The PTA Is Mean Girls For Grown-Ups


When you leave high school, you assume that you have left the petty bullshit behind- the cliques, the gossip, the jockeying for social position. You move on to your adult life thinking that from now on, everyone will be mature and kind to each other. College might have been a little cliquey but you found your way. It may have been tough to fit in at your first job after you graduated but that probably worked out just fine too. The next taste of high school-style behavior you will likely encounter is when your first child starts school. This was where I found out the hard way that the PTA is Mean Girls for grown-ups.

I was so excited when Claire began kindergarten. I genuinely wanted to help make her school a better place. I immediately began trying to meet other parents who felt the way that I did. I figured the best place to start was the PTA. After all, I wanted to be involved and what better way than by helping organize the events being held at the school? I could not attend the first meeting because of my work schedule but I began emailing with the president and filling out forms to let them know my strengths and where I might be best suited to lend my time.

As it turned out, no matter what those forms said I could contribute to the cause, the best place for me was apparently the same as a 1950′s housewife- in the kitchen. That fall, I was slated to volunteer at three events- the Back-To-School Fun Night, the Halloween Carnival and the holiday craft fair. I showed up at Back-To-School night and met the members of the PTA for the first time. They were busy and frazzled so I didn’t think much of their blase reaction to meeting me. They gave me a hair net and sent me to the back of the kitchen where it became my job to cut slices of pizza in half for us to sell. I was all alone and kind of bummed but I figured I was low on the PTA totem pole and needed to pay my dues. Someone had to do the grunt work, it may as well be the freshman! I figured we would all get to know each other later over coffee and scones like all PTA moms love to do.

Or maybe not. At the end of the Fun Night, I tossed my hair net into the garbage and went to talk to the other members but they barely registered my presence. I remember feeling like the youngest sibling in the family who has to jump up and down begging to be noticed. I left feeling a little miffed but not entirely discouraged- it was a busy night. Surely, at the next event, I would get to do something with a more social bent and maybe even make a friend.

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You can reach this post's author, Valerie Williams, on twitter.
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  • Amber Starr

    Ugh, what a bunch of stuck-up trolls. I’m really sorry that they treated you that way.

    • Valerie

      Awww thanks!!! I was really upset by it. I didn’t have much of this in high school- went to a small school and we were all friendly. The bitchy behavior was a shock to me, for sure.

  • Megan

    You should make them gifts to show your appreciation for all they do. Maybe some face scrub? Some ” peppermint” added perhaps?

    • Valerie


    • the_ether

      Cut the boobs out of their tank tops!

  • Bleu Cheese Bewbs

    I didn’t do PTA but did volunteer to help with some track events. I got put in the concession stand. Even though I was DYING to help with timing the events, I was happy to go help with concessions. Until I got there. It was an absolute disaster. People weren’t friendly, the whole thing was disorganized, and we were tripping all over each other. I was supposed to make up the BBQ sandwiches when they were ordered, which was simple – you put some BBQ on the hamburger bun, wrap it in foil, and hand it off. Well, there was a Mom with Serious Martyr/SUperHero Complex there. Every time I was going to make a sandwich, she’d run over, snap “I’ve got it” and make up the sandwich and hand it off. SHE DIDNT EVEN LET ME DELIVER IT! Meanwhile, she’s neglecting her own duties and cutting people off while she’s darting back and forth in the stand. That was the last time I volunteered.

  • Ladygrace

    I got this vibe EXACTLY when I went to my son’s future school’s PTA meeting! I was there to pitch an educational program I volunteer for, and there was totally a “Mean Girls” table that had very little feedback to give me other than to dismiss me immediately. I AM OVER THIS LADIES LETS TREAT ONE ANOTHER WITH SOME LOVE!!!!

  • Jessifer

    PTA just seems like a conglomeration of Helicopter Parents, Sanctimommies, hardcore Type A control freaks, and those who post 20 different Pinterest-perfect pictures of their kids and/or arts & crafts on FB every single day. My son’s not in school yet but I’m planning on staying the hell away.

    • Kristina Bartlett

      my roomate’s mother makes $81 every hour on the

      computer . She has been without work for 6 months but last month her income was

      $19151 just working on the computer for a few hours. read review http://WWW.WORKBUCK.COM

  • Frannie

    I refuse to join the PTA. My friend’s son is a year ahead of my daughter, and when she joined the year her son started kindergarten, she got assigned ‘clean up’ duty at the school carnival. None of her volunteers showed, and it was just her, all alone, cleaning up an entire school carnival. After that she stopped attending PTA meetings and never responded to their emails again.

