Tuesday, March 3, 2009

How to get through a PTO meeting

Every so often, I hear a mom say she doesn't go to PTO meetings 'cuz it's all the fancy moms who go there.

After I'm done wiping her face of the spit I've just spluttered all over it from having burst out laughing, I explain, that no, no, she has it all wrong.

It has nothing to do with fancy (though a nice piece of jewelry does wonders for covering up those Barilla splatters from dinner so people don't discover you're such a pig you have yet to learn how to successfully navigate a forkful of sauce-coated pasta from your plate to your mouth) and everything to do with something else entirely: meetings are a great way to avoid having to put your kids to bed yourself.

And while it is admittedly unfortunate that they do not generally allow wine at these events, this is more than compensated for by the lack of a need to read Star Wars: The Clone Wars, Vol. 1, a one hundred and fourth time as a bedtime story, or to have to yell that, no, that definitely was not a long enough tooth-brushing session. Get back in there, young man!


Because I said so!

Just do it!



I go to every PTO meeting I can.

Sometimes, even, to ones not in my school district. This additionally serves as good practice for not volunteering for things. (Or conversely, I suppose you could volunteer away at one of those, and it would make you make you feel like you're doing something without any of the pain of actually having to do it. But then again, that would make you one of those moms - a cupcake pox on their souls! - who volunteer for things AND. DON'T. ACTUALLY. DO. THEM. Which is unspeakable. May they fall in a vat of horse cartilage.)


The point is, PTO meetings can be a tired mother's friend. Especially since getting her out of the house will distract her from the fact she is on a wine diet. Only on weekdays, of course. There is only so much you can ask of a mom, you know.

Still, I can see how a PTO meeting can be intimidating to a first-timer. A room full of weary, wine-deprived moms could potentially be a hazardous place. So, in my new found spirit of helpfulness, I thought I'd pass along a few tips for the successful navigation of a PTO meeting:

Fitting in

1. Suck your stomach in really, really hard as you enter the room, so you can be as skinny as all the other moms (Which is what you were really worried about all this time, weren't you? Admit it.) Don't worry. It will only be for a few seconds. Soon, you can sit at a table and let it all out. Try not to unbutton your pants. No. Really. I don't care that you had a big dinner. And speaking of dinner, what's up with all that garlic, by the way?

2. Try to make friends with the moms at your table by offering to oversee the over/under bets on how long the meeting is going to take.

3. Switch seats when the mommies give you a bunch of dirty looks. (Don't forget to suck in your stomach as you go looking for a new table to hide your gut behind.)

Paying attention, and other thoughts on managing your self esteem

1. Try to keep your focus on what the nice lady at the front of the room is talking about and avoid letting your mind wander. It is very easy, at the end of the day, to fall into a sort of hypnotic coma DTs in that overly-warm wine-free school library. Not only do you risk drooling, but also, and far more dangerous, you risk not noticing when everyone in the room is suddenly looking at their shoes - a sure sign the nice lady's asking for volunteers and your cue to quickly grab your bag and start digging through it, pretending your phone is ringing with urgent news from the sitter.

2. Do not let your eyes wander around the room. Chances are, your face is tired and droopy and possibly, oh, let's just say it, a tad grumpy-looking. Anyone who catches you looking at them is going to think the look is directed at them, and assume you don't like their outfit or have issues with their parenting style. (We're a delicate-tempered lot, us moms.) Many a friendship has been ruined by a glance deemed judgmental at a PTO meeting. So: avoid eye contact.

3. Try distracting yourself instead the way I do: holding my thighs up off the chair so they don't look so fat when they're squished down against the seat and praying that in my next life I will get long legs that won't flatten so much when I'm sitting at PTO meetings (because I figure there's no way I was good enough in this life to be reincarnated past PTO meetings, but certainly better legs isn't too much to ask) until, like one of those birds attracted to shiny objects, I suddenly notice and become obsessed by the pretty accessories on woman nearby and start wondering why I am such a loser that I forget to put on accessories, too. Then I busy myself feeling bad about being so uncool (and fat-legged) as to need reminding about dressing like a grownup with accessories, and put on an unhappy face just as the bejeweled woman catches me staring, and assumes the look is directed at her. And her brooch. Or whatever that thing is. You don't need to know now because she is never going to talk to you again, anyway.

