Thursday, September 13, 2012

Guest Post - Donna White: Memoirs of a Committee Mum

Good news Ask Your Dad readers; I am currently typing this with two hands! That means I am back and posts written by yours truly will return soon! I just need to start writing - which I will tonight. I promise. I've got something fun in store for tomorrow! Until then, here's one more guest post from my friend across the pond, Donna White at Mummy Central, a parenting blog based in the UK. This post is part of a little "blog foreign exchange" we're doing, so stay tuned to her website where I will soon be representing the US! (I apologize in advance)

Also, if you have any questions about the British sounding terminology, feel free to ask Donna Directly through her twitter. She'll be happy to teach you the lingo!

Memoirs of a committee mum

She’s the one you avoid eye contact with at the school gates, always asking for raffle donations, tombola prizes, and – perish the thought – volunteers.

British parenting website Netmums categorised her a while back, flatteringly dubbing her “PTA busybody mum”.

*Stands up Spartacus style*

I am that busybody. Although in my case, I’ve only reached the dizzy heights of playgroup.
So if you don’t mind, I prefer committee mum. Both of my sons have been through our local playgroup, a registered charity which relies on fundraising.

So to give a little back (and I’ll admit, to exercise my brain cells) I’ve spent more than two years doing roles from chairperson to secretary, fundraiser and all-round general dogsbody.
The majority of committee mums I’ve worked with are likeminded, roll-your-sleeves-up-and-get-on-with-it women I’m incredibly thankful for.

But I’ve met a less than helpful bunch who enjoy the title – without doing any of the actual work. They merit their own special names. Let me introduce them. 

Ostrich mum

Definition: Buries her head in the sand while a hive of activity goes on around her. Misses meetings and claims she never got messages.

Most likely to say: “I didn’t realise there was a Spring Fair/cake sale/sponsored walk. Nobody told me.”
You nod and smile sweetly, thinking of the six weeks of emails, the posters everywhere and the texts you sent out, letting everyone know about the event and asking for parent helpers. Was she on Timbuktu?

Martyr mum

Definition: Takes on a few jobs, then gets stroppy if asked to do anything else. Meanwhile, the rest of us are doing twice as much.

Most likely to say: “I’ve done my bit. I’m not having this dumped on me.” You’ve only asked her to do one thing while you source raffle prizes, sell tickets, send thank you letters, put up posters and generally have a nervous breakdown. But she baked a few cupcakes two weeks ago and is obviously still suffering fatigue.

Faux dizzy mum

Definition: Quick to say what should be done - but ask her to do the simplest task, and she plays the dumb blonde.

Most likely to say: “I would…. but I’m so dizzy I’ll probably forget. Perhaps you should do it *giggles girlishly*”

She’s been asked to pick up a get well soon card for a sick member of staff – and suddenly you’re confronted with fits of giggles and girly twirling of hair. This is her way of saying you’ve got more chance of a date with George Clooney.

Expert delegating mum

Definition: Has a job to do, but passes it off to others in small tasks - so she hasn't done much herself.

Most likely to say: “Did anybody do (insert task here)?”
Everyone is too gobsmacked to point out this is actually part of her role.
When volunteers are needed for something else, she’s the first to bow out, claiming she already does her bit. You scratch your head, wondering what she actually does.

Extreme warning: Watch out for the hybrid between this lady and Martyr mum – I’ve met an expert delegating martyr, and she was unbearable.

“I would…. but I work” mum

Definition: Uses her job as an excuse, as if the rest of us are lazing around at home with nothing else to do.

Most likely to say: “We should be doing (insert task here). I would… but I work. I’m sure you ladies could oblige.”

She has no idea the phrase ‘working mum’ is redundant – because every mum works. Some of us just don’t get paid for it. Instead, she waltzes in occasionally with her powersuit and her mocha frappuccino, criticising the rest of us - who would gladly beat her to death with her iPhone.

Friends of mine have argued these women may not have started out this way.

By the time you’ve seen one child through playgroup, nursery and then school, you’ve been grabbed by so many committees, PTAs and parent councils that you’re totally burned out.
It’s hard to say no when you’re asked for help. But after a while, you get to feel you’ve earned an easier ride.

This cuts no ice with some committee stalwarts, who are fed up with mums joining up for the kudos – but not actually doing any work. Personally, I can see both sides. It’s a vicious circle. The mums who can’t be bothered to contribute make more work for the rest of us.

Meaning volunteer mums like me are wary about giving our time again. With my boys out of playgroup, and my eldest now in school, I’ve side-swerved the PTA… Because I’m considering becoming a bird-fancier.

The ostrich really is a beautiful creature.

Donna White is co-creator of Mummy Central ( and a work-at-home mum of two boys, aged three and six. She has been a journalist for almost 20 years, and at the height of her career flew into Afghanistan with Tony Blair. She now spends her days wiping snot and listening to The Wiggles!


  1. As I am starting my 7th year of PTO, I can relate to this blog 100%! I noticed I was nodding my head in agreement while reading it! :o)

  2. LOL! We moved around so much during Filly's early years I was never able to participate. That doesn't mean I didn't when I could. I just couldn't do a permanent volunteer position. Now, well, poor Filly is walking around her school, her face covered by her hands as her friend's ask, "Hey, didn't your Mom (insert activity here) and fall/trip/forget? She has the coolest southern accent!" Filly has asked me to stop for now. She is new to the school LOL!!

  3. A wonderful posting! I've seen all of these types, even in our little village. But I'm very glad we have those few volunteers who jump right in and make our projects and events successful. Thanks for your post.

  4. Thanks for letting me pop across and post on this blog - and cheers for the comments folks. I wrote this to vent my frustration after single-handedly organising a Spring Fair for my son's playgroup.
    I spent 8 weeks doing all the work, and the rest of the parents turned up for 2 hours on the day to run the stalls.
    Afterwards, when I asked one mum to do a small job for me (I was still delivering raffle prizes and doing lots of work to finish)she complained she'd done enough and wasn't being stuck with any more work.
    She is the combination of an expert delegator and martyr mum I referred to.
    I avoided speaking to her for a month - I was so raging mad.
    Blogging about it was therapy for me.