Being a Parent Volunteer in High School is Exhausting

When my son was in kindergarten, I couldn’t wait to attend my first PTA meeting. I carefully added the date to my calendar, arranged for a sitter and even put on a little makeup for the first meeting. I was excited to volunteer at my son’s school and to meet other moms since I was new to the area.

As I walked into the meeting, I smiled at a woman as I signed in and looked for a place to sit.

She smiled smugly, “You’re new here, aren’t you?”

When I enthusiastically said yes, she laughed and said, “Trust me, you won’t be very excited to be here in a few years. Volunteering is hell.”

That was my first inkling that my life was about to become a whole lot busier.

And, ten years later, with my son in high school and my daughter in middle school, I’ve become the “just you wait” mom at PTA meetings.

Because I’m exhausted.

Working as a parent volunteer in high school is exhausting

If you think designing crafts for kindergarteners and arranging school carnivals is time consuming, managing teenagers and the demands of not only their extracurricular lives but also their challenging course loads is next level insanity.

I was not prepared for how much time I actually spend in the car these days. I also have a perpetual “WTF” face at meetings when I hear how much volunteering parents are expected to put forth to support their kids’ teams and activities.

Recently, I was talking to a friend about our high school track team’s parent volunteer requirement. She told me that each family was expected to host the track team for a pasta dinner before a track meet at least once. The coach likes to get the team together for team building and camaraderie, she told me.

There are 50 kids on the team.

That’s 36 pounds of pasta.

And a whole lot of uneaten salad.

When I stared at her incredulously, she shrugged her shoulders and told me that’s just how the team rolls. She further informed me that one family even rented a tent for their hosting round. And the event was catered. And a DJ.

Let me get this straight: my kid wants to run competitively and now I have to open up an Italian restaurant with six kinds of pasta so that the coach can feel like his team has bonded before they run?

I don’t even know where I’d put 50 kids in my house but since my daughter is on the middle school track team, I’ve already started to convince my husband that we should put that addition on our house sooner than later. I’m kidding, mostly, but I’d like to have a stern talking to with the mom who set this whole tradition in motion.

Was there no one available to say, “Hey, let’s just have a huddle, some inspirational words and a high five” instead before a meet? We really have to do 36 pounds of pasta and provide 14 loaves of buttered garlic bread weekly?

I have a full time job. And a husband I’d like to stay married to and another kid to manage. High school volunteering is putting a serious damper on my ability to manage my life.

I don’t know about you but I’m sure as hell not looking forward to buttering fourteen loaves of bread so I can make a show of doing my part for the team.

It’s almost as if kids hit the doors of high school and coaches, teachers, and activity instructors smirk and say, “Hold my beer,” while smirking at your unsuspecting innocence during Back To School night.

When your kids hit high school, everything is ratcheted up, from homework to practice schedules.

Because it seems that kids can’t simply join the band. No, they now have to sign their lives away for 25 hours a week of marching practice. Competitions, football games, hours long practices multiple times a week are the norm for a kid who just wants to play the flute on a football field.

And some exhausted parent is behind the wheel, driving their exhausted teen back and forth to school so they can jump on a bus that will take them to band competitions, parades and football games that are hours away.

Kids today don’t just walk onto high school sports teams. There are tryouts and conditioning camps and meetings. Parents are expected to volunteer at snack shacks and on the sidelines not to mention alienate their friends by begging for fundraising support. I’m sorry, Donna, I just defrosted the apple strudel I bought from your kid on the football team last year. Oh, I’m not buying another one because I’m too busy raising money for my kid’s cross country team’s epic trip to Disney World.

Fundraising. Car washes. Pancake breakfasts. Learning how to use hot dog rollers. Hours of driving to practices and sitting in planning meetings for over the top events for our overstressed, exhausted kids. My family has consumed countless meals on the go because with two teens in the house, someone has a game or a meeting or an audition somewhere at all times. In fact, I’m probably supposed to be at a booster club meeting as we speak.

High school makes me long for the days when my kids would hop off the bus and hand me a folder containing one worksheet of math homework. I miss the days of peewee soccer when we’d gather once a week on a Saturday morning to watch our kids pick flowers while she manned the goal post. I miss the days when preschool was over by 12p and we had the afternoon to hang out at the park with friends.

And I really miss naptime.

If I had known how busy our lives would be at the stage of the game, I’d have skipped that first PTA meeting in favor of sitting on my patio with a glass of wine in peace and quiet. With a slice of apple strudel that I bought from the kid next door, of course.


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About Christine Burke

Christine Burke is the owner of the popular parenting blog, Keeper of The Fruit Loops. Her work has been featured on the Today Show, The Girlfriend, Scary Mommy, and other parenting websites. She writes about the realities of soon sending her not-so-little -anymore kids off to college and prays she doesn’t use too many comma splices in the process.

Read more posts by Christine

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