Sometimes the phone rings at 5 a.m.. On occasion, it ring at 9 p.m.. Last week, it was both. Snow days. Monday and Wednesday. Like a kid, my heart leaps. "It's a snow day! Yay!" Like our children, we hit the snooze button and snuggle in as the white stuff dances and drifts outside the window, blanketing our world in breathtaking beauty.
As dawn breaks, our children bound into our bedroom, "Is it a snow day?!," they ask with excited anticipation. We nod groggily as they climb into our bed, one by one until all five of them and our large lab settle in. Plans unfold like dreams of sugarplums dancing through our heads; there will be snowmen and snow angels followed by hot chocolate and a movie by the fire. This day is a gift -- like Christmas, but better. A snow day brings the treasured gift of family time -- total togetherness. No school, no sports, no work. Just us and inches and inches of blissfully fluffy white stuff.
We start with a big breakfast followed by a bigger effort to get all five kids bundled for the elements. There's a Norman Rockwellian sense that all is right with the world as we gaze contentedly out the window at the freshly fallen snow and our happily frolicking, not yet frozen flock. We layer up and head out to join in the fun. We shovel the walk, dig out the car, throw a few snowballs, greet the neighbors and then, just before the igloo building begins, "Oh Sh*t! Look what time it is! I have a call in five minutes! Hon, you got this? I have to go in, I have a call for work!" Work! This is NOT a day off! What was I thinking?! And that's where the nightmare begins.
I dash through door, dumping snow gear in my wake as I race up the stairs, slam the bedroom door and try to regain by breath before dialing in to the conference line. I succeed. With a colleague and prospective client on the line, the transformation is complete; Snow Day Mommy is now Work Day Mommy and she means business.
As the call goes on, I hear the front door slam. A cry. A shout. More crying, more shouting. It's escalating; they're getting closer. I instinctively mute the phone, grateful I've just said my piece. As the door bursts open, I say a piece of different sort, "Go away! I'm on the phone! Can't you see I'm on the phone?! SHHHH. You need. To go. AWAY!!!!!!!!" And with that, Work Mommy slams the door on her red-faced children with tear-stained cheeks.
They are persistent. The door doesn't have a lock. The call is still on mute. I do my best to explain that "Mommy is working now; I'll be down to help you in a few minutes." But they can't resist. They need to tell me right NOW that someone got snow down his back, someone fell face-down in a drift, someone lost a glove, someone lost a shovel and someone just wants the hot chocolate we'd discussed in our earlier snow day reverie.
I've completely lost track of what's happening on the phone as one of the kids asks in a very loud whisper, "Mom, I thought you were talking on the phone. How are you talking to us too? Can't they hear you?!" I realize they are too young to understand what a mute button is and am grateful they can't tell that right now, in this moment, I wish each and every one of them had one!
They can no more understand the notion of a mute button then they can understand what happened to Snow Day Mommy. Where did she go? What happened to the smiling, fun-loving Mom that talked of watching movies and snuggling by the fire? Why was she replaced by this snarling, stressed-out Work Mommy? As I looked at their confused, hopeful faces, I realized my so-called snow day was over. I had to go to the office. I can't be Snow Day Mommy and Work Mommy. I just can't do it. It's too hard. It's easier to brave a foot of snow with a coating of ice than to stay and snarl and see their disappointment. Not to mention mine.
And that's when it struck me, there is no day when the struggle with the juggle is more profound than a snow day; working moms don't get snow days. But we can still dream of snow angels and hope that the next big snow happens on a Saturday...