Making the most of two-hour delays

I woke this morning to snow, and to a message that the local schools would be delayed for two hours. It is yet another reminder that school hours aren’t really airtight childcare. Fortunately, the roads weren’t that bad, so G could get here, and none of us had to be anywhere too early. I baked banana bread with my daughter and then recorded something while everyone was in the basement. It’s pretty hard to keep everyone quiet, so I’m reshuffling the day to do more of the recording once everyone is out.

In general, I like two-hour delays more than closing school. When school is canceled, the day must be made up, which adds an element of uncertainty to early summer and spring break. We wound up with two additional absences per kid last year because the first two days of spring break got taken away. Nonetheless, they aren’t exactly ideal for families with two working parents (or a single working parent!), particularly if people’s jobs involve going to an office.

If your school district has a lot of these two-hour delays, there are a few ways to cope with them. First, get really good at predicting the weather. When a snowstorm or ice storm is coming up, you can assume that a delay or cancelation is possible. In a 2-parent household, you might divvy up which parent is going to cover each winter event, either based on who’s got what going on, or taking turns. A neighborhood with a lot of school aged kids could organize a larger pool, with households taking turns. If you had three families taking weekly turns, you would only have four weeks “on” during the three months of winter. Splitting those weeks between two parents in a household would limit the fall out for any one person. (Though it doesn’t solve the winter illness problem…which is often stacked on top of the snow problem…and that’s when the absences start adding up.)

When the weather looks bad, you can also make a point of not scheduling anything that is absolutely critical before, say, 11 a.m. (or whenever you might make it to work with a 2-hour delay). If you do schedule things, you might make an option for video conferencing or converting the meeting to a call, and flag that this is a possibility. Not all work can be done this way, but some can.

If one parent covers the morning delay, you could have an agreement that this party can stay late at work that night to make up for whatever didn’t happen in the morning. If this isn’t an option, the party who went to work on time can cover the evening hours so the party who got delayed can work from home in the evening. Extremely flexible work could be shifted to the weekend while the other party covers.

Or it can be pro-actively shifted to the weekend before! I remember that the winter of 2014 was quite snowy. We had a lot of school cancelations and our nanny at the time was quite wary of driving on snowy roads (which I totally understand — I am too!). I wound up working a lot of Sundays while my husband took the kids so that I could get ahead of anything that might be due that week. It wasn’t perfect, but it kept things moving along.

How do you deal with two-hour delays? I know that this is another reason some families with school-aged kids wind up going the au pair route. Then the back-up care is already there!

5 thoughts on “Making the most of two-hour delays

  1. Thankfully the late openings have not been a problem for us as it’s always been fine for my husband to just arrive at work extra late and leave extra late. The real killers last winter were the multiple storms that rolled in late enough in the day that they could still have their regularly scheduled school day, but then closed all school buildings at dismissal, so the after-school program was closed. (And somehow this seemed to happen more frequently on early dismissal days, so a day we would normally have child care coverage until 6 pm when after-school closed instead meant having to meet a bus at 12:45.)
    Getting to know the other parents at our bus stop has been very helpful; we have one family that we regularly trade snow day/delay/stuck-in-traffic favors with and one other that we could call on in a pinch, though since they are unlikely to need us to reciprocate, I haven’t yet. Here’s hoping our daughters remain on friendly-enough terms for this to continue being feasible until they’re old enough to be home alone for a couple of hours!

    1. @Jennifer- yet another reason to get to know neighbors, and do favors for them when you can! That way it’s OK when you find out suddenly that your kids will be home on a bus at 12:45 and the two of you are an hour away.

  2. This is made so much more difficult when neither parent has flexibility in their work hours. My kids aren’t school aged yet, but I already have stress about what we will do when our youngest starts kindergarten in a year. We’ve got family that can help, but they’re an hour away which doesn’t lend itself to being a good option on snow days. Even though I love the patient care aspect of my job, it definitely makes scheduling more difficult in many ways.

    1. @Amy, YES! I am 100% clinical and paid based on volume. Add to that that I work in Manhattan, but live north where schools are much more likely to close AND that people often cancel in bad weather. It makes the calculus around closing the office tricky. Do we drag the staff in and have everyone sitting around or do we cancel.

      We have an au pair and as Laura points out above we have in home childcare. But there are other challenges around weather.

  3. This hasn’t been an issue for us recently, because we have an at-home parent, my employer’s pretty chill/flexible, and also, our kid has pretty much reached an age where he can be home independently for a bit — and we live within walking distance of school. And have extended family nearby. So.

    OTOH when he was younger, I was thrilled to realize that the nearby home-based daycares we’d chosen stayed open when everything else kid-related closed. Can’t claim to have planned cleverly for that; we chose the places we did for other reasons, but it was a nice perq all the same.

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