    • Valerie

      Glad to hear it’s not just me at least!!

    • Frannie

      I’m sad to hear it’s like that other places, but yeah. It’s definitely not just you!

  • keelhaulrose

    I screwed myself over with the pta president and the room mom for my daughter’s kindergarten room because I asked them to talk to me about volunteer opportunities as they came up because, even though younger siblings were allowed at most events, I couldn’t perform a duty and watch an autistic toddler at the same time, and I’d better know my husband’s schedule closer to the event.
    You’d have thought I had asked them to tag in for me in a fight against a hungry Mike Tyson from the looks they gave me. I never got asked about anything, surprisingly.

    • Bleu Cheese Bewbs

      Having had to recruit volunteers for various things other than PTA, I would think they would have been more than happy to receive any help they could get. Some people are super control freak schedulers though, with a heaping dose of bitchy thrown in. Sounds like that is what you were up against.

  • Ursi

    Glad to have my assumptions confirmed that the PTA is just one clique-y mommydrama hellhole.

  • jendra_berri

    Well, that sounds like a lonely and unfulfilling waste of time. Nuts to that!

    • Valerie

      By the third time, I honestly wanted to cry into the pizza. Lol. It was terrible!!

    • noodlestein’s danger tits

      Aww! Internet hugs to you! I know how much stuff like this can suck; I got mean girled at adult kickball, of all things. Except in my case, people that I had previously thought were friends just decided that we weren’t friends any more. For apparently no reason. I was just so stunned, because I, too, thought all that stuff went away as adults. Nope, some people are just shitty.

    • jo

      Adult kickball sounds really fucking awesome

    • noodlestein’s danger tits

      It is!

  • visharoo

    I don’t have school aged kids yet, but I got sucked into the PTA as a brand new teacher… It was the worst. Any academic event (ie spelling bee) was thrown my way with no help and no-show volunteers. The meetings were def “goold-ol’-girls club” get togethers. I was curious why our school had such a hard time fulfilling the faculty rep position; it didn’t take long to find out :(

  • LadyClodia the Modest Rat

    I’m sorry you had such a bad experience, Valerie. :( So this makes me rethink the idea of getting involved in the PTA when my son starts kindergarten this fall. I thought maybe I would be able to finally meet people there, but this area is already too cliquey as it is that there’s probably not any hope for me.

    • Valerie

      Nooo try it!! They might not all be like this!! And if after one time they suck, never go back. Learn from my mistake. :)

    • LadyClodia the Modest Rat

      OK, I’ll give them one chance. :)

    • Valerie

      And if they are bitches, run away!!!

  • wispy

    This is like when we moved somewhere but knew we wouldn’t be there long enough for me to get a job so I decided to volunteer. First I tried the animal shelter. There were at least 5 workers sitting on the front counter but I, the volunteer, walked in and had to immediately go clean poop, while the paid workers sat there watching me. Never went back. I tried the Red Cross. They wanted me to work some desk job for 40 hours a week for free. I said I couldn’t do that because I had school but could maybe to do two 8 hour shifts a week. That was apparently not good enough so they wanted me to shred paper for those 16 hours a week. I didn’t stay there long either. My mom told her boss about it and he said he tells people to never volunteer because if they actually cared about the job they would pay you for it. I don’t know if I completely agree but I can see what he’s saying! I think I will probably stay far away from the PTA!

    • ActionComics25

      I’m sorry that was your experience at the animal shelter. I have to say in my experience (both in Albuquerque and Seattle) that it was the paid workers who did the poop clean up and the volunteers who got to train, walk and play with the dogs. The exception seems to be the Humane Society which was the exact opposite in both cities. All of the shelter volunteers grew to hate the Humane society for it’s reputation for “better trained, calmer dogs” when the reality was they would come and take our project dogs, the ones we had put hours of love and work into.
      I know the end goal is to get dogs into forever homes but when the Humane Society had a great reputation while the shelter had a bad one, really irked me. It made it worse that we had a lower feline kill rate then them and a kill rate only 10 points above them for dogs despite the fact the the violent dog and other dogs they refused (pit bulls) went to us (In ABQ I’m not sure of the stats in Seattle.)
      Sorry for the rant, the bottom line is try your local pound if you want to volunteer a lot of people avoid them based on reputation but they tend to need volunteers more and treat them better than the no-kills, and try not to judge all of the rescue volunteer experiences on that one! Even if your shelter treats volunteers badly other rescue organizations with much much smaller budgets would love your help.

