Have you ever joined the PTFA? Do you know how to set boundaries? The two are entwined in my memory.

Joining the PTFA

Back when my son was small – just in pre-school, I decided to join the PTFA. I was working part-time and thought I could squeeze in this extra responsibility…..and surely that’s the right thing to do?

So I went along to the meeting. The ‘leader’ of the pack immediately took me under her wing and asked me to sit right next to her. It was very clear from the start that this was no democracy.

She asked for opinions, then gave reasons why they wouldn’t work. She patronisingly listened to me and another new mum, just because we were new. Some of the members catered to her every need (just like in the show Being Mum). I couldn’t really believe it! It was like stepping into some kind of sitcom!

Helping out

Anyway, I attended my first summer fayre and took along some biscuits I’d baked with my son – so they clearly looked like a child had made them (I thought this would be cute). I dropped them off at the biscuit and cake stall and then went looking for the ‘leader’ to see where she wanted me. She’d completely forgotten I exist and told me to help anyone that needs it. So off I went offering my help, feeling forgotten. Nobody needed my help, so I went back to my son and hubby and we went to buy some bisuits…..ours were at the back of the table – with the lid still on! Clearly not good enough to sell. Of course I asked what was in the tin and my son was excited that ours were there, so we bought some…..

The next time I was heavily pregnant with my daughter. It was the Christmas fayre. I was put on drinks duty in the kitchen, but there were clearly too many of us – it got to the stage where we were almost competing for customers! Then my huge belly knocked the jug over – all over the floor! I couldn’t bend down easily to clean it up, so others offered and the ‘leader’ looked down her nose at me.

My third experience was to help out with school photos. A few of the mums suggested ways to make it easier and flow better. The ‘leader’ told everyone to shut up and said ‘I’m in charge here and you’ll do what I say!’ Queue me sneaking away quietly…

I didn’t speak up. I didn’t know how to set boundaries – or even that I deserved to! After that, I decided to leave the PTFA. It wasn’t long before it fell apart. I avoided the ‘leader’ as much as I could in the playground.

There goes my dignity

Then when my daughter was born, I decided it was a lovely summer’s day and I just had enough time to change her nappy and I’d manage to walk to the school. So I grabbed a fresh nappy, went to change her and couldn’t find where I’d put it. Oh well, get another one….

I was thoroughly enjoying the summer walk with my baby, listening to the birds as I headed towards the school gates. But who should appear at the gates at the exact same time as me? The ‘leader’. She had a huge smile on her face and said it was lovely to see me!

Then she proceeded to reach behind my back and pull from my cardigan the clean nappy that had been hanging there the whole walk…..she said ‘oh, did you lose something?’ Yes, my dignity. Of all the people, in all the places…..

Looking back I see that I didn’t really join for the right reasons (doing ‘the done thing’ is not a reason). I also didn’t know how to say NO or set boundaries. I should have taken that discomfort from the first meeting and NEVER RETURNED. It took three experiences for me to see what a bully culture this was – even though before each event I would dread it and after each event I would replay it all in my mind.

How to set boundaries

Now I’ve learned more about myself. I know what makes me feel uncomfortable and I choose to limit those activities! I regularly evaluate how I feel. If something doesn’t sit right with me, I think about what I’d do differently. Setting boundaries means not jumping to say yes straight away. Tell people you need to think about it first – see if it fits in with your plans. It also means using your voice and not being afraid to speak up. When we set boundaries we show people that we respect our time and they should too. ‘No’ really is a complete sentence.

Do you have any juicy PTFA stories? Have you struggled to set boundaries? Consider getting a life coach to help you.