Early Education     K-12    

School’s closed – now what?

Your plan when the kids are home and you have to work

Snow days – kids dream of them, wishing all night long that they’ll wake up to a magical winter wonderland. As parents, when we awake to a cold, blustery blizzard, a sense of panic may overwhelm us: School is closed, but I still have to work, so what do I do with the kids? For some parents, the answer is for one parent to just take the day off with the kids. But, for others, a babysitter or day care is the only option.

Samantha Waldman, mom of 17-month-old Bella, says this is her first winter trying to balance being a mom and working full time. “I checked with the day care center Bella goes to and they stay open unless there’s a snow emergency. If they ever did close, I guess I would call in sick.”

The Kingston mom is fortunate to have a back-up plan. “My husband and I would rotate on and off taking days off when there is bad weather. I don’t really have another choice because I’m new to the area and I don’t really know anyone who can babysit at a moment’s notice.”

Many moms are faced with the same dilemma as Waldman. Even if you do have a regular daycare system, when it comes to inclement weather you’re not given much notice to make arrangements. So what’s the solution?

READ MORE: Tips to avoid winter injuries

For starters, try to plan in advance as much as possible. If you work full time and use a day care center regularly, check with the center to find out what their protocol is for snow days. How often do they close, and for what kinds of conditions? How do they notify parents about a closing? Do they recommend a particular course of action?

“We hardly ever close,” says Kim Steuber, director of Rose Hill Manor Daycare in Beacon. “We would only shut down if you literally couldn’t move around the roads or in a state of emergency scenario.”

Steuber assures that the center stays open “99.9 percent of the time” because they understand that for many parents, daycare is the only option when they have to work full time.

“In the very rare cases that we do close, we notify the parents via our website or some local radio stations. We also tell parents ahead of time that’s where they can find the information. And I always advise parents to use their own discretion. If it’s that treacherous outside, it’s probably not a good idea to go anywhere.”

Have a snow day plan in place
In addition to talking to your childcare provider, set up a “snow plan” well in advance of bad weather.

If you have any babysitters you use on a regular basis who would be home when it snows or relatives that work at home or are stay-at home parents, talk to them well before the snow starts to fly and set up a contingency plan. Although they may not always be able to take care of your kids on snow days, having a plan in place will help reduce your stress when it comes to scrambling to make last-minute arrangements.

READ MORE: Best ways to prevent accidents on ice or snow

If you work full time and don’t feel comfortable leaving your child with a babysitter all day, or don’t know anyone in the area, discuss your situation with your employer well before winter strikes. Know what your company’s policy is regarding snow days and how lenient your boss will be when it comes to taking time off for inclement weather.

Waldman says her husband, a postal employee, can afford to take time off more easily than she can because he has sick time and vacation pay, while she doesn’t. Whatever the case, make sure you explain your childcare dilemma to your boss before the situation arises. He or she is more likely to understand your position if you’ve broached the topic before the actual day.

Gina Mullen, director of public relations at Northern Dutchess Hospital in Rhinebeck and a mom of one who works full time, says, “I am lucky in the sense that my daycare provider is home-based, so if I need to get in to work, the provider is still available. Of course, if I feel that it is not safe to drive or take my daughter out on the roads, my job lends itself to the option of working from home, which is very helpful.

“In general,” she adds, “It’s just one of the other many things working moms add into the balancing act of caring for our families and ourselves.”

Of course, if you do stay home with the kids on a snowy day, here are some fun ideas to keep you all entertained.

Coleen McDonald is a former intern at Hudson Valley Parent.