There was a time when a snow day would bring the world to a stop. Schools would close and unless your job was deemed essential, you too would be given the day off to do as you would see fit. Days would be spent as a family, either out frolicking in the snow or relaxing inside with a good book, old movie and a beverage of your choice. Quality time with loved ones would be the default.
Instead upon our most recent snow storm, I noticed that I had zoom calls lined up like planes on a runway – as did my wife. Intermittently we would take some time to check in or hang out with our children. A walk in the snow. A quick snowball fight. Make lunch. Plan on watching a movie – that inevitably kept getting pushed back by yet another call or work need. Rather than embracing the freedom that comes with a snow day, the constraints of our jobs made us feel even more squeezed. Choking out much of the joy that the simple utterance, let alone actual experience, that snow days used to bring.
It was the most stark reminder of how the lines of our many roles have become blurred.
While exacerbated by the pandemic, it is a trend, largely brought on by access to technology, that has been a long time coming.
Previously I prided myself on my ability to compartmentalize different parts of my life. Until this past year, my children rarely saw me work. When I was in their presence, I was present. I felt more comfortable taking time for myself, to give myself the occasional needed break. Either meeting with friends for coffee, getting a little exercise, or just spending some time clearing my head.
Those days are long gone. Now each day can have the feeling of an unending game of whack a mole. And while sometimes exhilarating and enjoyable, it is exhausting and ultimately unsustainable.
Throughout a child’s life, depending upon where they live, they might at most have thirty snow days. That’s 30 out of a potential 2,160 days of school.
To not indulge them and ourselves by taking a break is to ignore nature’s nudge to find more balance in our lives.
Winter and spring breaks are around the corner. Once again our options for how to spend our time will be constrained by risk and health. Most will opt to stay put. The default way to spend that time will be to work while finding ways to keep our children occupied long enough for us to “get our work done.” Never realizing that our work is never really done and will always be there waiting for us – whether we give ourselves a break or not.
Cliches are cliches because they convey truths. Life is too short. We need a break. So let it snow, let it snow, let it snow.