I was jolted awake at 6 a.m. Sunday morning by the shrill screams of my five-year-old daughter. She had woken up to an eerily dark room - the result of a power outage that left our house draped in darkness thanks to the city’s first big snowfall of the year.
As I calmed her, my other kids came bounding into the room, eager to express their excitement about the snow.
I wanted to share their enthusiasm, but the first thought that came to my mind was, “Please don’t be a snow day tomorrow. How am I going to work with all three of my kids at home?”
Because while it’s nice to have the flexibility of working from home on a full-time basis, it’s definitely difficult to get anything done when I’m trying to be productive while I’m surrounded by kids who are persistently pleading, “Do you want to build a snowman?”
The reality is, whether you work from home, or are an office-dwelling nine-to-fiver, working parents are thrust into a flurry of panic when snow days occur - and it’s not just because of the cancelled classes and risky road conditions.
Parents who work already find it difficult to juggle steady work hours with professional days, sick days, holidays, and mandatory appointments. Throw snow days into the mix, and it becomes nearly impossible to be a productive employee without feeling like you’re slighting your boss.
Working parents put a lot of pressure on themselves to overperform in the workplace, often as an attempt to keep up with the stamina and productivity of their childless peers. I can remember feeling slightly resentful towards my coworkers with kids before I had children, watching enviously as they rushed off when the clock struck five (or in some cases earlier) to pick up their kids.
I can also remember the unbearable guilt that struck when I received a call from school urging me to leave my office midday to pick up my sick child. The first thought that crossed my mind was how my coworkers would react to my even-earlier exit.
“Mom guilt” is a term that is often used to refer to the feelings of remorse when a parent focuses their time and attention to anything other than caring for their child, but what is less often talked about is the feelings of guilt that come from the other side of the equation. Parents can often feel guilty for focusing too much of their attention on their children, worrying that this will be misconstrued as a lack of motivation to thrive in their career.
There are easy solutions for last-minute snow days - working from home, calling on family members or neighbours to lend a helping hand, or even alternating play dates with fellow working parents to free up some time to focus. But what’s trickier to resolve are those feelings of inadequacy that come with juggling work life and family life, and the desire to find a balance between both worlds.
Coworkers may feel a bit resentful, and employers may feel frustrated with the added absence from the office that comes with last-minute school cancellations, but that’s life. As long as you’re doing your best to find a solution that works for both your family and your job, you’re doing the best that you can - and that’s what matters most.
Bianca Bujan is a mom of three, the editor of WestCoast Families magazine, and a freelance writer who shares about travel, family, and food in various major print and online publications. Find her on Twitter @biancabujan and Instagram @bitsofbee.