It's snow time for much of the country. I see it in the national news forecasts. I can feel its arrival in the chill of the morning air. I love snow, but, as a working mom, boy do I dread those snow days.
Snow days used to leave me scrambling to find child care because even if the kids were off, my boss still expected me to show up for work.
So I've learned to prepare for those snowbound days by lining up child care options in advance.
Here are five ideas on where to find child care and avoid the last-minute scramble when you get the news that your kids won't have school today after all:
Use your “village."
Create a “village” of a few families and create a rotating schedule during which just one parent stays home and watches all of the kids.
This works because rather than taking off three or four snow days each season, you'll only have to take off one (hopefully!).
Pro tip: Create the schedule NOW and stick to it. Don't get to everyone before the snow season is over? Start where you left off next year. Also, remember to let your "village" know if you have a vacation or business trip scheduled so if there’s a conflict the next person on the list is the "winner" that day.
Rotate with your spouse.
One partner shouldn't be expected to shoulder all of the burden of unexpected time off work. Rotate time off on snow days (and sick days!) to avoid conflict.
Pro tip: This won't work for everyone. In my house, for instance, my husband doesn’t get paid time off. I do, so I will often take on the responsibilities of snow and sick days.
Rely on grandparents and other family members.
Most grandparents love getting the call about an unexpected day with their grandchildren. My dad, for instance, is retired and home all day. He loves the extra time with the kids on snow days. Make note of other family members who live in the area with flexible schedules.
Pro tip: They're family, but you should still make sure to ask ahead of time if you can give them a call if needed. Doing so goes a long way to avoiding conflict and hurt feelings.
Ask your neighbors.
Do you have a neighbor who you trust and is home during the day? Work out a trade: Offer to have the kids shovel in exchange for keeping an eye on them during the day. Or bring them dinner as a thank you if they refuse payment.
Pro-tip: If your kids are old enough to stay home alone, ask your neighbor to be available by phone or to drop in a few times during the day to make sure they're doing OK.
Look for drop-in programs.
Research in advance what organizations in your town offer drop-in programs. A good place to start: the local YMCA. Check now so you're not scrambling to make calls the day of a big snowfall.
Pro-tip: Another reason to plan ahead: some programs will require a deposit in advance to hold a spot for you.
No matter what option works best for your family, make sure your kids are prepared for a day off school! If sending them to someone else's home, don't forget snow gear, food for lunch and snacks, electronics (and chargers!), and a nice gift for the caregiver. Some ideas: a bottle of wine (for after the kids are gone!), cookies, a promise of a manicure, or takeout.
Good luck this winter! We will all get through it if we work together.
Heather Gould is the publisher of Marlborough, Mass. Macaroni Kid.