“Mama, will you zip me up?”
My daughter stood in front of me, clad in pink snow pants, a darker pink winter coat, pink and black snow boots, and her white ski helmet. She was dressing to go play in the snow and to sled down the hill in our backyard.
Home together on a snow day, I was on a conference call with my boss, so I did what any trying-to-hold-it-together working parent would do: I shushed her and tried to zip up her coat with one hand.
As you probably guessed, it didn’t work. After a minute or two of trying—during which my daughter kept talking about sledding, my boss kept talking about work, and I tried to listen to both of them while also getting that zipper to go up—I gave up any illusion that I had this under control.
“May I put you on hold for a moment?” I asked my boss. I put the phone down, zipped up the coat, fixed my daughter’s mittens, and sent her outside. I got back on the phone, returning to work. My boss understood, but I was a little mortified. No matter how much I talk about my kids (which is probably too much), I want to seen as a professional. Having a kid interrupt a work call destroys that perception I’ve tried very hard to cultivate.
That problem is why snow days are hard for working parents. They are probably hard for stay-at-home parents, too; after all, they, too, have things to get done. Yet for working parents, that call from the school department saying everything is closed tomorrow, be warm, and have fun (yes, the robocall I received last night about today’s school cancellation actually ended with “have fun”) immediately kicks into place a difficult juggling act.
Part flying by the seat of your pants, part “go outside and play,” part chaos, and part frustration, snow days are a mix of responsibility and extreme multitasking. They are not fun. Maybe they are for kids; then it is all about sledding, hot chocolate, and playing in the snow with friends.
Okay, I’ll admit it’s not 100% awful for parents: it’s a good feeling to hang out in yoga pants, a hot cup of tea in hand, watching the snow fall in the backyard. So peaceful. However, that peace lasts for about 15 minutes. Which is how long the kids can go without poking each other and spilling milk all over the kitchen floor.
Then I have to get on a conference call. And meet a deadline for work. And get a snack for my children who have forgotten where the snacks are kept. And clean up that spilled milk.
Since I am now on our fifth snow day in the past three weeks, I have been thinking about what causes me the most stress on these days. It isn’t the fact my kids will be in school until nearly the end of June (it will save me money in camp fees!). It isn’t the fact that there is SO MUCH snow (my husband loves to use the snow blower). No, the real challenge for me has been the conflicting responsibilities of work and family during snow days. It’s hard to be a work-from-home parent.
Snow days, for me, have become a conflict of mom versus working professional. I always want to do both well, and inevitably, on snow days, I’m not sure what I do well. Saying no to my kids (“No, I can’t play library right now, honey. I have to work.”), I’m good at that. Destroying any illusion that I’m a competent professional (by, for example, being on a call with a colleague while my daughter cries in the background and follows me around the house), I have that one covered.
My coping mechanism is to try really hard not to yell after being interrupted a ridiculous number of times by my children who seem to forget how to play kindly with another or who only want to talk with me when I am on the phone. And to accept, despite my best efforts, that I am going to be working after the kids go to bed. It’s also to remember that I am fortunate to work at a place that values my safety, offering the opportunity to work from home during the recent snowstorms instead of having to travel on uncertain roads and via an undependable transit system to get to the office.
So, as frustrating as another snow day is, my family is warm and safe, and we have enough milk, bread, peanut butter, and eggs (snow day staples). My husband is home today with me, so we’ll tag team the kids. We’ve coordinated our schedules to identify competing conference calls at 10 AM, so the kids will watch cartoons then, the only guarantee we have not to be interrupted by zippers, sibling rivalry, or requests for snacks.
Looking for ideas to survive yet another snow day? Check out my 8 Tips to Get Through Another Snow Day.
Thinking about locking yourself in your bedroom during today’s snow day? Listen to how one working mom did just that and other working parent snow day stories here.