    • wispy

      I agree! When my kids get older and I have more freedom I plan on finding another place to volunteer. The thing is though that it wasn’t even the poop that bothered me, hopefully I didn’t make it sound like that. Obviously if I was going to a shelter it was expected. It was the way they all sat there together and stared at me. I felt like a complete fool! I know that was just one place out of many though. Another shelter I volunteered at was nothing like that.

  • Michael Weldon

    Is there some age where women start being nice to each other? Also, I would have just brought the pizza’s out to the main area and gone ninja crazy slicing them. Social fun with knives will ensure either someone helps or you don’t get stuck doing that a 2nd time.

    • Heather

      Not universally. My MIL is in her 50s and she still treats her “friends” like this!

    • wispy

      There are these 2 older ladies who work the front desk at my daughter’s preschool, one is super nice and one is snippy. I can tell the snippy one cannot stand the nice one. In my boredom the other day I decided to do some snooping on FB to see if they were FB friends, and they weren’t! They were friends with all the other teachers at the school except for each other. I also saw in their work histories that they went to HS together, worked at another location together for 20 years, go to church together and now work at this preschool together. My mind was blown! So I guess the answer to your question is NO!

    • Ursi

      In my experience, no.

    • guest

      From my experience with gaming, the same kind of crap goes on with guys. People are really good at being horrible to each other.

    • Michael Weldon

      I would disagree IRL, but you have a point with gamers. Have not seen much of this kind of thing with groups of guys at functions or activities, (most guys are less passive-aggressive and more simply aggressive from what I have seen). But you are right about online, lots of real brave dudes out there behind keyboards.

    • Cruelty Cupcake

      Women are not a monolith and it goes much deeper than that anyway. Is it really so surprising that women hate each other when we bring girls up to hate themselves, hate their femininity and sexuality, teach them their only value lies in attracting men and that another woman’s sexuality makes her a whore you have to compete with? Men have done a pretty swell job dividing and conquering us.

    • anonymous

      Men aren’t solely to blame. Feminists have pitted women against men, and now feminists have ruined femininity by putting bullshit in the heads of women.

    • Cruelty Cupcake


    • noodlestein’s danger tits

      Ugh, I hate the keyword searchers.

    • Ursi

      wait… what?

    • LiteBrite(UterineDudebro)
    • Cruelty Cupcake

      LOL this face, so adorable, I’m swoooooooooooooning. Just wanna sit on it.

  • Justme

    I’m so sorry that you had that experience – they should not have treated you in that way. As a teacher I don’t know the inner workings and social ladder of the PTA at my school, but I do know that they give generously of their time, energy, and resources to encourage us as staff members and to make sure that the kids have what they need to be successful.

  • Spongeworthy
  • B

    I’m sorry that happened with your PTA. I can tell you that the PTA at my kid’s school is not like that at all. We even have wine nights! Almost everyone works full-time and a half the leadership team is single moms. I don’t think we even have a clipboard… Our school is also tiny charter though, only 80 kids from all over the city. Maybe that helps?

  • val97

    Thank you. I’ve been saying this for years. The PTA is forever shaming me – I think that was my fb status one time way back when I still posted things about parenthood. I tried to join the PTA when my oldest started elementary school. My experience was similar. Now I happily write them as many checks as they want and refuse to volunteer for anything.

  • Lackadaisical

    I now feel rather blessed with our PTA. The head of the PTA is the vicar’s wife, who is an absolute sweet heart and I say that despite being an atheist. Most of the other parents and grandparents are lovely too. There are a couple who make me shudder with their aggressive entitlement with regards to their kids (always the worst behaved) but they are the minority and exist in the same proportion as they do in real life. I don’t know if it makes a difference that the school is not in an affluent area so we have far fewer alpha mums and yummy mummies.

  • CynicalMomof3

    We really lucked out- our leadership is almost half new people this year, but everybody has been super-nice, every year. I wonder if it’s because a lot of the women are too old for these games? I know I am!

    Our PTA/O is mostly involved in making money, which pays for classroom supplies, electronics, class parties, and even (forgive our state budget!) for cleaning supplies and staff. I’ve made copies with them, helped shepherd kids at special events, trimmed and counted boxtops, helped teachers with room decor, even given school tours. It’s not often glamorous, but it’s all useful, and I know for a fact that the PTO president is happy to get down on the floor, pulling apart a copy machine, getting covered with toner, to help any teacher, and then cheer me up with a cynical comment.

    I’m not usually popular or anything (rather the opposite), but everybody has been perfectly pleasant and thankful, whenever we’ve met. They put a TON of work in, don’t complain much, know their stuff… many are former teachers, and the events are professional and good for kids, teachers and parents– and so far it’s been a joy in every way! Give it a chance, and if there’s a problem and a reasonble person, let them know, otherwise get out. PTO work has been more fun and kindness than church work so far!

