A mother’s harrowing tale
By Heather Laura Clarke
Sipping hot chocolate. Bundling up to go sledding. Carefully wording an email to your client.
Snow days might be fun for stay-at-home parents who delight in coming up with special activities or working parents who can take the day off and relax with their kids, but for those of us who work from home snow days are dark, dark days.
I’ve worked from home since my oldest was three months old, so nobody was more excited than me when our youngest was finally off to Primary. When those precious six hours of peace and quiet are threatened by a snowy forecast, it can get ugly.
From what foods to serve and how to keep the noise level reasonable to how you’re actually supposed to get any work done, let me walk you through navigating the seven stages of a work-at-home snow day.
“What?! It’s barely even snowing! This must be some kind of mistake! Maybe the website is messing up and it’s actually only cancelled in another school district that has nothing but dangerously winding, unpaved roads. Better refresh the browser again, and then check the Parent/Teacher Facebook group.”
Nope, it’s happening. Welcome to Snowmageddon, where the precipitation is made from parents’ crystallized tears.
School is definitely cancelled. That’s OK! You can do this! You can be a calm, productive professional and get your work done while simultaneously entertaining and feeding the hyperactive children who should be in school.
It’s just a matter of being organized. Try dividing the day into 30-minute blocks. Set your kids up with an episode or two of something on Netflix while you get a bit of work done, and then spend a 30-minute chunk of time making them lunch or doing a creative and/or educational activity together. Thirty more minutes of work, and then you’ll spend 30 minutes bundling everyone up for a refreshing romp in the fresh snow.
It’s just one day, after all. It will all work out!
It is not working out.
This is the part of the day when you humbly accept that if you’re attempting to work from home during a snow day, accept that you won’t get as much work done as you’d like. It’s simply not going to be possible unless your kids are old enough to be completely independent and/or everyone’s content to spend all day on the couch eating directly out of cereal boxes with glazed-over eyes shining with the reflections of their screens.
You carry your laptop from room to room and grab snatches of time to work. You start using too many exclamation points in your emails in an attempt to sound upbeat and professional, but you’re really just descending into despair.
Everyone is still in pyjamas, even the neighbourhood children who have invaded in loud, sticky clusters. At least one child is crying. Only orange foods are being consumed. There’s mysterious, crunchy dust all over the kitchen floor. Is it from cereal or Goldfish crackers? All that matters is that it’s all over the house and everyone’s socks are gummed up. Every surface is draped with dripping snow pants and soggy mittens.
You leave the dishes in the sink, grab your computer, hide in the bathroom and lock the door. The toilet is your office now.
You first experience the “time standing still” phenomenon
around 11 a.m., and it will return again at 12:30 p.m., 1 p.m.,
2 p.m., 3 p.m. The problem is not with the clock. It’s a space-time continuum issue.
The day will be longer than usual but the oddities won’t stop there. Your TV’s volume display clearly shows it’s on level 20 but it sounds like level 40. Any video game systems have the same issue. (Nintendo Switch models, in particular, have been proven to emit high-pitched jabbering noises exclusively on snow days).
Probably best to cut power to the home at this point. Flush every battery you can find. Godspeed.
Around mid-afternoon, you experience persistent troubling thoughts like “Wait, what if the weather doesn’t clear up/the power isn’t restored/the roads aren’t plowed by the morning?”
Back-to-back snow days are not an option. You’re already out of cereal and juice and noodles and the milk is getting low from serving up too many mugs of hot chocolate. The house is in shambles. Everyone is cranky. You swear you’ll plan more special, heartwarming activities for the next snow day, maybe cutting out sugar cookies or making collages of snowmen or something, but you need more time. You can’t handle another one right away!
Solace only comes after dark, once the children are in bed and you feel your blood pressure returning to normal. With a little luck, school will be back in session tomorrow and order will be restored.
You’ve survived another work-at-home snow day. It won’t be the last one, but maybe robotic babysitters will have significantly dropped in price by then? After all, it is 2020.
If not, you will stock up on Kraft Dinner and milk and get ready to do it all again. Maybe it’s time to invest in secretly finishing the attic or crawl space so you have a place to hide. It’s cheaper than moving to a snow-free climate.
Five creative ideas to keep the kids busy indoors on a snow day
Kids love taking a bath in the middle of the day, especially if there’s something fun and messy to do. Make your own bath paint by combining shampoo or body wash (1/4 cup) with cornstarch (1/4 cup), water (1–2 tbsp.) and a few drops of food colouring. Hand out paint brushes or just let the kids finger-paint the tub walls and each other.
Gather everyone around the kitchen table while you mix up a batch of salt dough (2 cups flour, 1 cup salt, 1 cup cold water) and pull out the cookie cutters. Kids can design their own decorations, sculptures or ornaments and then you can bake them (250°F for about two hours) so they last forever. You can even paint them once they’ve cooled.
Round up some rocks, paint them, and then hide them around your neighbourhood. There are so many Facebook groups devoted to finding and posting painted rocks, so be sure to label the back (“Please post on Halifax Rocks FB group”) and you might see it again once it’s been discovered.
Instead of making yet another batch of slime (ugh) whip up a batch of Magic Mud (sometimes called “Oobleck”). All you need is 3–4 parts cornstarch to one part water, and a few drops of food colouring to make it pretty. It’s fascinating to play with because it seems to alternate between a liquid and a solid depending on how you handle it.
SNOW ICE CREAM
Delight your kids by helping them make “snow ice cream.” Fill a big bowl with your ingredients (1 cup milk, cup white sugar, 1 tsp. vanilla extract, 1 pinch salt) and then mix in about eight cups of clean, fresh snow. Don’t forget