Let’s be honest. Parents are some of the busiest people on Earth. And when you add in a leadership role on the PTO, it can be tough to juggle responsibilities at home and at the school. So how do you strike the right balance? Brenda Wood, a seasoned PTO expert, offers 5 simple secrets to creating a healthy balance between being a parent and a PTO leader.
1. Schedule and save
Leading the PTO requires a ton of planning and time-consuming work. One way to overcome this is by scheduling time for PTO-related work (just like you would for any other job). For example, I’ve set aside several hours each Tuesday for PTO meetings, projects, or just getting organized. Knowing this time is blocked out on my calendar allows me to be fully present in other areas of my life. And because I’m not worried about finding the time to get the work done, I’m far less likely to feel overwhelmed.
2. Next, flex
Whether it's a last-minute PTO project or a DIY project at home, we all know things don't always go as planned. Having flex time built into your schedule can help you catch up. Find some open time in the week and protect it like you would an important meeting. Personally, I’ve set aside Thursday afternoons as my flex time. The first three days of the week are typically jam-packed with meetings, work, and family time, and by Thursday afternoon, I start to feel behind. I use my scheduled flex time to catch up on what I can before heading into a busy weekend.
3. Be realistic and communicate expectations
When working with others on a PTO project or event, you should first consider your schedule and how much “PTO time” you have available. Here’s a tip: Be realistic. Don’t try to do it all. Then communicate openly and clearly to ensure everyone understands the expectations on timing.
I used to be the type of person who would drop everything to take on a project without first considering what other areas of my life might suffer because of it. Now, if someone asks me for help, I look at my schedule to make sure I have PTO time available before I respond. Most people are working to establish the same type of balance in their lives, so others will understand if you have to say no.
4. Don’t be afraid to ask for H-E-L-P
As a PTO leader, one of the most important parts of your job is building relationships with other parents. Many parents genuinely want to help out. Get to know the volunteers who sign up to help at events, and let them know how much you value them. Make note of parents who sign up regularly to volunteer, and ask if you can contact them directly with other volunteer needs.
At Oak Point, we’re fortunate to have an amazing group of parents who are happy to step in and help. If a PTO event conflicts with another area of my life or if we are short on volunteers, I call them directly and ask for help. Building relationships you can lean on is crucial in maintaining more balance in your life.
5. Focus on the family
As PTO leaders, we spend a lot of time at various PTO events throughout the year, and many of them occur outside of school hours. Getting your kids involved gives them a sense of pride and allows you to spend time working together as a family to help your school. Some of my kids’ favorite projects have been making posters for book fairs, greeting new students at open house, and helping with carnival set-up.
Brenda Wood lives in Eden Prairie, Minnesota, with her husband and two children. For the past three years, Brenda has served in a PTO leadership role at Oak Point Elementary.