When Helicopter Moms Attack

Last year I helped out quite a bit in Miss C’s kindergarten class. I knew her teacher, having volunteered in her class two years in a row through Junior Achievement, and because of that, her teacher never hesitated to ask me to do some additional take home tasks, such as assembling class packets, which, unfortunately, turned into the volunteer job from hell and me toting a box of worksheets from home to work and then back home again. I also volunteered in the classroom every Friday that I could since that’s my work from home day.

This year it’s a different song and dance. Miss C’s teacher is new to our school system. During the first grade parents meeting last week she asked that no parents volunteer for the entire month of September so that the kids could get acclimated to her.

You could have heard a PTO pen drop when she made her request.

Our elementary school is known for the zealous army of parent volunteers willing to take on the most difficult of fundraising tasks. We need to sell five tons of frozen gourmet cookie dough in a week? No problem! We need to organize and throw the biggest fundraising carnival featuring a special performance of Cirque deu Soleil in the school gym? Let’s do it!

Frankly, I wasn’t too surprised by her request since one of my friend’s daughters is one year older than Miss C and she’d already told me that first grade teachers don’t want as much in room volunteer time by the parents.

At first I felt rejected not having Miss C’s new teacher assign me with a volunteer project within 48 hours of school starting, but then I came to my senses and realized “Good God Woman You HAVE IT MADE!” I happily filled out the volunteer form and noted that I can help with field trips and with reading to the class, but it’s nice to not feel obligated to spend my Fridays hovering over the laminating machine in the teacher’s work room. I’m planning on eating lunch with Miss C in the school cafeteria on most Fridays, but I can merrily be on my way and not feel pressured into “just one little project” by her teacher.

I think the helicopter room moms are starting to relax with the new teacher, but I’m trying to avoid them like the plague because the only thing worse than the teacher who knows how to push your volunteer buttons, is the elementary school helicopter mom.

Here are some tips for avoiding them:

Make no eye contact with other parents. You can get away with dark sunglasses inside the school building the first week, but after the second week it gets suspicious as people may suspect you’re hung over.

Don’t linger after school meetings and never arrive early for school meetings.

Never voluntarily give out your phone number or e-mail address as it will be distributed soon enough.

Consider setting up a separate e-mail address that you only give out for school information.

Always be prepared with a pat excuse for rushing off after school (i.e. we have soccer practice, dance class.)

Use your other children as an excuse. (i.e. “I’d love to talk more about the XXXXX, but I need to pick up Sallie Mae by 3:30 for a dental appointment.)

Use your spouse as an excuse. (i.e. “I’ve got to run, hubby needs me to drop something off at the post office.”)

Use your dog as an excuse (i.e. “Fluffy’s in the car, gotta run, byeeeeeeeee!”)

So do you have any tips for avoiding signing your life away to the PTO? Is there a balance?


  1. Jackie says:

    As a Mom who is winding down her days of volunteering at school (my last two of five are in high school, and quite frankly they DON’T want to see my face at their school these days)I will share a couple of my secrets…

    1. I would say to all of you newbies out there, that the best advice I can give you is this… when you are asked to do something BIG or ONGOING, respond by saying you would like a day or so to think about it. It’s waaayyyy too easy to be flattered into saying yes and regret it down the road. Our egos subconsciously like to be stroked, so take the time to REALLY think about your decision, to be sure that you aren’t saying yes for the wrong reasons. (we oldies have learned the hard way!)

    2. BALANCE! We need it in all areas of our lives and volunteering at our kids schools should be no exception. I can’t tell you the number of Moms who do EVERYTHING the first couple of years…. and then totally burn out and drop out of site completely. Pace Yourselves!


    PS – My best excuse has always been my husband..
    i.e. – “He will kill me if I say yes to one more thing!”

    Jackies last blog post..Keep to the Code…

  2. Bridgett says:

    Those are great to avoid the question before it’s asked…I’m becoming an expert this year after being way too involved last year. My planned excuse for when I’m actually asked, which I’m sure I will be eventually, is to say, “I’d love to, but I’m really involved with ______ right now.” The blank being, depending on the audience, either girl scouts, church, or irish dance.

    I’m also a big fan of taking the scut job nobody wants but has to be done. Like, I’ll do the dishes at the pot luck, but I don’t want to plan, decorate, invite, do entertainment, keep notes, take photos, etc. LEave me alone in the kitchen.

    Bridgetts last blog post..School Begins

  3. Meredith says:

    So far my burgeoning belly has forestalled any requests! But like you, I’ve noticed that the first grade is much more independent than K.

    I made a point of telling the teacher that I would be the easiest mom in the class this year. I can’t help in the room at all, due to the coming baby and the demands of my husband’s new job, but to send me home a note with anything she needs and I’ll send it in.

  4. Jennifer says:

    1) WTF? Is school some sort of cult?

    2) The timing of this post is excellent. The eldest starts next week and given that school is some sort of Kool Aid drinking cult, I must go in prepared.

    3) Jackie has some excellent ideas. I will begin rehearsal tout suite.

  5. Nancy says:

    In Mimi’s school, some of the most hovering helicopter moms have decided on their own not to assign pertinent tasks to us pesky working moms. So that’s sort of taken care of itself — sigh.

    Nancys last blog post..The "p" word(s)

  6. EG says:

    I don’t remember my mom EVER being in the classroom. Sure, once per year there’d be a field trip or in-school event that she’s volunteer for, but nothing regular.

    And I guess she managed the Sally Foster wrapping paper sale (the BEST wrapping paper) in middle school, but she wasn’t in the classroom.

    I guess times have changed.

    EGs last blog post..Hammer Time

  7. Amy(sunshinestreet) says:

    Sometimes us working moms are treated like we have 2 heads! Mind you, I don’t have the time to spend 6+ hours a day at the school after I get off work, but they could ask. I would simply use the baby as an excuse…isn’t that why we have children?

    Amy(sunshinestreet)s last blog post..Not me

  8. DBN says:

    I stay in contact with the teacher via email, I go to conferences, I go to APT. I volunteer for very little because I just don’t have the time. I do tell the teacher that I am happy to assist in any way that I can, but she has never taken me up on that.

    DBNs last blog post..Ahem.

  9. cara says:

    Oh, gosh… I wish I would have read these tips earlier! My son came home with a form asking for volunteers to help with various duties including making copies for teachers, organizing forms, putting together packets, and more. I practically checked them all, thinking I could do something every now and then. But now I’m hitting myself on the head! Doh!

  10. Amy says:

    We tried honesty this year (yeah I know – NUTSO). We told the strategic planning committee we were flat tapped out. When you start to resent your volunteer work, it’s time to take a break. They backed off quick. The main problem was that it was primarily my husband’s overloaded church volunteering that has caused us to feel burned out, not the school at all. But the school will suffer a bit because of it.

    But I will still be peddling cookie dough in another month. Some things can not be avoided.

    Amys last blog post..Wordless Wednesday – Rockies

  11. Trysha says:

    hahahaha!! My oldest just started kindergarten and I had my inaugural PTO meeting last week. I can really get behind the PTO and what they do and provide for the school and teachers. I offered to volunteer what time I can for now, but when the baby is born in November my time will be very limited to Caedon’s teacher.

    I was tempted to flash the devil horns/rocker sign at the mom who kept eyeballing my black nail polish. PTO moms come in all shapes and sizes and sometimes we leave our pearls, skulls and crossbones at home.

    Caedon did manage to sell $205 worth of pizza kits. You know the ones…..

    Linked from blissfully domestic living.

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