“When I grow up, I want to be a mom. I want to carpool kids to soccer and make lunches and be THE Room Parent.”
This, seriously, was what I always wanted when I was growing up – especially the Room Parent part. How magical to be the crafty, cupcake making parent that helps with all the class parties and activities! I had visions of whipping up Martha Stewart worthy snacks and breezing into the classroom with them to lead papier-mâché craft time in my Donna Reed dress and perfectly coifed hair. Don’t laugh. This is my own Disney princess vision.
Fast forward 20 or so years, and my dream of being a stay at home mom came true when I was pregnant with my second child. Now, I carpool children and volunteer at school and have been a Room Parent (RP) every year for five and a half years. I LOVE IT!!! BUT … I get my snacks at Costco and Winn-Dixie, and the crafts come pre-packaged from Michael’s. I wear workout clothes ninety percent of the time and haven’t washed my hair in three days. Makeup is a luxury for the weekend.
And that’s ok. Today, I’m going with my co-RP to help children make costumes for their Mardi Gras parade. They don’t care what I’m wearing, and their teacher is really happy to have help with what otherwise would be a daunting task: 25 seven and eight year olds with wet paint in a confined environment. We’ll play music and try to keep the paint off of their clothes. Friday, we’ll have a class party after their school parade with store-bought king cakes. I’ll still be in these workout clothes. And again, the children will not care – they’ll rush in for hugs and hand holding and want me to see that they’ve lost a tooth, or broke an arm, or gotten new sneakers. It is really, really rewarding.
However, being a Room Parent isn’t for everyone. More often than not, you will hear that parents do NOT want this job. That’s understandable. There are definitely parts that are actual work.
As an RP, you get to do the fun stuff, but you also have to send out many, many communications to parents and recruit volunteers. Signup Genius and Volunteer Spot are great tools if you use them, but just because YOU use them doesn’t mean the emailed recipients will read them – or sign up to help or send food. A lot of the time, it is the same parents who are signing up to help over and over and over.
RPs are, more often than not, spending their own money to make sure that the children and teachers have what they need for events and crafts and sometimes classroom supplies. Those parents who are quick to volunteer are also the ones who are sending in extras to help out.
And it is to these parent volunteers who are always the ones to sign up, show up, donate time and baked goods and crafts, I say on behalf of all Room Parents:
“We salute you. Thank you for checking your emails and responding. Thank you for bringing in extra snacks in case someone forgets their snack day this week. Thank you for sending in additional shoe boxes for the craft. Because of you, all the kids got their own. You don’t know it, but you ARE an RP because you have made my day and the teacher’s day a little bit easier. You make being an RP fun because we will not have to worry about having supplies and food for the parties. Even though you are over-extended, you went the extra mile and participated in every event during teacher appreciation week and counted out 100 raisins for each of your children for the 100th Day of School Celebration as well as an extra 200 for kids who didn’t bring theirs. You didn’t sign up to volunteer – you just showed up early to setup and stayed late to clean up. Thank you. You are appreciated.”