Volunteering, or, better yet, not

The one real risk to attending PTO meetings is that your presence makes it harder to pretend you don't know they need help with assorted things, and chances are you will get roped into something. It's not always a bad thing, though, as long as you remember to avoid certain activities. Like any that involve actual children.

Or their parents.

Anything else, though. You're in! Totally. Sign me right up.

Especially if there's wine. Speaking of wine, Thursday is kinda like the weekend, right? And the kids are probably already asleep by now, so you're golden. It's safe to go home. Hopefully you've sat near the back...

Oops. Did I forget to tell you to do that? Sorry!

Guess you're stuck, then.

Me, I'm grabbing my "ringing" handbag, miming a few additional gestures that have everyone thinking there is some kind of emergency but that I'm too polite to interrupt a meeting for it, and sneaking off.

Have fun, though, you. Thanks for coming!


The folks over at humor-blogs go to all the best PTO meetings.


amy said...

I should start planning "PTO" meetings at the nearby pub. Seeing as how I'm parent AND teacher and the only one who does anything anyway, I can skip all that and just have a beer by myself. Right? Or is that pathetic?

mo.stoneskin said...

Firstly that was a hilarious and thoroughly enjoyable read, and I appreciate getting such a fantastic glimpse of the female mind at work.

Funniest post of the day by a clear mile.

Secondly will you please stop mentioning wine, it's not helpful!

Denise Thomas said...

Girlfriend, have you no flask?

David said...

I misread the title as PLO and wonddered when you joined in with the Palestinians...not that there is anything wrong with that - they need a homeland too.

But then I realized it was PTO and wondered why you were going to meetings at the Patent and Trademark Office. Are you an inventor?

Fun with acronyms. Cheers

WA said...

Our meetings are at 8 a.m., so I have to wait a full TWO HOURS before I can have my after-PTO wine.

Five Ferns Fibreholic said...

Putting my kids to bed???HAHAHAHAHA It's the only time in the day when I can possibly "find" the time to run errands. I couldn't possibly give up any of my precious knitting time while they are at school to do groceries or anything mundane like that.

Not the Queen said...

Thanks for the advice! I'll be a PTO mom next year, and I'll keep all of this in mind.

SuburbanCorrespondent said...

You forgot the knitting. I wouldn't be caught dead at any meeting without my knitting.

Cridersville PTO said...

loved it!! as the PTO president for the third year, getting people to attend meetings and then to acutally volunteer can be a daunting task.

I run my meetings, rather, our meetings, in a fun manner. I make fun of myself for not knowing all of Robert's Rules of Order...interject things I forgot to put on the agenda. you know.

please check out our PTO blog I started a few years ago. you can find it at


hokgardner said...

I've managed to only attend one pta meeting a year. Does that make me a bad mom?

Cathy said...

Too funny! God, I was hoping bed time got easier when the kids got older--no such luck, huh? Oh well. I guess I better start volunteering at our PTO meetings next year so I have more reasons to leave hubby with the kids.

Rose Red said...

I'm sure they'd get a lot more volunteers if the meetings involved the drinking of wine.

Fannie said...

No wine at PTO? Two words - Catholic School!

Beth said...

Ah. You just explained all the parents who sit at the back and never volunteer for anything. And come to think of it, they often get phone calls.

Manic Mommy said...

That was hysterical.

You had me at bedtime! Tonight, HRH was trying to cajole me into reading loudly from his bedroom while he sat on the potty; "no really, I can hear you..."

Ree said...

Try my cleavage flask idea! It'll work as well with wine as it does with vodka. ;-)

Barb said...

Wait, you mean you actually GO to the meetings? You don't just tell MAN that's where you're going and then go sit and read and drink wine in your car?


