Snow Days… and Working Parents

snow days and working parentsHere’s something we haven’t discussed: snow days… and working parents. In the midst of this week’s “bombcyclone” winter storm (hmm, how does that compare to “Snowmageddon” or “Snowpocalypse“?), we thought we’d share some tips on how to deal with a snow day as a working parent. All along the East Coast today, flights are being canceled, power outages are striking, and … schools are closing. Sure, it can be nice to spend a surprise day with your kids, but more often than not for working parents, that 5:00 a.m. school notification prompts more of a “Damn!” than a “Yay!” What about that important meeting or presentation or project (or all of the above) that was on your schedule? What about those errands you were going to run on your lunch break, gloriously sans kids?

Perhaps your nanny or other backup childcare strategy can make it to your house despite the snow, or maybe a grandparent can help out — or your partner can take one for the team. But when your nanny’s stuck at home because the plow company is nowhere to be found, or your mother-in-law doesn’t want to drive in a blizzard, or it was your spouse’s turn last time and now you’re up … what do you do?

Here are a few ways to (try to) be more productive when your kids are home unexpectedly — and to generally cope with a snow day as a working mom:

1. Make a plan with your partner about who will stay home for snow days — if you’ll take them all, or if they’ll take them all, or if you’ll alternate, or if you’ll just decide on the day. This issue is definitely better to discuss ahead of time rather than end up bickering about it at 6:00 a.m. and inadvertently launching a discussion on how the two of you should divide parenting duties.

2. Structure your day to conserve your energy and focus. Focus on your morning tasks first, and make sure to save enough energy to tackle work later on that has to be finished by the end of the day. Also, choose the time when screentime will be your savior — during your unavoidable conference call, for example (so that this doesn’t happen to you). If you can, schedule times to, say, play a board game with your kids or have hot chocolate together, and that way if they won’t leave you alone during your crunch time, you can remind them, “Don’t forget, we’re all going to play together in an hour — but I do need to work right now.”

3. Have some tricks up your sleeve. If you have avid readers, keep a couple of new books on hand that you can surprise them with and hopefully get rewarded with a peaceful half-hour or hour … or if you’re lucky and have an older kid, maybe even hours, plural. (Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, anyone?) If your kids aren’t old enough to read, or tend to prefer other activities, this is a great time for new coloring books or those 1,000-piece Lego sets (only if your kid is old enough to put them together all by herself; otherwise you’ll soon find yourself in a world of pain). Go wild and rent a not-included-with-Amazon-Prime movie (like Wall-E) for $3.99, download a new educational (or mindless!) app for your kid, or schedule a time for him to FaceTime with Gramma and Grandpa.

4. Don’t become a victim of Mom Guilt if you’re not exactly in your finest hour as a parent. Your kids may end up eating too much candy and not enough fruit; maybe your one-hour-a-day screentime rule gets obliterated. It’s often unavoidable when your kid has a snow day or a sick day. Rest assured that when you go back to work, you can compare notes with the other parents in the office: Maybe your kid watched three Disney movies in a row, but maybe someone else’s kid watched YouTube all day, so you can let yourself feel superior for a moment — just for a moment, until you remember that your daughter had Froot Loops and Oreos for lunch. (Mmm, anyone else suddenly craving high fructose corn syrup?)

5. If your kid is old enough for unsupervised time with a friend, set up a spontaneous playdate. It may not be safe to drive, but if your kid has neighborhood friends, they can walk right over and make a snowman or play inside. Or even better, send your kid to a neighbor-kid’s house instead (jackpot!).

Further Reading:

So, tell us, readers — what are your thoughts on snow days and working parents? What’s your backup plan when snow days or other surprise cancellations strike? Do you use any of the strategies above? How do you make sure your critical work gets done during the day? Do you end up trying to catch up after your kids go to bed? When you can, do you simply take a day off to spend with your kids? What time does the school decide whether or not the bad weather merits a snow day? And … are your kids’ schools closed tomorrow? 

Picture via Stencil.snow days and working parents

The snow day can be a total productivity killer for working parents! We rounded up some tips on how to deal -- particularly if your regularly scheduled childcare (or backup childcare) is interrupted by the weather also.


  1. EB0220 says:

    Step 1 – reschedule non-critical meetings Step 2 – Cluster critical meetings around naptime if possible Step 3 – If non-critical meetings cannot be moved to naptime, park the kids in front of the TV and use the mute button liberally. It’s not exactly fun but people are usually pretty understanding. My kids are 3 and 5 now, though, so they have the attention span for movies and can amuse themselves independently.

