Sunday, December 9, 2012

Are you suffering from room mom burnout?

When I became a mom, one of the things I could not wait to do was be a room mom. My mom never was one. In fact, she really was never at my school at all when I was a kid. She was a stay-at-home mom while I was in elementary school, but she didn't drive and I never had the opportunity to have her there for a school bazaar or a field trip or a musical performance. I always wished she was. Was I trying to overcompensate for her absence? Definitely.

I wanted to be at school to watch the class have fun, I wanted to organize games, I wanted to bake cupcakes, I wanted to plan activities and crafts. As soon as he was in school, I was ready. In his first few years in school, the school he was attending was like most. There were a few volunteers who stepped up and became room moms year after year. Every year at that school, there was at least one other room mom, usually two, and we split duties. It worked well. You'd think there'd be clashes and a struggle of power, I guess. But, for the most part everyone worked together and no one person was overwhhelmed.

At the current school, there's one person who is a head room mom. It's a little more effort and work required when you're planning all by yourself, but there always seem to be a few parents who show up to help and there's always other parents willing to send in cups or plates or drinks. It's a team effort, it's just that one person has to coordinate it all. But there's lots of involvement from parents, which is awesome. This year, too, the PTA took on the burden of doling out some money for the parties, which is a huge relief. It erased the responsibility from the head room mom of trying to collect money from all the families and pulling out even more out of their own pockets when someone didn't send in the $3 they owed. That was a tremendous help.

My oldest is now out of high school and it was when he was in preschool that I started my room mom days, so I've been at it a good 15 years. Every year. That's a long time. Some years have been easier than others. There were some years I thought maybe I'd take a year off and give someone else a chance to be the classroom party planner, but then no one else was interested so I took it on. I've even had years of being a room mom in two, three or even four different classes. It still breaks my heart a little when I can't be at all the parties. And breaks my heart a little when I think I've planned out a fun time for the kids to hear a 3rd grader tell me the party "sucks" or is "boring."

Today I was thinking that I have to get going on the arrangements for the holiday party (somehow the term "Christmas Party" went away years ago.) After so many years of doing, it you'd think I'd be able to come up with it with my eyes closed. But I'm also realizing that you can only play "hot potato" or "guess how many candies are in the jar" so many times. I kind of feel like the kids get cheated as I repeat my old standby games year after year. Baked goods became prohibited last year, which really bummed me out. Baking cupcakes was probably my favorite part of the whole affair. And honestly, I'm not all that motivated to scan Pinterest for craft ideas that involve scissors and glue and glitter. And I'm head room mom for one child, but really would like to be in his brothers' classrooms this time around. Luckily, another mom offered her help manage the party and I'm going to take her up on it. I'm hoping she'll have some fresh ideas and be happy to hold down the fort for most of the afternoon, so that I can spend some time with another grade being the helper and not the planner.

Each time I think that maybe I'll hang up that room mom hat for good, I realize that there aren't too many more room mom years left for me. I really should enjoy it while it lasts. Next year one son moves on to junior high where room moms no longer exist. And one moves up to 5th grade and the youngest moves up to 3rd. That means only three more years and then there won't be any more opportunities to visit the class for a Halloween Party or a round of "hot potato." I have to shake off the room mom burnout and remember how lucky I am to be at this point in motherhood. If you're the point of burnout, but still wanting to be involved, don't be afraid to ask other moms for help. It makes a huge difference. And often there are plenty of parents who want to pitch in, but don't know how or simply aren't asked. And keep in mind that the parties are for the kids to celebrate. Sometimes they are just as happy snacking on a bag of popcorn and watching a cartoon as they would be making elaborate gingerbread houses, gluing rhinestones on a blingy ornament or noshing on crap out of an overflowing goody bag. It doesn't have to be excessive. It's not a competition. It's a couple hours sans math worksheets and spelling tests and that can be celebration enough. Also, this should be obvious, but sometimes I forget about asking the kids for input. It is their party and asking what they'd like to do makes sense. So, happy partying this year to all the kids and room moms out there.

1 comment:

Kristen @ Motherese said...

My oldest is in pre-K so I haven't even started my journey as a room mom. It does seem harder than it was back in the day, with expectations skyrocketing. I'm impressed that you've kept it up as long as you have!