And neither do I.



Valerie said...

OMG, this post on your blog was hilarious, and then I got to the comments....my wine is now all over my desk! LOL

the mama bird diaries said...

I always try to make early plans so i can avoid the bedtime routine. My husband might be on to me.

Jenn @ Juggling Life said...

I was a serious PTO insider--like I was actually the Prez at one time. We didn't have time to be fancy--we were way too busy. BTW, you can drink wine at subcommittee meetings!

Trenches of Mommyhood said...

Whoa. That tired me right out. I much prefer to slip into my pjs upon entering the Trenches after work, grab a vat (err..glass) of vino and wrangle the lasses at bath/bedtime with a slight buzz.


a friend to knit with said...

NIGHT pto meetings??
that must be why i never go. ours are always during school hours!

and speaking of accessories. i'm thinkin those are out of style. SERIOUSLY! :)

Kathy B! said...

This is my first visit to your blog, and I love it. I think you've got the PTO meeting down pat. I'm going to print this out before our next meeting so that I can be sure ot to skip a step!

MontaraTraci said...

This is my first comment, but I love your blog! We just happened to have a PTO meeting last night, so your post was perfect and hilarious and spot on!
I've chaired many auction committees and there is ALWAYS wine...how else do you get people to show up and volunteer??

Anonymous said...

"Barilla" spots? Not "Food Club" spots? Sounds like someone who's name I won't mention (but it rhymes with Schmad-Schmad) is in fact a "fancy mom."

Fairly Odd Mother said...

The PTA scares me. I've never been to the meetings but I imagine it is like a Moms Club meeting but with more power.

RamblingMad said...

I've only attended one PTA meeting in my life...when DD was in kindertarten. She's 20 yrs old now. The meeting was enlightening, however, in that they mentioned the encyclopedias they had in the library (do schools even have these books anymore?) were so old that they stated that "someday man will go to the moon".

Missy said...

Hey there, found you over at secret spineless whine. Don't you just love that board?

Anyway great advice on the meetings. I personally don't get a reprieve from putting my kids to bed. My wonderful husband feeds them junk and lets them "wait up for mommy to get home" Ass!


TinkingBell said...

And take your knitting - so you have something to look at and keep you awake.

Our PTA night meetings always have wine. I think the principal feels like I do at the end of the day. And doesn't want to go home and put the kids to bed.

Fru Storlien said...

Hey! I always bring my knitting to these meetings. then I look like a busy multitasking woman,plus I avoid all glances from other mothers with slimmer thighs and I can easily start counting stitches whenever needed. That's why I also turn off the sound on my cell phone( in a very visible way )- I seem to be very interested....

Anonymous said...

Oh wow...I wish I was with you at PTO meetings.

In my case, I went not knowing that my PTO was a re-enactment of high school at its worst. I had thought you only had to do high school once, but these ladies were reliving it through elementary school. Once, I heard a few of them say they were the "cool" PTO parents. Frightening. The worst part was the opening 'stretching exercises'. Ugh.

Thanks for the laughs!

Gray Matter said...

You. Are. Gladiator. Kudos to you for going into the colliseum and showing no fear. I stay far away, screen phone calls from PTA moms and make my son take a running jump into the car at pick up to avoid any face-to-face encounters that may result in running the pie in the face booth at the spring fling event.

Jane said...

No wine...on weekdays? What are you crazy? Good for you on attending. Too many parents don't and then complain that they don't know what's going on in school. I've seen both sides: as a teacher and a parent and I've learned never to raise my hand.

Working Mom said...

You forgot to advise to not talk, just listen, at the first meeting or two. Get a feel for the group. This will save you some headaches if you're not a joiner in the midst of Clique Central, or if you're a smart mom in the midst of a dictatorship.

But the most important advice of all: if the leaders never go out for a drink after, DON'T TRUST THEM!!! Because let's get real - that's one of the big benefits to joining a PTO - another group of people to share your wine with!