Once your child starts school or even playgroup, joining the PTA seems to make perfect sense - raising much-needed funds, giving a few hours a week to helping out for a good cause, meeting other parents and maybe getting some interesting insider goss on the school's mysterious workings. If only it was that easy! First you have to negotiate the different committee types.
Committee mum is the one you avoid eye contact with at the school gates, always asking for raffle donations, tombola prizes, and – perish the thought – volunteers.
OK, I'll brave it out (*stands up Spartacus style) - I am that busy body. Although in my case, I've only reached the dizzy heights of playgroup.
So if you don't mind, I prefer the name committee mum, rather than PTA busy body mum.
Both of my sons have been through this playgroup, a registered charity which relies on fundraising. So to give a little back (and I'll admit, to exercise my brain cells) I've spent more than two years doing roles from chairperson to secretary, fundraiser and all-round general dogsbody.
Let me introduce these mums and their tactics:
Definition: Buries her head in the sand while a hive of activity goes on around her. Misses meetings and claims she never got messages.
Most likely to say: "I didn't realise there was a Spring Fair/cake sale/sponsored walk. Nobody told me."
You nod and smile sweetly, thinking of the six weeks' worth of emails, the posters everywhere and the texts you sent out, letting everyone know about the event and asking for parent helpers. Was she on Timbuktu?
Definition: Takes on a few jobs, then gets stroppy if asked to do anything else. Meanwhile, the rest of us are doing twice as much.
Most likely to say: "I've done my bit. I'm not having this dumped on me."
You've only asked her to do one thing while you source raffle prizes, sell tickets, send thank you letters, put up posters and generally have a nervous breakdown.
But she baked a few cupcakes two weeks ago and is obviously still suffering fatigue.
Faux dizzy mum
Definition: Quick to say what should be done - but ask her to do the simplest task, and she plays dumb.
Most likely to say: "I would.... but I'm so dizzy I'll probably forget. Perhaps you should do it."
She's been asked to pick up a get well soon card for a poorly member of staff – and suddenly you're confronted with fits of giggles and girly twirling of hair. This is her way of saying you've got more chance of a date with George Clooney.
Expert delegating mum
Definition: Has a job to do, but passes it off to others in small tasks - so she hasn't done much herself.
Most likely to say: "Did anybody do (insert task here)?"
Everyone is too gobsmacked to point out this is actually part of her role.
When volunteers are needed for something else, she's the first to bow out, claiming she already does her bit.
You scratch your head, wondering what she actually does.
(Warning: Watch out for the hybrid between this and Martyr mum – expert delegating martyrs are unbearable.)
"I would.... but I work" mum
Definition: Uses her job as an excuse, as if the rest of us are lazing around at home with nothing else to do.
Most likely to say: "We should be doing (insert task here). I would... but I work. I'm sure you ladies could oblige."
She has no idea the phrase 'working mum' is redundant – because every mum works. Some of us just don't get paid for it. Instead, she waltzes in occasionally with her power suit and her mocha frappuccino, criticising the rest of us - who would gladly beat her to death with her Blackberry.
Am I being unfair? Mum-of-three Elspeth argues that many of these women will not have started out this way. "By the time you've seen one child through playgroup, nursery and then school, you've been grabbed by so many committees, PTAs and parent councils that you're totally burned out.
"It's hard to say no when you're asked directly for help. But maybe you feel you've earned your right to an easier ride."
This cuts no ice with committee stalwart and mum-of-two Rebecca who is fed up with these mums making more work for everyone else.
"I've met mums at my playgroup who are having their first committee experience with their eldest child – but they still can't be bothered.
"They're happy to use the facilities. But when I ask them for help with fundraising, they act like they're doing me – me personally – a massive favour.
"Do they think trips out, Christmas parties and new equipment just magically materialise for their kids?"
I have to admit to feeling Rebecca's frustration, but with my eldest now in school, I've side-swerved the PTA...because I'm considering becoming a bird-fancier. The ostrich really is a beautiful creature.
Do you recognise these mums?
Or are you perfectly happy to play these roles?
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