K: HELP. I got the robocall this morning that school is closed. You?
J: Same here. Remember when you'd have to listen to like morning FM radio to find out if your school was closed? And put up with lots of boring ads for mattress stores and traffic reports and Belinda Carlisle songs to find out if you had school or not? Robotexts are so much more efficient.
K: Heck yeah. Hey, um, I have too much work to do today for the kids to not be in school.
J: I have to entertain a 13-year-old and a 5-year-old. They can play Super Mario Kart 8 and watch Phineas and Ferb together, but that fragile peace isn't gonna hold all day. At some point they're gonna need food and/or attention.
K: I’d just let mine take of themselves, but that’s a dangerous scenario. The last time they made breakfast, they almost lit the kitchen on fire. But I can't not work today. I even have a video call, so I need to be showered and background-noise free.
J: Showering and a lack of background noise won't happen here. My 13-year-old will come in every six minutes to tell me about something he saw on Honest Trailers, something he read in a Charlie Brown book, to ask where the Pop-Tarts are. I mean, I feel terrible, because he's looking for attention, you know? It's not like they're fighting all the time, or he needs me to open food. He's just bored, and lonely, and 13 and WHOLLY UNABLE TO READ THE SIGN ON MY OFFICE THAT SAY I AM WORKING AND THIS OBJECT NEAR MY FACE IS A PHONE, THAT'S WHY I'M TALKING INTO IT, SO I'MMA NEED YOU TO NOT OPEN THE DOOR AND TELL ME WE NEED BACON.
Do signs work for you? Mine get good grades at school, but seem genetically unable to process the words "Do Not Disturb" Is there any way you can get out of work? Honestly, on days like this, I usually end up having to punt by 10AM.
K: Signs are just materials on which kids file formal complaints under my office door. And, nope. Deadlines. I need to distract my kids for the next six hours or so.
J: Three words: screens, screens, and Pop-Tarts, and then more screens. Four words. All our usual screen time rules are hoisted delightfully out the window on such days. Unfortunately, I can't be a good dad and get a day's work done at the same time. I think a lot of folks feel like they're obliged to do just that.
K: I feel no such obligation. Over summer break I had a set daily task list for my kids to keep them busy while I worked. I had binders with printable worksheets at grade-appropriate levels. Plus reading assignments and book reports, i.e. “bad mom.”
J: OK, so [makes notes] summer is not fun at your house, got it.
My approach to snow days is usually: 1. See if there's any remote chance I can call off my work day, because one way or another, once the robotext comes in I'm already screwed. 2. If I can't call off, get comfy next to an outlet, kids, and happy jamming your face into a device all day.
K: My son is happy to disappear with a device, but my daughter is more…adventurous. Oooooh here’s something my kids could do today while I worked: go in the snow! It would only take me a solid hour to find the gear and get them out the door into the yard.
J: Ah, but these things involve our participation. Do you think it's better to maybe not tell them we're busy? I mean, telling kids "I'm busy" is like sending up 200 flare guns saying, “COME TELL ME NOW ABOUT WHAT YOU THINK HAPPENS AFTER DEATH.” If you just put on a movie and quietly scuttle away, it's not Letting Mom Work, it's just watching a movie on a snow day, which is SUPER FUN.
K: I do have one trick. It is called The Doo-ti-doo." I'll be in the room with the kids and when I see they are settled and distracted, I casually slip out all DOO-TI-DOO and sneak to my office to get back to work.
J: Please tell me you actually say, “doo-ti-doo” when you leave.
K: In my head, of course.
J: Do you think that this is a problem with our parenting? That our kids can't exist for a few minutes without us? I mean, I don't remember hitting up my mom to play games or see stuff every few minutes. It would have interrupted her People's Court time.
K: Um. Maybe? I remember one summer day my mom just was so done with my brother and I so she locked us out of the house and yelled through the screen window to go play. That was it. We were about 7 and 9. We survived!
J: I should organize with a friend and do something like a You Take My Kids for the Morning and I Take Yours for the Afternoon sort of thing. And when a 5-year-old waddles in and climbs on my lap and snuggles on my shoulder it's not like I need to be all, “BEGONE CHILD, I TOLD YOU DADDY HAS A WEBINAR.”
K: I like the trading thing, but most of my friends have 4 kids and I am ill-equipped for being that outnumbered.
J: If there's an upside, it's that most of my interview subjects/employers/people I need to chat with during the day are unfailingly understanding about this sort of thing. "Hey, it's a snow day, apologies if I'm briefly distracted" is a pretty solid excuse.
K: True. So I guess I’ll just print out some worksheets and bribe my kids to leave me alone or else they’ll get more worksheets. Oh -- and keep an ear out for the smoke detector. What are you going to do?
J: [looks at watch] I’ll likely give up trying to focus on work in about 45 minutes, so let me go so I can make sure all the screens are charged.
K: Maybe we should plan better for next time?
J: You mean plan to charge the screens when I hear a storm's coming?