07/09/2012 04:36 EDT | Updated 09/08/2012 05:12 EDT

Back to school means volunteering for parents, and volunteering means - EEK! - the PTA

NEW YORK, N.Y. - You know what's way easier than hardcore PTA service at your child's school? Finding ways to dodge it, guilt-free.

We all want to help out, but not everybody is emotionally sturdy enough or dripping with free time for the really, really BIG jobs. If you're happy to leave those to more able and willing moms, try one of these five ways to still make yourself useful.

CLEAN-UP CREW: You don't play nicely with the alpha crowd and you're not especially fond of kids, generally speaking. You'd rather have a spinal tap than help out at PTA-run events. The glue, the face paint, the chaos! Cleaners get to pop in as everybody's leaving. It's dirty but important work. They don't want to do it. You do. Done.

BAKING FOR BAKE SALES: Selling baked goods is thankless work. Just try keeping all those filthy little fingers out of the food. Then there's the relentless $20s that need breaking for purchases of $1.25. Bake instead in the comfort of your own kitchen, or pull the working mom trick of offering distressed store-bought treats. Either way, you'll avoid the crowds and the stress.

SEND THE HUSBAND: He can heave-ho heavy boxes of musty old party decorations and spring fair booth pieces stored in the school basement. He can build haunted houses, de-stack and set up large tables and talk smack with the rental guys who brought the wrong inflatables.

COMMITTEE WORK: For every PTA job, there's a committee. For every committee, there's usually a mom burning to lead. For the rest of us, committee hiding is the way to go. Chances are your, er, reticence is showing and your fearless committee chair will give you a teeny job like making copies or fetching the box of coffee from Starbucks. Go for it.

WRITE A FAT CHECK: Not everyone can, obviously, but the more zeros on a check, the less guilt you'll feel skipping out of front-line service. How about volunteering to move the PTA fundraising ticker in the school hall? The one that's supposed to move closer to your school's dollar goal as the checks roll in.