  • Lisa Walker

    I totally have RBF so I’m going to steer clear of PTA

  • Cruelty Cupcake

    I don’t think I’m cut out for PTA life. They wouldn’t want my bad attitude anyway.

  • momjones

    In the school I taught at, the parents’ groups were called the Mother’s Club and the Dad’s Club. When my daughters were there, I was never able to go the meetings because they were held during the school day (go figure). Anyway, the school was located in a very wealthy suburb, and believe me, many of the moms perpetuated every stereotype associated with that fact. I always volunteered to help with the major fundraisers, and yes, someone would tell me to do grunt work, which is fine, because I had student volunteers to help me. But what I found was that the moms were so disorganized and had no idea how to work with kids. I would get so frustrated that I would finally pull a “Do you know who I am?” and tell the mom giving the orders, “We’re going to do it this way.” Another time I volunteered to help at the auction/casino night, a semi-formal event. The dad in charge asked me to help serve drinks. Well, I had to take orders and then go get the drinks when they were playing the games. When I handed one of the dads (who was drunk) his, drink, he threw a dollar at me. I looked at him and said, “You do realize, don’t you, that I am your daughter’s English teacher?” After that I told the dad in charge that getting tips from parents was beyond my volunteer duties. Ugh.

  • momma425

    My mom was a stay at home mom and a PTA mom. How she got into the club? She basically had to sign up for EVERYTHING and go to every single meeting and stretch herself super thin that first year, and that was how she earned her place in the cool mom PTA group.

    Her comment to me (as I am a working mom) was basically not to look for acceptance from them. Because I work full time, even if I volunteer for something, they will not see it as enough. Plus there are tons of flakes in PTA that say they will do something and then don’t because something came up last minute (unfortunately they usually notice this more from working parents). My mom’s advice was basically not to make PTA friends, but join to be involved in my kids school andhelp asupport her.

  • Mid50sfan

    I was always posted alone at the rear double doors as “security” during middle school activity nights while the MIC’s (moms in control) had fun socializing, serving food, etc. in the cafeteria. Even my kids asked what I did to deserve that every time. The last straw: after asking why younger siblings could not attend the eighth grade graduation breakfast (the elementary school started 1 hour after breakfast did, requiring us to hire a babysitter to arrive at 6:45 am so that we could go to the breakfast), I received a phone call from the #2 PTA mom on behalf of the #1 PTA mom stating, and I quote, “you need to understand that the duty of the volunteers is to execute the vision of the chairs”. Followed up by a very nasty e mail from #1 mom, stating that her daughter has dreamed of this breakfast since she started middle school and no one was going to alter that plan. Since these moms “graduated” to the local high school, neither district has seen my face as a volunteer again. I just roll my eyes at each and every plea for help. Oh yes, one of them got in trouble at the high school’s homecoming for teaching kids how to do keg stands at the game with a root beer keg and making a huge scene when asked to stop. Classy.

    • LK

      Wha?????? This is terrifying!

    • evileliteliberal

      I would’ve just quit after the second time… and not even asked about bringing kids, just brought them. They aren’t the police nor do they have security at their disposal. “Please sir, throw out that younger child, she’s upsetting my precious snowflake’s breakfast that she’s dreamed about for years…” I got enough crap from the cheerleaders in high school trying to “execute their vision” for a perfect clique (ironically our cheerleaders were also part of the smart group of kids that I belonged to). My real life experience showed me these mean girls only have as much power as you want them to.

  • Guest

    I guess I am very lucky. Our PTA is comprised of some of the coolest moms AND dads, a lot of which are gay couples. We have great events, great parental involvement and when there is a “boring” job like the pizza cutting, we rotate so no one is stuck back there for more than a half hour. Most of the teachers are happy to get involved and we even find ways for the older kids to help out. They *love* selling popcorn after school. Kids are weird.

    • momjones

      Your group sounds exactly like what a good PTA should be and is!

  • Jezebeelzebub

    What’s that Groucho Mark quote? I wouldn’t want to be part of a club that would have me as a member…. something like that. Anyway, fuck the PTA, PTO, MADD, ROLFMAO, ADD, BPD, NASA, APB, AA, ASAP, and all other acronyms.

    I’m not much of a joiner.

  • KL Walpole

    I’m having the same experience, except instead of serving pizza, I’m being told that, “Oh, all the volunteer slots have been filled.” Because the stay at home mothers in my district have faster access to their emails than I do; by the time I’m able to read my personal emails on my lunch break, they’ve already filled all the slots.

