still acting like that!

I too will be dealing with the school years and want to be involeved at my son's school, I have came across such women in playgroups and I understand your feelings but you have to make a choice on letting it bother you or be there and enjoy what you are there for your child and the school!

As far as the non answer on the e-mails, try to catch the mother at a school funtion and mention the boys would like to have a play date and you have e-mailed and wonderd if she received it....or trade phone numbers instead. ( I have a lot of emails go into my junk box then I miss them) Good luck with all of this and do not worry about the PTA groupies there will be others you will come across that are down to earth :)

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B.Y.

answers from Seattle on

PTA Groupie, Did I hear my name being called? LOL
Ok, honestly PTA is something I love, but I also have experienced that "groupie" attitude. I wish I could say that it is only at local unit level, but I cannot.
First I would like to say that you should step out and say HI. Sometimes the leaders of a local unit are so focused on doing stuff that they forget the important part of talking with other mom's.
Then I would suggest that you attend the local unit meetings. You can also go to the board meeting if you have time (and they are open, which most PTA's are.)
If you want to get involved in PTA and the local unit is not letting you, then you can always move "up the ladder" you could join a council (not all PTA's are part of a council. In Thurston county we do not have any councils) But you can then see if they could use you on the Region team. Here in Thurston county (region 4) we could really use the help of people at the region level.

Sometimes you have to just stick it out. And be involved. Remember you are doing it for your child, not for the other mothers. I know that it is hard, but maybe you can connect with other moms at your school that feel the way you do.

Hang in their....

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R.M.

answers from Portland on

I just want you to know that I support you, and those stupid clique-y ladies need to grow up! I don't have any real good advice except to keep you head up. You are being the bigger person, and in the end that is always right. Thanks to you and your husband for your sacrifices to this country. God Bless your family.

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K.M.

answers from Seattle on

I hope you are checking back and reading many of these posts. I don't know what school you are in, but if it were possible for you to volunteer at our school, we would take you in a heartbeat. Unfortunately, I know that is not the case.

I am on the PTA Board at my children's school, and agree with Lisa (first poster) that many events end up being the SAME volunteers OVER and OVER again. It is frustrating to be a part of an organization that has some 200 members and only see about 15 committing to the events that everyone else takes part in. On the other hand, these PTA ladies need to realize that you are just as valuable as they are.

Continue to be involved with your son. Track down the friend's mom and ask her face-to-face. I realize emails are convenient, but maybe the old-fashioned invite is necessary. Exchange phone numbers and call her a couple of times. If she doesn't commit or come through, maybe it's time to find a more reliable friend.

When it comes to the PTA itself, attend as many meetings as you can. Every meeting is a General meeting for us once per month. Offer to help out even if it isn't being requested. It may sound overwhelming to head a committee, but co-chairing a committee can show your commitment. These PTA-ers should figure out that you really want to help.

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T.B.

answers from Seattle on

I am not a mom who has spent any time in the groups but I do belong to the PTA. My personal view, is, no matter what the "group" is - a clique in high school, a PTA, a "cooler pool" at the office or whatever - it's not uncommon to find behaviors that have the potential to impact you in a negative way. Please DON'T do what I did - avoid the pitfall of responding from a place of hurt / anger. There are many ways to respond that will be better for your personal health, as well as those around you - don't let ANYONE get in your way of being the best you and providing the best you hope to provide for your child. If you go to my blog, the most recent posting is about how females bully - it came out of my own experiences that I started researching and had a major "Ah-Hah" in my life - women are tougher on women than men are but we all have choices. www.tristansepinion.blogspot.com

The last thing I want to say to you is that it's not silly - if you're feeling hurt / excluded by behaviors of others, listen to your gut, pay attention and explore your alternatives, as you are in putting this question out there. Because your self esteem is important - not only to your health and well being but to your child's health and well being. And, sometimes, there will be cases where you love the children your son wants as friends but, if the adult isn't willing to communicate - in a subtle way or otherwise - then, I would explain to my child that we don't control the behavior of others - if you don't get a reply, you can't make that happen. Better your child understands the truth of how people can be - that your child can cope, as you must, with how people can be - than the alternative. I wish you the very best and I think you're absolutely beautiful for trying so hard - for asking the questions that will feed your ability to cope, be a stellar mom and a lovely human being in the world, no matter what is around you at any time!

