We all have busy lives - it was very tough when I had one at secondary and one at primary and you are being torn in two directions - even now, with two in different years, there are events for both ages to balance, and our own lives too. I think if every parent helped out at one or two school events, the workload would be shared and every parent would have a better understanding about how hard won those fundraising pounds are - and would respect the extra curricular hours the staff put in more, too. And, they actually might enjoy meeting other parents and finding that these events can be quite fun too!
I do help out, a lot, and did in primary too...and one of the reasons is because so many other parents are reluctant to do it, but still expect the school to be first class (with a very small budget) and are happy to complain when it isn't. It's a nonsense that children of parents who help get preferential treatment - if there was even a sniff of that, the PTA's would be overrun with the pointy elbow brigade, let's be honest! I think people do use the "I don't have the time", when they mean "I don't want to do it" but if everyone did that, the school would not be the one that everyone wanted their child to be in. Frankly, I have a million and one other things I could be doing but feel an obligation to help as my children (and everyone else's) benefit from every minute I put into the school. I have had to put work contracts on the back burner several times - and know that the majority of the Committee I work with work full time and have to do all the preparation and planning in their breaks, as well as then coming in at the end of the day/weekends to run these events - some even have to take holiday days as events often have to be on a school day (rather than a weekend) otherwise people decide not to come as they have family commitments.
The distance thing is an interesting argument - we live about thirty minutes from the school so it is about an hour round trip - I've seen that used too - however, I see parents happy to bring their children into events after school, drop them off and then come back later to pick them up without blinking that they could have offered to stay and help.
It is frustrating to me as one who helps, but I accept that it is just different priorities. I have a whole lot less family time and my whole family has to come and help with a lot of my commitments - if other people offered, I would have more family time and they wouldn't have to help out at pretty much every event - but they are learning to be less selfish with their time, which is a good learning thing for them.
Saying that, I would encourage every parent to try and offer some time, even to the smallest event - you do really see a different side to the school and the staff there see a different side to you as a parent. Realistically everyone can spare one or two evenings and if not, when you attend an event, make the effort to ask people if you can pop on the bar for an hour or help clear up at the end - every little bit helps - and if it means someone who has been there all day setting up, could go home at the end of the event, then that is a real bonus!