    • noodlestein’s danger tits

      Probably a blessing in disguise, honestly.

  • evileliteliberal

    It can be mean girls, but sometimes it is just harried mothers trying to get something done. I love the A types because frankly I don’t want to organize a craft fair or hit up local businesses for things to auction. I just want to follow orders when it comes to this shit.
    My question though is how you let yourself get stuck with pizza duty 3x? The woman with the clipboard surely was organized enough to send out a confirmation email? In my experience you don’t just show up to these things to be “assigned.” Normally there is a discussion, or a meeting, or something. Listing your talents is no help to someone who is busy with a million details (Come on, everyone is on pinterest). Some of these women were probably there all day – or all week – setting up? Those craft booths might’ve been their personal labors of love (or whatever). Why didn’t you just ask her after the first time to put you in charge of something else. Have a frank email or discussion along the lines of “hey, so that was no fun being by myself, can I have another task next time?” And if she reassigned you to pizza, just say “find someone else” and go enjoy the damn fair. It was kind of passive-aggressive of you to “let” them prove to you that they weren’t going to reassign pizza cutting to you. After all, if you didn’t complain how the hell do they know you don’t like it? (yeah, yeah, no one likes it, but some people actually don’t mind).
    Also, how did you not know any of the other mothers? Even the working moms at our school find time to drop off and pick up occasionally to chat to the other mothers, introduce themselves, hang on the edge of conversations, find a SAHM like me who will update them (I send updates to my WM friends about their kids when I see them around the school). I’m not saying there aren’t biatches in charge a lot – there are and I am just civil and courteous and refuse to acknowledge their “queen bee” status, we are all mothers here and we all have to deal with each other for our kids so they do have to deal with me – but there are ways to mitigate that if you really truly want to be involved.
    My sense is you might’ve missed something. Not read an email, shown up only for the event, failed to directly communicate what you wanted to do, etc. Yes, moms can be territorial and if they don’t know you, they will favor their friends. It’s kind of human nature. You have to figure out a way around that. Because, we aren’t in high school anymore. And we have the tools we have learned in the real world to deal with that shit (FWIW I worked for many many years before being a SAHM)

    • evileliteliberal

      sorry for run-on para. First time using disquis. Finally have some time…

    • Geust

      Yeah, my first question reading this was, after brooding over getting pizza duty twice, did she say anything about it? Idk I mean they could have been trying to be mean but maybe they had no idea it was so bothersome to her that she had that assignment each time? She mentions that no one talked to her even though she was smiling a lot but she try to talk to them? If I’m busy and planning stuff I can get really focused and could end up missing cues like a person is trying to make friends with me.

  • LiteBrite(UterineDudebro)

    I’ve never had the urge to join the PTA (or any version like it). I’m not exactly a “joiner” if you know what I mean, and it’s experiences like yours that reinforce that attitude.

  • LK

    Well this blows goats. My daughter starts kindergarten in one year, but we definitely live in “that” school district. I know cause I grew up here, and I’m sure there are bitches and douchebros a’plenty on the PTA. I had not considered the potential suckage before, but now it’s sounding so much less appealing…

  • hanglidingjesus

    It’s not even just PTA either. From experience I’ve dealt with peewee football committees, basketball committees, even school trips. I work full time and I’ve just gotten the impression there is some kind of stay-at-home mom network that I just don’t qualify for. I don’t even bother anymore. I had my son pretty young so other kids his age have parents at least 10 years older than me anyway, so we don’t have a lot in common to begin with.

  • AE Vorro

    Oh, man — that just sucks and was wholly undeserved. So sorry to hear it!

  • RayneofCastamere

    The Harper Valley PTA strikes again.

  • chill

    Sounds like your PTA is full of a bunch of insecure bee-yotches. We live in a really nice area, so there are plenty of opportunities for the “mean girl” attitude, but I don’t encounter that at all. Usually they are thrilled for any help they can get and as long as you are nice, they are nice back. I’m sorry for your experience, and I hope you are able to get involved in your child’s school in other ways.

  • keepitreal

    Spot on. I now avoid it like the plague. It is most definitely mean girls all over again and I’m too old for that b.s. I am a professional with a graduate degree, I’m on sabbatical to raise my kids, and I’ll be damned if I step back into high school and the juvenile dynamics of that environment. I’ve noticed that many of the PTA moms are mommy’s girls. In other words, their moms are also reliving their high school glory days with them by helping out with them, volunteering with them. It’s beyond pathetic. I’ve even wondered if what they’re doing even has ANYTHING to do with their kids! Ha!

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