Good luck!
T. B

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M.W.

answers from Seattle on

K.,

First of all, GOOD FOR YOU for wanting to be involved with your kids' PTA! As a teacher in a public school, I truly appreciate all the wonderful help we get running our school from caring, concerned, and respectful parents.

I teach in a middle school in a very "upper, upper-middle-class" suburb. I see the same kinds of things you are describing. Sometimes I'll see a parent in the office and they help out for a few times and then they are done. Later, it gets back that they just didn't feel like they "fit in" with the other PTA moms. It's too bad those feelings get in the way of moms (and dads) wanting to help out because the staff really does appreciate the help we get!

One suggestion I have is in addition to working with the other parents--try to establish some connections to staff members. I have a student right now whose mom is so wonderful because she pretty much understands her son's perspective about his day as well as his teachers'. This makes working with her so much fun. Our office staff have made some wonderful connections with parents through the years and some moms even "substitute" (with pay) for office staff when possible.

A really fun book that deals a bit with how the PTA can feel to an "outside" mom is ODD MOM OUT by Jane Porter. She's a local author, but regardless, the book is funny! A very quick and easy read, but you will see so much of yourself and others in it.

Thanks again for being willing to make that crucial home to school connection! Kids really do benefit from your presence.

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L.C.

answers from Portland on

Just remember that people (girls and women) that act this way are insecure and have issues they are dealing with themselves. What I have found out that works - is to just go about your business like you do belong (because you do) and break that socal rule that is being imposed upon you. Be nice, friendly and direct - ignoring the games, but dont let them pull you in and dont be afriad to stick up for yourself if there are comments or eye-rolling - most will end up respecting you.

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C.P.

answers from Seattle on

Your responces have been very interesting. I have to admit that it seems every school has women who never left junior high. Those women for me went from grade school to high school. I also volunteered alot even though I was a full time working parent and was very well treated while volunteering but beyond that it was made perfectly clear that I wasn't going to increase anybodys social status. Foster your own relationships with women like your self. I have an excelent group of friends from both of my kids classes. You don't have to be in the inner circle and actually it is safer if your not. I won't say that it is easy when certain parents don't want their kid and yours to socialize but they can't stop them from being friends at school. Just be prepared for the child to grow up and start acting like the parent (some do and others don't like how their parents treat their friends). I loved the teachers at my childrens grade school. We have poker parties with them and their husbands. After alot of volunteering I did at least command a respect from the involved parents for putting in my time.

C.

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J.M.

answers from Portland on

This is a very common thing among PTA's unfortunately. One recommendation I would make is to attend the PTA general meetings. They should be held at minimum 3 times a year. At these meetings, listen, ask questions and read the PTA standing rules. Vote for the nominating committee, go over the budget and ask questions. PTA's mission is to put the children of your area first, but I have noticed over the last 9 years that some parents are in it for the title, the glory, or what have you. It's sad. If you want more specific adivce you can email me at
[email protected]____.com. I am in the Vancouver area and am the Region Director for the Washington State PTA. So, I see and assist with these issues on a daily basis. Good luck and stick to it. Be positive and attend meetings if you can, it will make a difference.

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S.J.

answers from Seattle on

Perhaps next year you can contact your child's teacher directly and make arrangements to volunteer in the classroom. That way you get to spend quality time with your child and you don't have to deal with the PTA. I'm fotunate to be in a school where I get to volunteer a lot (in fact have to volunteer) and the political climate around all of this is good.

As far as the playdate goes, you can always call the mom and ask for the playdate. With summer coming, perhaps encourage playdates with other kids and help your son form new friendships.

Good luck! This is a sticky situation indeed.

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B.M.

answers from Seattle on

K.-

I feel for you, I do. I haven't dealt with such a thing in a PTA setting, but in a local group for moms of preschool-age kids. There are always those kinds of ladies no matter how old we get or where we go to get together. I have found, however, that their standoffish-ness usually stems from some kind of insecurity. And let's face it, we all have something in our life that makes us feel insecure.

