Friday Rant: I Suck at Being in the PTA

Kid's Piggy BankOne of the reasons I wanted to quit working full time was so that I could be more involved with my daughter’s school while she’s little and isn’t embarrassed to have me around. At the beginning of the year, I signed up for the PTA or Parent Teacher Association for those of you who are not in the know. Her school has a very active PTA that is always donating supplies and hosting amazing activities for students and teachers, so I was excited. However, halfway throught the school year I realize that I suck at being in the PTA!

 I Can’t Make the Meetings

The PTA holds meetings at 8AM on school days. I realize that no one likes do do meetings at the end of the day and we are all busy, but this assumes that PTA members either don’t work or can take off for meetings. I don’t work every day, but have had to work on the majority of meeting times. I can’t justify cutting two hours of patients from my part time schedule to go to a meeting.

The PTA Has Fundraisers ALL THE TIME

I can’t remember a time when there wasn’t some sort of fundraiser going on. I realize that to buy the computers, playground equipment, and audio visual equipment that the PTA has donated over the years, you have to make money.

I think some of the ways they raise money are great. The PTA has movie nights in the gym. They sell water bottles and raffle tickets for various things. Parents can choose whether or not to buy or participate. They also have a longstanding tradition of selling pickles and popcorn on certain Friday afternoons for a quarter each.

Some of the Fundraisers Suck

However, some of the fundraisers drive me crazy. They ask the kids to sell things like Little Caesars Pizza kits. I hate asking people to buy stuff during fundraisers. No one really wants that stuff and they buy it out of obligation.

I hate the selling fundraisers but the buying ones are even worse. There are book fairs and the latest one called Elf Shelf. These are set up in the gym, and each classroom has a designated day and time to “visit.” Weeks in advance we get letters sent home asking for the child to bring money on the correct day. For Elf Shelf, we got two extra reminders about how “stressful” it can be for kids and to really” try and work out a good solution,” meaning make sure to send money.

Elf Shelf: Making a Caste System Out of the First Grade?

I have two huge issues with having these fundraisers during school time. I guess books are always useful, and I certainly support reading. I’m not sure that the book fair should be a required part of the school day, especially when you can check out as many books as you’d like at the library for free. That one is very gray for me.

Elf Shelf just flat makes me mad. The Elf Shelf collection is trinkets that are meant to be bought as Christmas gifts for friends and family. They are crap, literally gumball machine quality, but they charge about 8x more than a gumball machine. Why would you spend money on junk?

I tried to have a conversation with my 6 year old about how poorly made the things at Elf Shelf are and that we can make better gifts, but she broke down in tears because “everyone” was going to be buying stuff at Elf Shelf.

What’s the Solution?

I realize this could have been a good lesson in not following the herd mentality, but I know how hard it is not to fit in at school. I could not stand the thought of her standing in the corner while most of the other kids were buying their crap. I hope when she’s older, she will be reasonable enough to know this is not a good way to spend money, but 6 year olds are not exactly reasonable.

We compromised, and I let her take her own money. She ended up taking $10 and bought some overpriced junk for the grandparents and a ring for herself, which broke in half exactly one hour and five minutes after we got home from school, so maybe the lesson was learned after all?

What’s even worse is that I know there are parents who will not or cannot send money for things like this, and their kids are always going to be left out. I know the teacher keeps extra quarters for kids who don’t have money for pickles and popcorn, but they can’t fund everyone for Elf Shelf, nor should they have to. Why we have to do things like this to buy computers and technology for the school is a discussion in itself, but for now, this is how it is.

That’s basically why I suck at PTA. I morally can’t get my head around peddling crap to elementary school kids and creating anxiety over not having money to spend. The PTA is very revered, so I’m nervous about speaking out, but there have to be others who share my view. Maybe I’m being sensitive. Someone please tell me I’m wrong if there is a reason why this is OK.

What have you sucked at lately? Parents, how do you handle school situations like this?


Written By
Sydney White is a Texas-born stay at home mom who enjoys spending time with her family, bargain hunting and, of course, writing. She is currently the editor-in-chief of


  1. THANK YOU!! I feel the same exact way. My son is in kindergarten this year so I signed up for the PTA to be the involved-mom. Our PTA meets monthly, but they meet in the morning and at night, 2 different meetings- which is all fine and good.. however, I can only make the meeting in the evening, and who knows what suggestions are made during the morning meeting. The first two meetings I attended were all fundraiser based. School’s only been in session 3 months, and they’ve already done 2 fundraisers back to back, a book fair and Little Shoppers Shoppe (sounds like the same as your Elf Shelf). This has been a tough year for my family, financially, but when I tried explaining to my son that we didn’t have the money for the shop for christmas, he got all upset and started crying.. so yeah, I caved in and took money out of another part of the budget to allow for it. I’m not sure if I’ll continue to stick it out with the PTA this year, there’s just too much they ask for and its disheartening to always have to say no to them and to my son. So yeah.. I suck at PTA too.

    1. Thanks for your comment. I feel like there are many others who feel this way. I don’t mean to say anything bad about the PTA because of all the good they do, I just have issues with the means. I also feel very sorry for those kids who just can’t participate for whatever reason and how they must feel to be left out. There has to be a better way.

  2. Awe I’m sorry Kim. I have no words of advice except that I think your thinking is pretty normal. I have mom friends who sound a lot like you. It’s like they can’t live up to the standard of these perfect PTA moms out there, who only subscribe to the Martha Stewart way of life.

  3. Sounds like a nightmare. We used to get lottery tickets to sell from the school and even as a kid I hated that forced sale and couldn’t figure out why a school you pay to attend would ask for more money this way. Thankfully the neighbors had money so the tickets sold fast.

  4. I would like to have one or two kids and I would like to participate in the PTA HOWEVER 8:00 am meetings on a work day won’t work-even if I work from home. It feels like it’s set up in a way to discourage working parents from participating. I would also suck at it because I don’t believe children should be selling items to fund their schools. Or being encouraged to buy stupid crap with their tiny amounts of personal money 🙁 I love the fundraising idea that one of your other commenters made (Stephanie) doing two marathons/challenges a year would discourage random consumerism. Encourage participation. And, I bet your PTA would raise more money. Good luck-this is a hard one.

    1. It does kind of send the message that if you can’t be off work you don’t need to be in the PTA. Of course, you can still join and not go to meetings, but you really can’t be that involved if you aren’t physically there. I have a good friend who is a teacher and it makes her really mad because there is absolutely no way teachers with kids can go to PTA meetings.

  5. I think our PTAs are very similar. A couple years ago I was a board member for the PTA but it wasn’t a good fit. 🙂 I don’t mind fundraisers but I agree when it feels like kids are forced to buy or will feel left out if they don’t buy – isn’t really a great message to teach kids. Plus, when the stuff is tacky, it just makes it worse because you know hard-earned money is being spent on crap. I would rather just write a donation check.

    1. No kidding. I wish there was an option of a donation at the beginning of the school year that would exempt you from all the fundraisers. I know that would never work unless everyone did it, but it’s fun to think about. I’d write a check and then my daughter would still be crying over Elf Shelf.

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