Snow in the weather forecast – particularly in Washington, DC, which gets crippled by a few flurries – makes work/family balance precarious in a way that I doubt employers, our government, or people without young children will ever comprehend.
The irony of my extremely flexible work-at-home family balance is that I am a workaholic who loves a strict schedule, deadlines, pressure cooker meetings and rigid plans. I don’t like fun. I like work.
Needless to say, I DREAD snow days. As a new mother, snow days, sick babysitters, and unexpected spousal absences drove me to pull out my hair in unsightly clumps.
My husband is laid back, easy going, with a fuse that rarely blows. By all accounts it would have been far wiser for me to pursue my workaholic ways and for him to be the work-at-home parent.
However, forces stronger than both of us interfered as soon as our first child was born. First – maternal instinct. Although my favorite place to spend weeknights is the office (you can get a lot of work done then), a biological magnet deep in my stomach compels me to be with my children no matter what the deadline or pressure or joy to be found at work. Second – my husband, like most men, earns more than I do.
A key component of happy parenthood – impossible to explain to parents-to-be – is how important surrender can be. Surrender to your kids. Surrender to chaos. Surrender to your husband’s paycheck. Surrender to life on life’s terms, not yours. (I hate this part of motherhood.)
Two weeks ago Tuesday, as the snow predictions rolled across the tv screen, my husband called from the train station to say he had to leave – a day early -- for a critical business meeting in New York City.
Our babysitter announced she was afraid to drive in snow -- she probably wouldn’t make it to our house.
The gym where our son’s basketball team practices closed; coach’s computer was down and someone had to get in touch with all the parents.
My kids wore their pajamas backwards – the latest superstition to bring on enough snow to close school.
And naturally, Mom (in this case, moi) glued all these broken pieces back together.
Sure enough, schools throughout metro DC were closed Wednesday due to a nasty mixture of snow, freezing rain, and ice-glazed streets and sidewalks. My three kids, our dog, and another family went sledding in a nearby park. I texted my husband in New York: “Sledding in Montrose Park!” Later I texted him: “Watching Almost Famous with the kids and drinking hot chocolate!”
I felt badly for him -- he would have cherished an unexpected snow day with the kids. Yet he’s never been home for a single snow day in 12 years. And, after a dozen years of rolling through unexpected snowstorms, unplanned career compromises, and unforeseen childcare changes, I’ve adapted to the daze of motherhood: I had a complete and utter blast.