Working mom snow day

snow day picnic

This is what happened a few weeks ago, during Nemo: Friday, snowday.  Monday, snowday.  Tuesday, conference day.  I work full time.  I do not have anywhere near full time childcare.  Put these things together and you create a difficult brew with the potential for raised voices, frustration, and hurt feelings.  I think of the witches at the start of MacBeth, even.

Because I had known all along we weren’t going to have school on Tuesday, I’d booked Monday solid.  From 8am to 4:30 I had phone calls in 30 minute increments.  Sunday evening, the phone rang and the school’s number came up on caller ID.  I picked up, my stomach sinking.  The familiar automated voice began … Another snow day.

As my friend Christine says, I love when I can be relaxed and roll with a snow day.  I love when – and this is sometimes true – I’m able to reschedule things and spend the day sledding, baking cookies, and just hanging out.  But at this particular moment, I couldn’t be that mother.  I was just grateful that my office is in my house, so I could at least be in the building with Grace and Whit.  I know a lot of people don’t have this luxury.

All morning long I ran back and forth between my office and the family room.  I set the kids up with a big game of War with my grandfather’s old orange and black cards before capitulating and letting them have their screens.  Whit played Minecraft and Grace played games with cartoon dogs on her itouch.  It was mostly calm.  But I could hear them talking when I was on my work calls, and could see my email piling up during the minutes I stayed with them.  The strands of my life, which mostly keep me steady, upright, pulled at me from all sides.

I had already packed lunch before the snow day call came, so we brought down a blanket, spread it out on the kitchen floor, and the kids had a picnic with their lunchboxes.  They were slow to eat, and finally I had to go upstairs for an interview on the phone, and Grace sat on the floor, arms crossed, crying, angry that I was abandoning them during lunch.  A few minutes into my call I heard their quiet footsteps on the hardwood floor outside my closed office door, and then the soft click of the family room door closing behind them.   Throughout that phone call I was distracted, heavy with sorrow, aware of all the things I am not doing well enough.

That night, as I tucked her in, Grace said her prayers as usual.  These prayers vary slightly day to day, thought they are always a simple list of thanks.  This is so without my ever having coached her; it’s just her instinct. The impulse to say thank you must run in our family.

That night, my day of imperfect juggling of their needs and those of work, Grace said, “Thank you for so much screen time.”  Oh, great.  But then she said, “Thank you for letting Mummy work from home.”  My eyes filled with tears.  And then she continued, “And thank you for getting to live in this awesome world,” and I felt a rush of something like gratitude, something like forgiveness, something like grace.

Few things reveal the cracks and crevasses in a life like a snow day when you’re a working parent (particularly the one who has primary responsibility for the children that day).  I’ve noted before that my family’s life spins fast, and that we all, and me especially, keep a lot of balls in the air.  Most of the time this works for us.  But on a snow day the tightrope that I walk every day feels tauter, less forgiving, and a fall seems more likely, more perilous.  I remind myself, always, firmly, that this is a conflict of privilege, that having both work and children I love is a tremendous blessing.  I think of my childless 26 year old self, boldly saying this to a roomful of much older women, all mothers.  What I’ve learned, though, is I can be aware of my good fortune and still exhausted by the demands it brings, still sliced – to ribbons! – by the sharp edges of my commitments, my promises, my loves.


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18 Comments

  1. Gloria
    Posted February 25, 2013 at 2:30 am | Permalink

    So this is what you were referring to when you wrote, “things have been a bit busy of late.” You are doing a great job. And have great kids. One day when everyone is in college (we hope) you and I will be at a yoga retreat in Mexico wishing for these days, no? I keep telling myself that!

    admin Reply:

    Yes, a little busy. 🙂 I look forward to that yoga retreat!!! xoxo

  2. Posted February 25, 2013 at 5:45 am | Permalink

    What a beautiful description of a trying day. I so hate that feeling of wondering if you are doing too much, leaving you not doing anything well. Clearly, Grace’s words let you know just how well you are doing it all.

    admin Reply:

    Ugh, I don’t know about doing it all, but I was very proud at that moment. xoxo

  3. Posted February 25, 2013 at 7:56 am | Permalink

    Lindsey, I work from home full-time as well, and I have a three-year-old and a full-time babysitter who watches him while I work. One of the funniest things I’ve ever heard was when I told someone when he was a baby that I work from home, and they said, “How nice! You don’t have to pay a babysitter!” I thought, WHAT? You can’t watch kids and work full time successfully. Someone is going to lose every time. And when our babysitter is sick, I have days like this too – luckily, my husband has his own business and works from home, so he is a big help.

