My children haven’t attended a full week of school since the week of December 8, 2014.
Granted, the week of December 15th had nothing to do with winter and everything to do with The Sickness that caused 150 children to miss school in one day. Winter break fell the following two weeks. And since the week of January 6, we’ve had either a two-hour delay (I lost track of how many), a planned day off, or a Snow Day. Twelve of them, to be exact.
Twelve. 12. TWELVE. Snow Days.
Now, before you give me the “you’ll be in school until July” line, let me reassure you that’s not the case. The state of Ohio gives us five “calamity” days. Our school district then adopted a “Blizzard Bag” policy which basically gives us three more days with children doing make-up work at home. We’re now four days over those eight, but we also end school on May 22, so July isn’t really a possibility.
Additionally, we’re leaving on vacation whether school is still in session or not. So there.
I won’t speak as to whether I feel all canceled days were warranted or not. I will instead speak to how challenging these twelve snow days have been as a work-at-home mother.
In the summer, I plan our schedule quite carefully. I employ a babysitter once to twice per week to bridge the gap between my husband’s fire schedule and my heavy meeting days. I work from the park every now and then so they can play while I also get some fresh air. I work little trips and fun things in on slower work days.
In short: I plan.
The unknown of a Snow Day makes that planning nearly impossible. Why not just employ the babysitter on all Snow Days? Well, her family does their own impromptu Snow Day stuff like scheduling in an orthodontist appointment at the last minute so she wouldn’t miss school. It’s not always realistic to ask a teen to adhere to last minute plans—or fair. (I have hopes that someday, when my boys are teenagers, they’ll actually sleep in as you’re supposed to on Snow Days… and not wake up at 6:30 ready to GO.)
I really like to plan things, and not being able to plan makes me feel all kinds of stressed.
All that said, we’ve hit some sort of groove having had President’s Day on Monday and no school the whole week. It’s like an impromptu February break! That we’ll have to make up! As our boys don’t have access to technology Monday through Thusrday unless it’s a holiday or a Snow Day, I let them gorge on Monday. Come Tuesday, we changed it up and they only had access from noon to three o’clock. That worked well for all involved, especially as the bulk of my meetings fall during the 12-3 time frame.
During their non-tech time, they played with a ton of toys, drew all kinds of things, read all the books, practiced cursive writing and math facts, one kid took a practice test, built a fort, asked me eleven billion questions, brought me a cup of coffee, argued, cleaned their rooms, cleaned the bathroom, gathered laundry, argued a little more, told jokes, listened to the radio (music is not technology; music is life), dressed like ninja, puked, and generally enjoyed themselves. I answered those questions, made blueberry smoothies for snacks, helped with the laundry and the parts they can’t reach on the mirror in the bathroom, raised my voice but only truly yelled a few times, cleaned up puke, and laughed at jokes… all while working.
I’ve been doing this work-from-home thing since 2006. While it took me a few years to find my groove, especially because I added another child at one point, I mostly have it under control. I struggle during these Snow Day, but only with the uncertainty. In fact, my main problem isn’t getting my work done, but dealing with that nagging guilt feeling that I should spend more time with the boys since they’re home. I know they understand on some level, but I really like being with my kids. Being stuck in my office or even just half-paying attention at the dining room table with them feels like I’m cheating us both out of time together.
It takes a firm self-butt-kick to remember they’d normally be in school, that I am paying attention to them, and that my work still needs to get done before I remember everything will be fine. We’ve had a lot of fun, even when I’ve felt exasperated with the complete lack of planning and the constant togetherness.
Someday they’ll go to school for an entire week—all the days and all the hours (no two-hour-delay!)—and we’ll all feel both relieved and confused. Until then, I’ll keep taking breaks when I can to help them find ways to use their time at home, to steal a hug or kiss, or to have a cup of hot chocolate on a pretty darn cold day.
We will survive this never-ending Snow Day. Together.