The Life Cycle of a PTO Mom

The Life Cycle of a PTO Mom

By Science of Parenthood

Elementary school is about as diverse an ecosystem as you’ll find this side of the Peruvian rainforest. At the tip top of the food chain: the PTO Mom. With her distinct markings — headband, pearls, Talbot’s sweater sets and, among some Northern breeds, the Hermes scarf, knotted just so — the PTO Mom is by far the bitchiest of the parent types you’ll encounter in the elementary school environment.

The PTO Mom — sometimes also called the “Monarch” for her haughty posture and queenly attitude — may initially appear approachable but caution is advised. Her perfunctory smile, revealing perfect rows of cosmetically enhanced teeth, is intended to confuse and disarm potential challengers. In actuality, the PTO Mom is highly territorial and does not invite overtures from newcomers, who may come with ideas that clash with her own vision for the school’s PTO. Quick to anger when she believes her authority is being questioned, or when delegated tasks are not completed according to her precise directions, the PTO Mom is known to bite the heads off anyone unfortunate enough to be within striking range.

PTO Mom goes through four distinct phases as she evolves into the undisputed arbiter of classroom crafts, snack items, themed parties, teacher gifts and “appropriate” activities for the annual school festival. Let’s explore the PTO Mom’s life cycle:

Stage 1: Little Princess

PTO Mom begins life as a Little Princess. Perpetually self-absorbed, the Little Princess has the boundless energy to outlast anyone not predisposed to doing things her way and the lung capacity to pierce eardrums with her shrill demands. As the Little Princess matures, we can see the defining characteristics of the PTO Mom — a supercilious attitude and the expectation that all whims will be indulged — start to emerge.

Stage 2: Corporate Go-Getter

At this stage, which is marked by a singular focus to climb as high as possible on the corporate ladder (while kicking out the rungs beneath her as she ascends), the PTO Mom’s keen understanding of organizational hierarchy evolves, and her expectation that she is there to plan and delegate and others are there to do her bidding (while she goes for a mani/pedi) develops fully.

Stage 3: Bridezilla

Once the Corporate Go-Getter is ready to reproduce, she morphs into the next stage, what entomologists call the larval or Bridezilla stage. This stage can last as long as it takes the “fucking dressmaker to get the goddamn dress fucking right. Who does fucking Vera Wang think she fucking is? And, by the way, who … the … FUCK … chose red roses for my fucking bouquet? How fucking cliche is that? I. Fucking. Hate. It!”

At the end of this stage, the Bridezilla encases herself in white cloth, often satin or tulle, to undergo her final transformation.

Stage 4: PTO Mom Emerges!

The PTO Mom (or Monarch) is now fully mature and ready to use her finely honed corporate management skills to dominate the PTO.

On occasion, a mature PTO Mom may need to challenge a previously established PTO Mom to determine who will achieve dominance over that particular territory. The new PTO Mom may also need to battle and defeat other up-and-comers vying for the same top spot. But once established at the top of the parent pecking order, the new PTO Mom will typically dominate her territory until her own offspring age out of elementary school.

Defeated Moms, not completely broken in battle, often seek out other territories to dominate, such as individual classrooms and the myriad extracurricular activities their offspring participate in.

A version of this post was first published on Science of Parenthood


About the Author

A longtime freelance writer, Norine Dworkin-McDaniel has written for just about every women’s magazine you can buy at the newsstand. Dworkin-McDaniel is co-creator of the blog Science of Parenthood and co-author of Science of Parenthood: Thoroughly Unscientific Explanations for Utterly Baffling Parenting Situations (She Writes Press), winner of the Independent Book Publishers Association’s 2016 Gold Benjamin Franklin Award for Parenting & Family and Foreword Reviews’ 2016 Silver IndieFab Award for Humor. She’s a contributor to several humor anthologies, including Have Milk, Will Travel: Adventures In Breastfeeding (Demeter Press). She lives in Orlando with her husband and son and three spoiled house cats. 

About the Illustrator

Jessica Ziegler is Science of Parenthood‘s co-creator, illustrator and contributing writer. Her writing and illustration have been published on The Huffington Post, and In 2015 she was named a Blogher Humor Voice of the Year. Her books include the highly acclaimed The Big Book of Parenting Tweets and The Bigger Book of Parenting Tweets and the upcoming Science Of Parenthood: Thoroughly Unscientific Explanations for Utterly Baffling Parenting Situations (Nov 2015) from She Writes Press.