    We were discussing the new Yahoo “no working from home” policy last night, and I was thankful that I don’t work for Yahoo. 🙂

    admin Reply:

    Oh, my word, YES. I remember people saying the same thing to me. And I would look at them, bewildered, and say, hello, I WORK from home!!! Full time work. I have been thinking about the Yahoo policy too. It makes me sad. My husband was home for a few months last winter as he changed jobs and I swear the first week he would just look at me at the end of the day and say, mouth agape, “My GOD. You do work. All the time.” I didn’t really feel like asking what he’d thought I’d been doing all these years, but still, I was glad to see that he got it. xoxo

  4. Posted February 25, 2013 at 8:21 am | Permalink

    Oh you described this day so perfectly. My work from home work as increased exponentially this year and I’ve yet to hire a sitter for my three year old or put her in preschool or daycare. I’ve reached my limit – I’m getting nothing done or she has too much screen time or I find myself yelling at her. It’s got to change and I admit I’m afraid to take that next step.

    xoxo

    admin Reply:

    Sounds like the right move – but I definitely know the ambivalence that goes into that decision. At least it’s there for me, as I grapple with whether to add more help and if so, how. xox

  5. Posted February 25, 2013 at 9:26 am | Permalink

    Snow days are particularly hard because there is a sort of implied celebration. My girls always have a non-specific anticipation of something great, which only ratchets up my desperation with the impossibility of everyone getting what they need.

    Stepping back, I think it really just amplifies the way we are always attempting (parent or otherwise) to spread ourselves evenly over something we can never truly hope to cover without a mess.

    Lovely end, because it is so true that even run ragged, we can still have gratitude and even peace. xo

    admin Reply:

    You are so right – I hadn’t thought that through explicitly before, but it’s true, there’s some celebratory sense that is hard to deal with when made frantic by the demands of work and life. xoxo

  6. Posted February 25, 2013 at 9:44 am | Permalink

    Lindsey, I love how you are always so quick to point out how lucky you are. It’s a rare gift. Because the pull of a job you love versus the pull of the children you love is not easy. It looks like you handled it brilliantly. You are such an exquisite writer!! XO

    admin Reply:

    Oh, Bethany – thank you so much for saying this! My awareness of my good fortune is pure instinct, but it’s so nice to hear it reflected back like this. xoxo

  7. Amy
    Posted February 25, 2013 at 10:08 am | Permalink

    Thanks again for putting words to my thoughts. Right there with you.

    admin Reply:

    Thank you – really appreciate your saying that.

  8. Posted February 25, 2013 at 10:33 am | Permalink

    This post–and the one you linked to about your 26 year old self–really hit hard for me. I used to say the same thing, when my kids were your age: My problems are because my life is so full of good things. And they were, but…

    Yes. At this point, I find myself in work that’s never truly fulfilled me, and past the point of really being able to reinvent myself. It was always important work (I’m an educator), and it always provided things my children need. Staying for 7 more years (at which point I can retire and pursue a second career) will provide my family with things we all need.

    If I had it all to do over again, I don’t think I’d make any choices differently. They were the best choices I could make for the circumstances I was in. And yet…

    I think I will always feel that I didn’t do as much/as well as I might have either personally or professionally. I would like to have done more as a mother. I would like to have done more in some kind of work that fed me emotionally/spiritually as well as financially. While I am coming to some peace with this and suspect that as I continue to age and my perspective on things shifts that my peace with it all will only increase, I wonder if I will always regret that I never got to see what I could do by giving something my all.

    admin Reply:

    I wonder that too, actually. I wrote an essay about my MBA experience in which I lamented the fact that I’d “leaned back” (to use Sheryl Sandberg’s image, which I think is apt) from the beginning, rather than really tried for a “big” career. There’s no question that this works for us (most of the time, as I mention :)) but I do sometimes wonder. I think what if is a human question though, and I suspect I’d be asking it whatever the road not taken was. xox

  9. Posted February 25, 2013 at 12:18 pm | Permalink

    I, too, have a foot in both worlds. I think the difference is that I don’t really want to. I do it because it helps us to have the extras. So I work part time from home, while the kids are at school. I do the work, get it over with, and appreciate that I even have this option when there are so many mothers that don’t.

    Yet, I ALWAYS feel more like a kaleidoscope than a laser…I have always felt that I can do many things relatively well, but I have not MASTERED anything…I am not an expert at anything and that bothers me intensely. But maybe the way you put it, the kaleidoscope, maybe that is a lovely way to look at it.

