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!