Over the last few days, as the news that a winter storm (which I refuse to call by some silly name; really, has it come to that?) was bearing down on the Midwest and threatening to dump on Eastern states, my Facebook feed seemed to offer a 50-50 reaction.
“I hope there’s a snow day!” chirped the hopeful half, childlike in their enthusiasm. And “Ugh, there better not be a snow day,” grumbled the rest.
I know that a severe winter storm can cause a major disruptment to Real Life, and in some areas – particularly those unprepared to deal with it – it can even be dangerous. And I know that for a good chunk of moms and dads who are paid hourly or don’t have any workplace flexibility, snow days represent a serious work dilemma bordering on the disastrous.
And then there are the rest of us. Those for whom a snow day may require some shuffling and quick thinking, but isn’t – let’s admit it – an epic tragedy. Inconvenient? Yes. Stressful? Absolutely.
But also a potential gift, if we’re willing to accept it. The gift of a forced break and some downtime, the surprise of extra time with our kids and maybe – just maybe – a little extra sleep.
As the snow fell thicker and thicker last night, obscuring my view from the sofa to the house across the street, and the weather forecast crept up from a 1-3″ predicted snowfall to more like a possible 9″, I did the math. We’ve only had one snow day so far this year. Today was to be a half day. Winter’s almost over. Everything seemed to add up clearly to one potentiality: SNOW DAY.
And for a second, I was bummed out about it. After all, I had a lot on my plate today, just like a lot of working moms: deadlines, a conference call or two, an interview I’d hoped to squeeze in today. I’d have to reschedule it all.
But after a second or two, I relaxed into the idea. I let the kids stay up a little later than usual so we could watch Wreck It Ralph as a family. I kept my cell phone close to the bed so I’d be sure to get that early-morning call from the school district. And I went to bed, waiting for that call, as hopeful as a child, popping awake thirty minutes before the alarm went off and checking my voicemail. Bingo!
I couldn’t wait to tell the kids.
Residing almost my whole life in the Upper Midwest, I’ve lived through the challenge of digging out and getting somewhere after a big snowfall many, many times. I know it’s no picnic. And even when it’s nice out, there are plenty of days I’d much rather just bum around the house than go anywhere.
That’s why I love snow days. Everyone has an excuse to be a little lazy, stay in, cancel the meeting or the playdate. We hole up, bundle up, watch movies or make a big brunch.
Other than that, I didn’t get much done today. Deadlines? Not made. I did listen in on the conference call, but with five noisy kids in the background plus some of their friends from the neighborhood, I wasn’t exactly absorbing a ton of information. I’m still in my slippers and house sweater. Today’s productivity levels? Low.
But that’s OK. Snow days come but rarely, and the way I see it, maybe bad weather is nature’s way of forcing us to slow down and take a break.
I know I’m fortunate to have a flexible, work-at-home job. Not everyone has the luxury of blowing a day off when it snows.
But I also get the sense that there are a lot of parents with flexible work and understanding bosses who still feel panicky whenever they can’t clock a full day of work. Does the pressure always come from outside? Or, sometimes, do we create it for ourselves? Are we helping to create a world in which a couple of unexpected breaks in a 365-day period are unacceptable? And what does that mean for us?
My idea of a good life is one in which snow days happen. And we plunge right into them. A world in which it’s OK to take a break, even if it’s not always great for the bottom line or for achievement.
A world where we can feel free to celebrate with the kids because we remember what it felt like to wait, hovered over the radio or watching the morning news, and finally finding out that school is cancelled!
We get out of bed late. We wear our PJs later. After a while, yes, we get annoyed with our loud, energy-riddled kids, and kick them outside to shovel or just roll around in the snow. We greet them with cocoa when they get back.
We understand and accept that it is just one day, one day of many, many in a childhood; possibly as magical and rare and memorable as Christmas or a birthday. An opportunity.
We might have to work harder to catch up the next day, true. But snow days don’t have to derail us. They can even enrich us.
That’s the kind of world I want to live in. And by celebrating and accepting those breaks, and realizing that life is about more than test scores for our kids and career achievement for us, I hope it’s the kind of world we’re helping to create.