Squeezing in a micro-vacation during a work trip (plus sources for stories)

IMG_0087I’m writing this from Orlando where I went for an extremely quick speaking trip. I was in and out in one day. It makes for a long day, though not incredibly long. I left the house at 6:30 a.m. Wednesday with a return time of 11 p.m. I potentially could have done it even quicker, but some of that padding was to ensure I was not late for my one-hour talk. So I had time to walk around the Disney Boardwalk near the Dolphin hotel. It was not Florida’s finest weather — a bit drizzly, and maybe 65. But it was so nice to walk around outside and put my feet on the (fake lake) sand in January.

When I was booking the flight to Orlando, I realized that there were flights out of PHL and Trenton for less than $100. Maybe I’ll jet down some cold day! For, I don’t know, research?

Speaking of which, I have a few articles I’m working on for places that I’m looking for help with. One — inversely related to being in Florida in January — is about your snow day survival plan. The sudden cancellation (or 2-hour delay) of school can throw a real wrench into a working parent’s plans. So what’s your survival strategy? I admit that I don’t have a good one. Obviously, I can work from home anyway, but not well with kids underfoot.

And second, I’m writing about the schedules of parents who work and homeschool. I have heard from a surprising number of homeschooling parents that they found 168 Hours useful, possibly because fitting the pieces of work (even flexible work) and full time schooling together may require the creative use of all 168 hours! If you’d be willing to share how you make these two things fit together, I’d love to hear your story. As always, you can email me at lvanderkam at yahoo dot com, or post in the comments here.

19 thoughts on “Squeezing in a micro-vacation during a work trip (plus sources for stories)

  1. Probably my go-to strategies of “gnash teeth” and “fantasize about picketing the superintendent’s house with a sign that says ‘Again? Seriously?” would not be very useful for your article. Looking forward to seeing what you dig up.

    1. @Jamie – Yeah, some districts are a bit trigger happy about closing or delaying. Then again, I was once on a school bus as a kid that went into a ditch in the snow, so it’s not exactly safe sometimes to have everyone out on the roads…

  2. I keep a buffer of my yearly PTO allotment – 1-2 weeks – reserved solely for sick/snow days. If they get used up, well, that’s life; if they don’t, then I get a longer vacation at the end of the year. I work as best I can during naps/TV time (and after bedtime) but I don’t sweat it if I don’t get much done. Stressing about it just makes the situation worse. It helps substantially that my (male) boss is an equal caretaker of his two young children and equally likely to be doing the same thing as me.

  3. Please post about working and homeschooling! Very, very interested, and I must admit, that seems an impossible task! Would love to know how your readers accomplish this!

  4. My delay/cancellation strategy is the help the grandparents. They almost always volunteer to spend time with my son, which I realize is extremely lucky. On the rare occasions that the grandparents are unable to do so, I have taken my son to my office where he can quietly watch a movie on a laptop for an hour or two.

  5. Thankfully snow days are not completely unexpected, the way sick days are. We look at the weather obsessively, figure out which one of us has the most flexible day, try to move any appointments/meetings to a day that is definitely NOT going to snow, and make sure we bring home whatever we need to work if we are the ones “on” for that potential snow day. Then I do what I can when they are playing independently or having screen time, like Jenny said above, and try not to sweat it & enjoy some time with the kids. I’ll make it up in the evenings or next weekend.

    1. @Ana – I remember by the end of winter 2013-2014 I was looking at the forecast and trying to get all my work for the week done on Saturday and Sunday. It was that bad.

  6. We obviously don’t get many snow days here in Seattle, though *any* snow accumulation is likely to be a snow day here. But for unexpected kids off days (like sick days), hubby and I typically split the day based on meetings or major projects that have to get done. We are lucky to both work from home so there’s no missed out “face time”, but we coordinate schedules so we can both call into our scheduled meetings or work on our deadlines with minimal disruption. Screen time is super helpful, as is having both kids at home together – at 3 and 6 they are *excellent* at playing together unsupervised until someone gets hungry or tired and they begin lashing out at each other 😉

    Recently we made the decision to pull our 3yo out of preschool 2 days a week because she wasn’t napping there, and our work schedules/sanity cannot accommodate a half day schedule and the extra pickups involved given her sister goes to the same school full-day. Rather than trying to work and keep her entertained on those days, we both get up super early and get in some work before the girls are up, then hubby takes one morning and I take the other to hang out with her and do fun stuff. We can both work while she naps (2-2.5 hours, solid) and then we swap days for afternoon pick up/childcare and I typically will put in another hour or two in the evenings to catch up. Obvs this only works with a super flexible work environment, but not having to be in the office is really helpful here, as is the fact that I can really do at least 50% of my work anytime, without needing a ton of things from other people. We hope to keep this schedule until July and then try again with 5 day preschool in the fall.