You've done an awsome job being polite to them and even going so far as to e-mail about the playdate. If you're still wanting to get that playdate going for your child's sake, you may have to just walk up to her and ask about it face-to-face.

It's hard to be brave in the face of some of the behavior that reminds us of highschool... the stuff we were hoping these "girls" would outgrow. I guess we really are at 30 who we were at 13...

Good luck to you!
-B. M.-

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J.W.

answers from Seattle on

Unfortunately, the personalities still exist in some folks beyond high school. Clicks, groups, inclusion, exclusion, I'm better than you attitudes exist every where, PTA, church, work, the gym.... everywhere. With PTA, keep your eyes on the prize which is helping your child, every child that goes to your school succeed. Want to change the dynamics? volunteer to chair a committee, get involved with the legislative committee, your community services committee, teacher appreciation committee. Then you can reach out and include folks rather than waiting for them to include you. With regards to the Mom who won't return e-mails, etc. it could be that this Mom has asked her son if he'd like to go to your house and maybe he's said 'no' because he doesn't want to be away from his family, his home. When your son's birthday comes, if you have a classmates party, be sure to invite this boy. Our kids often have a wider variety of friends at school than their parents have time or energy to include in their circle of friends. You don't have to be best buds with this lady, that shouldn't be the focus of your e-mails, just want to arrange a play date for our sons. You could set up a playdate with a group of boys, so she doesn't feel singled out. Yes, PTA's can be clicky. More often than not, it's the stay at home mom's who are excluding the mom's who work outside the home, who have staked out their claim to the classroom and like to 'shame' those who can't be there during the day to volunteer. But there is more than enough work to be done on behalf of our kids, all our kids, by parents anytime of the day, in a multitude of ways. Find your niche, your passion, your joy and share it with your kids, their teachers, your neighbors. Let your light shine!

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A.S.

answers from Eugene on

I would talk directly with one of the people, choose one you feel safest with and who you think is most likely to listen. And specifically with the mother of your son's friend. Call her and maybe set up a time to talk in person, and share your feelings (being careful not to blame anyone). I know how painful it can be when people act in ways that remind us of the awful ingroup stuff from high school, and that can make it hard to deal what is actually happening in the present, because it triggers our hurt feelings from the past. I'd suggest checking out NVC (nonviolent communication) for ideas about how to talk about your feelings with them. This could be good modeling for your son too, so that he can have tools for dealing with situations like this as he gets older. I know for me the hardest thing was when other kids would reject my kids, and it was so much harder for me to deal with because of my unresolved feelings from my childhood. It sounds like you are a very thoughtful and caring person. I think it also might help if you can try to feel some empathy for the other parents - realizing that people who act that way are feeling insecure themselves, and that they find some sense of security in their circle of friends, and that excluding others helps them feel more "secure". It may be that they have more in common with each other than they do with you, and that you will never be as close with them as they are with each other, but maybe you can help them learn to be nicer and less exclusive. I think it's wonderful that you are so dedicated to your children and helping out at school.

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J.A.

answers from Eugene on

I am not sure how your PTA works in your area, but ours is an after scool thing where these parents help with budget, and fundraising get togethers and such. There ia a major clicky group going on there. And your right it is silly and so highschool, but what can you do other than not be like them! I come in and help out in the classroom. I grade papers, help with math, help give the spelling tests, cut construction paper for art, anything I can do to help out, but also be more on my own with the kids and teacher than with other parents. Teachers always need some help, maybe you could offer it somewhere else. We even have library parent helpers, and recess parent helpers. I hope this helps you a little! Good luck!!

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R.C.

answers from Portland on

I call them "Snobby Mommies"

We have a few at my kids school. There is one in particular that has actually rolled her eyes at me and didn't say anything. I just continued on like I didn't even see her and then laugh to myself. I really enjoy trying to see if I can get a hello, and if that hello is not followed by a quick turn away or the forced smile. Fortunately, not everyone is a snobby mommy so make look around and find someone new to talk to.

As for the lady who seems like she is ignoring your emails - maybe she isn't getting them.

Approach her and extend the invite for play time and casually bring up that you hope your emails are getting through.

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