Here’s a thought: When your school system runs in some substantial part on the free labor of parents (and let’s be real, it’s almost entirely the free labor of mothers), you have a big problem. (As an aside, does anyone else hate the term “frazzled moms”?).
It’s not the school system’s fault, of course — they’re sorely under-funded and need bodies in the room to help. But the bodies in the room are almost always women’s bodies. And dads don’t seem to feel the kind of guilt that women do for expending enormous amounts of unpaid time and labor. Volunteer work is really wonderful, but unfortunately in the school scenario, it patches up big gaps that need to be filled by other sources. It keeps the ship from sinking, but it also means no one is sounding the emergency alarm. And that all comes at the expense of women who often already have full or part-time jobs and who are sacrificing their personal time to do largely thankless free work that someone should really be getting paid for. It also comes at the expense of the women who truly don’t have time to do free labor in their kids’ schools, and then feel like bad parents.
None of which means that parents shouldn’t volunteer, or that volunteerism is bad (quite the opposite). But the pressure to volunteer — created by a tightly-squeezed school system — is shouldered almost entirely by women, and covers up bigger problems.