Moms Who Don't Volunteer at School Still Have the Right to Complain

mom volunteers at school

It happens every year. Some parent brings up an issue on the school's Facebook page -- this year it was something about the lunch aides -- and another mom chimes in with: "Why don't you volunteer if it bothers you?" This year it was said nicely, a helpful suggestion rather than a passive-aggressive threat ("If you don't like it, ask yourself: Have you tried volunteering?"), but either way it's the same message: Parents who don't spend time at the school during the day don't earn their right to complain.


You'll excuse me if I curse here, because that attitude is bull##@%. It just is.

Volunteering for the PTA and for school events that take place during the day is a luxury. For parents who stay home and have all their children in the school, it makes sense to be able to do it. But parents who work all day, especially in an office, don't have the time to come to the school once a week and police the lunchroom. We don't have time to be in the library every day or even every week, helping children check out books because there is no librarian. Not when there are school parties and events to attend. Not when we have to take off a day to chaperone and field trip and not when our lives are planned in 15-minute increments and the demands on our time are numbered in the hundreds on any given day.

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Sorry, but ain't no one got time for that. And even if we did, it's a fallacy. Because volunteering during the day is not a prerequisite for caring about your child's education. The idea that we must volunteer before we complain is absurd. Do we pay taxes into the school system? Do we send our children to the school? Yes? Then we can have concerns. We can "complain."

Every time I hear a parent say something like this, I get the message loud and clear: Parents who volunteer care more about their kids.

And what a privileged judgment that is.

I am lucky in the sense that I work from home on a very flexible schedule. I can volunteer when I want (I just went to field day a week ago! Yay me!). But I also have a 2-year-old. So the hours she is in school (9 a.m. to 2 p.m.) are precious in terms of getting through my workload. And in those precious "free" hours left over, I would very much rather get to a yoga class, take a run, or do something for my personal mental health rather than volunteer for an hour in a crowded lunchroom with screaming children all around me.

And I am not sorry about that.

Knowing my limits makes me a better mother. It doesn't mean I don't have concerns about what is going on in the school. And I am also in a privileged place because I have the choice to make. Many, many, many other moms do not have a choice at all. They must work to support their family. They are not choosing between personal care and volunteering. They are choosing between food on the table and volunteering. Does that make them less invested in their child's education?

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We must get past this "mommy war" mentality where only one kind of parent gets to weigh in at the PTA table. Let's assume (because it's a truth) that we are all on a level playing field when it comes to wanting the best for our children. We all love them the same. We all fight for them the same. We all are invested the exact same amount in their future and their well-being. All of this is true regardless of our financial circumstances or our ability to come to the school in the middle of the day.

So for the sake of our children and ourselves, let's drop the crap. Let's stop saying we must give our time at 12 p.m. on a Tuesday if we are to really be invested in our children's lives and education. Because we are all parenting 24/7. Whether we do it at home or from an office or from the school cafeteria. And this idea that only certain parents earn the right to complain does all of us -- most of all,  our children -- a great disservice.

The mommy wars are over. Let's wave the white flag of surrender and admit we are all in this together. We will get a lot more done if we unite than we ever could divided.


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