  7. I’m lucky in that NYC rarely closes schools. But when they do, the scenrio boils down to:

    1. If our nanny can get to us (she’s 20 min away by public transport) then it’s game on. I either WFH if I can’t / don’t want to trek to Manhattan but have a relatively normal day or I go to the office.

    2. If our nanny can’t make it in then it’s a crap shoot. Some strategies:
    a. If my husband stays home too we switch off.
    b. Let the kids watch TV until their faces melt off. They don’t watch that much in “real” life so I consider this a reasonable tactic.
    c. Give it up to the universe and figure I’ll make up the time later.

    As my kids get older I could see myself offering them choices around figuring out there own fun or have some combination of chores/homework imposed on them. 😉

    BTW, the first answer is the best one is why I have kept on a full-time nanny despite the kids being in school “full-time.” It is my solution to sick days, random school days off (Chancellor’s Day — seriously?), parts of the summer, etc. The investment in stress reduction is so worth it.

    1. Oh, and one other thought: when I do give up to the universe and accept that work won’t happen, I try to embrace that and enjoy. One of the things I’ve valued most about your writing is home it has made me reframe situations. Sometimes stuff just happens and there is no “solution.” I can either spend the day not getting work done but having a ton of fun with my kids, or I can spend the day not getting work done and being miserable, stressed out and yelling at them for having the temerity to be home for they day. Since the work isn’t getting done either way, the first one seems like a better psychological deal, right?

      1. @Tami- I agree. Sometimes you have to give up on trying to get the work done and just accept the day for what it is. Usually it can be made up. Of course, family peace requires that these just-give-it-up days be somewhat reasonably split. If not, that’s a different issue.

  8. I’m an aspiring homeschool mom (my kids are 3.5 and almost 2), so i’d be very interested in reading about how homeschool moms (parents) “get it all done” I’m always surprised at the amount of popular bloggers that are also homeschoolers (to name a few- money saving mom, Hollywood homestead, stitched in color, wellness mama, etc). Sorry I can’t be more help since I dint homeschool yet 😉

    1. @Julie – the bloggers are one thing. I’m kind of most fascinated by the people who have *normal* jobs. There are 168 hours in a week, and in theory it should be possible to, say, work 35 and school for 25 and have plenty left over. Work and school happen at the same time for many people, but they certainly don’t have to. And while many people use school as childcare (to a degree), one could separate out those functions as well.

  9. Ha! Unlike your other commenter… I live in Buffalo. We have had lots of snow days. Luckily my clients are local and are flexible. (But nearly always the show must go on!). Typically I work from home and use lots and lots of TV. The plan is work on remote tasks in early am. Then break 9-10 ish. Works Calls until lunch, then spend lunch with the kids. Another work sprint 1-3 then another break with the kids. I generally also work on the dinning room Table if at all possible. (In the middle of our flat)

    This is also when I pull out the good bribery for perfect behavior. 😉

    My sister lives across the street so we trade off too – but 4 cannot be left alone for brief periods like 2 can.

    Last year (11+ snow days?) my kids were 4 and 8!

    1. @Devon – triaging the day is key. I make a plan for nap hours for anything that requires intense concentration. Big kids watch TV during that time. I think it’s also wise to take the kids out in the snow first. It tires them out and then they’re OK with watching videos while you work. And yes, a sister across the street is great. A snow day co-op would be an amazing thing to have.

  10. We are expecting baby #3 this summer, and the oldest starts public school in the fall – this will be the first time all our kids aren’t in the same place. Of course the preschool and public school have completely different professional days, spring break, etc. and don’t always have the same snow closings either. We’ve had a nanny in the past but when the roads are bad she couldn’t get to us.

    Our plan? We are hiring an au pair! She’ll care for the baby routinely, and be in charge of all three kids on the snow days and other random school closing. If it works, it should be a major load off my shoulders (and my husband’s.) Of course there is still plenty to worry about, so many things that can go wrong in an au pair situation. We’ll just have to see!

    1. @Tory – we’ve thought about trying the au pair solution in the future. I know a number of people have found it’s very helpful, particularly with shifting school schedules and days off and the like.

  11. A little late to the comment party, but I remembered this article and have tried to squeeze some fun into a two-day trip to LA that I’m wrapping up on tonight’s red eye back to DC. Dinner last night with a college friend, and post-meeting work today not in the hotel room (per usual) but literally ON THE BEACH in Santa Monica. My computer and binders may have some sand in the crevices, but boy was that soul-restoring!

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