    For the record, I think you have done a good job…I think you’ve done the best job you could have done.

    admin Reply:

    Well, thank you … I imagine none of us think we are doing a good enough job, ever, so it’s nice to hear that. xox

  10. Jill
    Posted February 25, 2013 at 12:54 pm | Permalink

    “aware of my good fortune and still exhausted by the demands it brings” YES! This is so well put. You are so obviously aware of your privilege (and help me to notice it in my own life) of mothering alongside career, but that doesn’t make it easy in every moment. I crave reading about how other moms navigate all this. Not how-to details, but the emotional and thoughtful musings about the process. Helps me be gentler with myself during those very similar angry and crying moments when children push up against the demands of work.
    I recently wrote an essay for application to grad school about failure—which I summed up by sharing a snapshot of a crazy morning trying to get my kids to school, failing to model or display any moment of empathy or thoughtfulness as I steamrolled them out the door. I am always fullest in my throat with gratitude and love when my kids let me begin again after this kind of failure.
    Thank you so much for writing this and shedding light on all the intricate angles of this particular privilege.

    admin Reply:

    Thank YOU – it is immensely helpful and validating to know that others feel this same impossible push-pull of competing demands. xox

  11. Posted February 25, 2013 at 1:59 pm | Permalink

    Lindsey – So much of your writing deals with the abstract, the ethereal, the spiritual that I forget that your life is as vulnerable to the impositions of daily life as the rest of ours. Somehow it’s helpful to know that you face the same logistical challenges that all working mothers do. Not that I wish those challenges on anyone. It’s just relieving to know that even people who seem to float above the headaches of tactical hurdles must clear them too.

    admin Reply:

    Gale, I have to assure you that I float above NOTHING! I trip on the same hurdles, every day … maybe I should write about that more!! xoxo

  12. Posted February 25, 2013 at 3:19 pm | Permalink

    You can ABSOLUTELY be aware of how lucky you are and also feel how HARD it can be (I know I do/am). Love this post. I am so right there with you. xox

    admin Reply:

    Thank you, thank you!!! xoxo

  13. dana
    Posted February 25, 2013 at 5:57 pm | Permalink

    Kristin,

    I have been thinking about Yahoo’s Marissa Meyer and the impact it will have on the working from home sector. Thankfully, she is receiving negative reactions, which I hope other CEO’s will notice. I stepped out of a job I loved because I could not afford the 50k daycare fee combined with my 600 month commute fees. If I had the option to work from home it would have changed my work life significantly. Now, that daycare is no longer a major concern, I can’t find an employer to hire me and take my return seriously. Once again, those like Marissa Meyer who can afford great child care and make independent decisions about “where” they can work will always rise.

    Lindsey – Im so happy your husband got to see you spin for two months! that is terrific when they see for themselves, xx

    admin Reply:

    It is coincidence that this post went up right after her announcement (I write a week or two out) but the timing has me thinking about my life, and her mandate, an awful lot. I can’t help but find it depressing.

    And I hope he remembers what he saw!! 🙂 xoxo

  14. Posted February 25, 2013 at 8:56 pm | Permalink

    So beautiful. And important. Thanks for this, you.

    admin Reply:

    Thank you, dear one. xox

  15. Posted February 25, 2013 at 9:29 pm | Permalink

    Snow days can be fun. I live in the south, so when we have one, it’s party time! I don’t know how I’d fare up north. We’ve had two snow days so far this winter, both false alarms, which is even more frustrating, because then they’re upset that it didn’t snow!
    I work from home, as well, and so does my husband. I always feel guilty if I’m not quite done when everyone comes home and I try to steal more time. It never goes well. Funny, they never complain to dad, just me. Funny still, he never ever feels guilty! I think moms will struggle with this dilemma, no matter what the circumstance. So, don’t beat yourself up.

    admin Reply:

    Isn’t it interesting how they never complain about dad, only us? That is the same here!! xoxo

  16. Posted February 26, 2013 at 4:18 pm | Permalink

    I love how you are able to write so eloquently about things that just make me break down into incoherent sobbing! Everyday, I try to homeschool the girls in the morning and build a writing career in the afternoon. Honestly, I never feel like I’m doing anything particularly well. But, I love both halves, with all their juggling challenges. Maybe I am getting used to stumbling through the garden?

    admin Reply:

    Well, that’s where I am, stumbling in the garden too. Like you I’m unwilling to give up either half. xox

  17. Posted February 26, 2013 at 8:30 pm | Permalink

    I’ve always been a working mom, and learned quickly about the importance of boundaries. It’s hard, because as a teacher my work bleeds into the after school hours…and I do remember the panic of having a sick baby or toddler in the morning and wondering how in the world I could prepare for a sub-teachers just cannot call in sick. The good news is that we made it, and when they’re teens, it gets so much easier.

    admin Reply:

    I agree with you … have been thinking about a post regarding boundaries, and the different ways that working parents handle them. Interesting topic … xoxo

  18. Katy
    Posted February 27, 2013 at 5:23 pm | Permalink

    When I am doing well I find it amazing I am so lucky that I have two parts of my life to feels so passionate about~~then, usually later the SAME day I feel i likely failed in both areas grievously. This feeling cycles round and round and what I am realizing is that I never feel on top of things~~that is an illusion. But being in the middle of them can be rich and very messy.