  2. avocado says:

    To add to #3: Color Wonder and Sticker Dolly Dressing for younger kids, Paint By Sticker and 1,000-dot dot-to-dot books for older kids.

  3. Days like these I’m so thrilled to have an au pair. I can pop downstairs for breaks, but the kids are happy and entertained.

    • Anonymous says:

      I’ve been toying with the idea of an au pair but wondering how it works with them for last-minute needs. I recognize they need time off and won’t be available last-minute always, but is it sort of understood that you can reach out to them for unexpected needs and that they’ll try to accommodate? I can see how this would work for a snow day with some advance notice but does it work for surprise snow days and/or sick kiddos?

    • anne-on says:

      +1 – Thank GOD for the au pair this week!.
      With last minute snow days/sick kid days one parent (usually me) stays home and is ‘on point’ with the au pair that day. I help give ideas for activities/dispense medicine/supervise meals/etc. We generally also let our au pair sleep in on those days (9am start vs. 6:30 start) and end early (also 6 vs 7/8) which helps with conserving hours/not going over the 10 hr/day limit.

  4. Ugh, this is us today. Completely unexpected in the DC area (hardly any snow, but it is cold) so I thought we’d just have a delay. Nope, everything is closed, except work. It was too late for me to arrange backup care (and no family in the area to help), so I am teleworking along with my husband and we’re trying to trade off working and childcare. It’s not easy with a baby and a toddler, and we both had a lot of work to get done today. Looks like tomorrow is even colder and so we’re arranging backup care in the case that school and daycares are closed again.

  5. Snow days and sick days are handled the same way for us. My husband and I each work a half day and care for our child the other half of the day. In addition, I nearly always work in the morning for a few hours before everyone gets up as part of my normal schedule so that I can work out and run errands later in the day before I pick our 2 year old daughter (only child) up from day care. Therefore, on snow and sick days, I’m usually only out a couple of hours. I could make them up in the evening but usually they’re just lost forever unless I’m behind. My husband usually gets in a couple hours of work after our daughter goes to bed on these days. Accordingly, he is also usually only out a few hours. We decide when the time comes which half day we’ll each work based on our commitments that particular day. We don’t have grandparents nearby, and this has worked really well for us. Of course , it is tough when our daughter is sick for a week, but it is better than one of us taking the whole week off.

  6. NewMomAnon says:

    I have this mythical dream that I would reach out to the other three sets of parents with similar-aged children in my building, and we would shuffle the kids between our apartments or take over the party room so some parents could work while others supervised. But honestly, I would probably just cobble together a combo of canceling things, screen time, play-dough, Legos, and handing off with kiddo’s dad so we could both get in a long half-day of work.

  7. Boston Legal Eagle says:

    We’re handling today’s snow day with husband taking a sick day and watching DS while I work in the bedroom (not as comfy as you might think). In the past, we’ve traded off watching our son while the other works, but it’s difficult to get a full day in, and the other parent usually ends up being distracted by the kid anyway. My husband has more time off than I do and fewer tight deadlines, so our plan for this winter season will probably be to follow today’s model. We’d like to have a second and I have no clue if this can be sustained with one parent watching two solo.

    I am all for all-day screen time and lots of snacks – our son just wants to run around and would be really bored being cooped up otherwise. I figure he doesn’t get all-day screen time at daycare usually, so this one day will average out. Also, thank goodness for long mid-day naps still!

  8. Meg Murry says:

    In the Midwest, my kids haven’t gone back from Winter Break yet due to cold weather cancelations all week. By the time Monday comes they will have been off for 23 straight days. Screen time rules have gone out the window – as long as they aren’t fighting I don’t really care how much tv they watch or how much Minecraft they play.

    23 days! Serenity now, serenity now.

    • mascot says:

      I feel ya- we’ve been out of school since December 16. Screen time rules are a thing of the past. Thanks to freak snow storm, we lost 3 days of school this week. So now we’ve missed school for a hurricane and a snow storm.

  9. Our standard (one-kid, tiny-apartment-life, relatively-flexible-jobs) setup is:
    I work in the morning till nap, husband works from nap till dinner, we have a work date after kid bedtime. (Most of my colleagues and contacts are in Europe so this works out best for us.) The working parent goes to the building’s basement lounge area to hang out with all the other working parents. The on-duty parent is free to organise playdates, go to the building’s playroom, spend 20 minutes getting toddler dressed for snow playtime only to have toddler complain that it’s too windy and demand to go back in, etc.

Speak Your Mind