Here in Connecticut, we’ve been getting a lot of snow the past week. One storm brought 16 inches of snow, and there were a few others that dropped an inch and then another three inches. Any parent of school aged children knows what that means-no school and school delays.
In my town, for some reason snow days also bring out the sanctimommies. You might have the same type in your town – they’re the ones that admonish you for daring to be inconvenienced by a snow day. After all, they lecture, you should be happy your precious darlings aren’t going to school when it’s not safe. You should be enjoying the time home with your kids, baking cookies, making snowmen, and drinking cocoa. And by “you” they of course meant moms. After all, dads have to work, amIright?
You might think this is an exaggeration – but sadly it’s not. I belong to a Facebook page for my town, and when I logged in right before the big storm a sanctimommy had written a big post about how she didn’t want to see any complaining about the snow day. And she wrote all about we (we = moms) should all be enjoying the day with our precious darlings. We should be delighted, she admonished, to spend a snowy day having fun outside with our kids! After her post, plenty of other women joined in the comments to say the same thing.
Sorry, sanctimommies. Some of us have to work, regardless of whether our kids get a snow day. I’m not going to let you make me feel guilty for supporting my family.
Dealing With Snow Days as a Breadwinning Mom
I’m lucky to have a job where I can work remotely in the case of bad weather. I’m also old enough to remember the days before I had a laptop and token, and I had to go into the office or take a day off. So I appreciate still being able to work at home, even when it’s blizzarding outside. But I’m not the biggest fan of working remotely, and the reason is my kids.
Don’t get me wrong, I love my kids. And the plus to working remotely for a day is the lack of my one and a half hour round trip commute. But when I have seven plus hours of conference calls like I did on Thursday, I can’t work around the kids. We used to have an office that I worked out of, but now that office has been converted into a bedroom for the little guy. So I need to hole myself up in my bedroom in order to get anything done.
I’ve trained the older ones over the years what it means when mom works from home. It doesn’t mean you can come upstairs and hang out, or that you can run around screaming downstairs. It means that you need to leave mom alone unless she calls you. If you need to come in the bedroom for some reason, you need to be very, very quiet. Also if you’re coming in uninvited, it must be an emergency, so something better be on fire or someone better be bleeding. Your activities downstairs need to be at a low volume. No screaming, running around like a herd of dinosaurs, or playing your TV show at a high volume. When I’m working from home, I’m working, and I’m not available to chat or play. Now I just need to train the one year old on the same things, because he doesn’t quite get it yet.
On Thursday, both my older boys were off from school and I had to work from home. Of course this would be the day I had seven hours of meetings to call into. So I was holed up in the bedroom from eight until after five. And I know I’m fortunate that my husband, as a stay at home dad, is home and able to take care of the kids. Plenty of my coworkers were working from home, but not able to be as productive because both parents were working and they had young kids around (translation: someone’s not working).
Since I had so many meetings and so much to do, I couldn’t do all those things with the kids that those other moms were posting about online. Luckily, my older boys are 13 and 9, and old enough to keep themselves entertained. They spent a few hours outside in the snow, played video games, watched TV, and basically had an awesome snow day. And I had time after work to hang out with them, watch a movie, and make some cocoa for them.
They were also off on Friday, but guess who had to drive in to work anyway? This lady. I had an all-day training session, and the roads were bad but not impassible. So off to work I went, and had to drive for two hours (ugh) to get there. Monday again they were off, but I had to head into work for a full day of meetings after an 8 AM dentist appointment. Fortunately on that day the roads were OK and my commute took the usual 45 minutes instead of two hours.
Getting Honest About Snow Days
Lets be honest – snow days are a pain. As are snow delays, where the kids school is delayed by two hours or so. Many people have child care arrangements that depend on the kids being in school, and they may fall through on snow days and delay days. Those people end up having to work remotely or be late for work, and it’s not all magical and fun. Sure, we’re all glad our kids aren’t spun out in a ditch on a snow covered bus, and we wouldn’t want them to be driving out in a bad snowstorm. But that doesn’t mean that it’s not disruptive – and we’re allowed to not enjoy the disruption.
I know my family is unusual in that my husband is at home, so I can work uninterrupted. Many of my coworkers and other women out there aren’t as fortunate. If you’re a single parent or part of a two-earner couple, snow days can really wreak havoc on your schedule. My kids had three snow days in a row thanks to this latest storm. And although it’s fun for them, it’s not fun when you have to be at home and try to care for kids (especially when they’re young!) while you work. When they’re older it’s fine, they can entertain themselves, but little ones still need constant care.
There are also lots of people who have jobs that can’t be done remotely – nurses and doctors are two that come to mind. Or perhaps they’re self employed, and no work = no pay. Those those people have to either forgo a day (or three days!) at work, or rely on emergency back-up child care on the snow days. This is one of those things that can lead people to thinking that moms are generally less reliable at work. Sure, a single snow day here or there won’t wreck your career. But if it becomes a pattern, you’re seen as less reliable. People who don’t have kids shouldn’t need to pick up the slack for those of us that do – and we shouldn’t let down the people that are depending on us to do our jobs. And somehow, at least where I work, it always seems to be the women who are coming in late or working remotely with the young kids. On snow days I rarely see notes from men that they’re remote/coming in late due to the kids. It’s always from the moms.
So yes, snow days can be a pain. It’s part of the price you pay for living in a state that gets substantial snow in the winter. Having a snow day plan is a must, and extra child care can get pricey. But it’s worth putting a line item in the budget for it so you can still work when you need to. And if you’re part of a two-earner couple, try to make sure that the mom isn’t taking on all the burden of shifting a work schedule, while the dad is obliviously trotting into work on time every day. The more that dads also help out with snow days and school delays, the more it will be seen as a normal thing to do and not just something that makes moms unreliable at work.
Enjoying The Snow
So does this mean that the breadwinning mom can’t enjoy the snow with her kids? Of course not! The snow will still be there in the evening when you’re done with work, and the next day, and likely the weekend as well (or until spring if you live where I do). If you want to make cookies, bake bread, make snow crafts, or play in the snow with your kids – you’ll still have plenty of time to do it! Don’t let others make you feel like you’re a bad mother just because snow days are a pain to deal with, or because you have to work. Make a plan to deal with those snow days so when they happen you’re not caught off guard, and use your evenings/weekends to do fun snow-related activities guilt free.
Do you have snow days where you live? If so, how do you deal with them when you have young kids? Is your workplace like mine where it always seems to be the moms taking on the burden of shifting their schedules due to snow days? Let me know in the comments.
If you haven’t already, be sure to swing by my new one-stop shop page for Breadwinning moms, featuring all my prior articles and interviews (plus some updates on prior interviewees!).