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How to Handle Unexpected Days Off

Christine Pafumi
Jan. 29, 2013

One mom shares how to deal with a surprise snow or sick day as part of the Care.com Interview Series.

As a work-at-home mom, Janet knows all too well the complications that come with an unforeseen day off from school. We talked to the Izzy Mom blogger about how to survive a weekday at home with the kids while getting work done and keeping everyone happy. Her advice? Get the family baking, fire up the creative chore system, and keep a few "aces" up your sleeve to handle those unexpected days home.

Tell us about your family.

I'm a married, work-at-home-mom with two children. My daughter is 12 and my son is 7. My daughter is highly creative, very bright, overflowing with confidence, embraces any challenge and has a great sense of humor. My son, also very bright, is kind, sensitive, empathetic, playful and charms everyone he meets. Overall, they're both great kids. Annnnd I can feel your eyes rolling so let me clarify that they aren't PERFECT children-but they are really awesome :)

You see the school name appear on the closing list. How do your kids react? What's you and/or your spouse's response?

Living in Florida, we don't have snow days, but if we did, I confess that my response would probably be an audible groan.

If your kids had their way, what is their idea of the ideal snow day? How does this compare to yours?

If we had snow here, I'm sure my kids would want to be out in it sledding or having snowball fights or other things that I see kids on TV doing in the snow. And I can assure you that requests for hot chocolate with marshmallows would definitely be forthcoming because they ALWAYS want hot chocolate.


How do you manage your daily routine when the kids stay home?

I won't lie...I don't love it when one or both of my kids are unexpectedly out of school. I work at home, and having the kids at home will throw my entire day off unless I somehow make peace with them watching TV, playing video games or being on the computer from sun up to sun down. So...I let them do those things for a little while and then they have to transition to something that doesn't involve screens while I try to be productive. The truth is that about halfway through the day, I've given up on my own productivity as well as my anti-screens stance and we usually all end up on my bed watching a movie together.

Do you ever hire back up care?

I've never hired backup childcare but there were times when they were both little that I wish I'd thought to do that. Having an extra set of hands with a preschooler and an infant would have been money well spent.

Whether it's a snow day or just a cold winter weekend, what are some of your go-to activities?

When it's too cold to go outside, we like to bake. Sometimes it's cookies or brownies, sometimes it's a cake. We also like to curl up under blankets and read. They are old enough to read by themselves but they still love it when I read to them, and since I know that won't last forever, I'm happy to indulge them.

Do you consider putting kids to work shoveling or helping out around the house on unexpected days off child labor or unusual cruelty? Would they?

I don't think there's anything cruel about asking kids to pitch in around the house. I pay my children an allowance based on how much they help around the house. I know some people don't agree with that but I have this great chore system that involves mason jars and colored glass stones and it works really well for us.

The snow is building up outside, the roads are getting icy and you realize you forgot to go to the grocery store. How do you deal with a house full of hungry bellies with limited resources?

I usually start digging through the cabinets and pantry to see what I can put together. I've made some of my best, most creative meals that way. Of course, I've also made some real doozies, too, so the moral of the story for me is don't put off grocery shopping. Maybe 2013 will be the year I finally start following that sage advice.

Do you and your family have a favorite snow day meal?

When it's cold here, we like tomato soup and grilled cheese sandwiches or chili with loaded baked potatoes. It's not diet food, but when you're cold and stuck in the house, it's hard to care too much about fat grams.


What's your BEST tip for other parents on how to make the most of snow days with kids?

Keep a few aces up your sleeve. Depending on the age of your kids, maybe have some new DVDs, coloring books, puzzles, Legos or other toy surprises stashed away somewhere and don't bring them out until the bickering and/or complaining is about to drive you bonkers!

Janet is a professional graphic/web designer and writer behind the popular blog, Izzy Mom. She was named a top mom blogger by The Wall Street Journal and has been featured in publications such as Parent & Child, Fit Pregnancy and Birth of a Mother. She lives in Florida with her husband and two children. Find Janet on Twitter and Facebook.

For more helpful tips, check out the Care.com Interview Series: Cabin Fever: Surviving Snow Days/Sick Days with Your Kids

Photo used with permission from Janet.

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