Tuesday, November 1, 2011

The Perfect Storm

Working parenthood is a study in organization, back-up plans and dealing with whatever the day throws at you - it's a constantly shuffling house of cards, where the deck often seems stacked against you. This particular mix of challenges is perhaps best summed up in one of my favorite blog posts of all time, Domestic Enemies of the Working Mom - to which I will humbly add Major Holidays and Weather Events - the convergence of which this past weekend, created the perfect storm of working parenting challenges.

Being present for holidays and making them special is important to all parents and certainly so for working parents.  For kids of a certain age, Halloween is about as good as it gets and I was going to be damned if I missed it.  (Not all employers get this - my husband had a 5 PM meeting scheduled yesterday).  So as usual I put planning into (and pressure onto) Halloween again this year - I even negotiated working from home on October 31st into my latest assignment because trick or treating starts so early and I didn't want to miss it, or be rushed.

Then, as if costume shopping, pumpkin carving, candy buying and trick-or-treating were not enough for memory-making, our elementary school actually sent home a note saying that not only were parents invited to come see the parade at school at 12:30, but they were also encouraged to pick the kids up at 11:15, bring them home for lunch, put them in their costumes. I don't know what kind of denial this district is in about working parenthood, but despite thinking that it was an absolutely ridiculous suggestion, I completely fell for it and rearranged everything to bring my kids home for lunch, at which point I noticed a classroom was full of kids eating.  What a promising development to discover that the other parents are not only smarter but also more confident than I am when it comes to these things.

Really, though, it would have been manageable.  If it hadn't snowed.  A lot.  All weekend.  On all our beautiful, ancient, three-story-high sycamore trees in full leaf.

Because while holidays can be complicated for working parents, they can't hold a candle to weather events when it comes to making you scramble and improvise. So for me and all the moms I know in town, this is what this weekend looked like:

1. Snow, falling tree limbs and power lines coming down all day Saturday.
2. Kids desperate to play in the snow but unable to (see #1). 
3. Kids bored and destroying the interior of the house while mother nature does the same to the street.
4.  A crack, boom and then power failure followed by the room temperature dropping to 50 degrees.  Fresh regret for not buying a house with a fireplace.
5.  Eating dinner in the dark and piling the whole family in one bed.
6.  Waking up on Sunday to realize the whole east coast is buried in branches so you might not get power back for a while.
7. Attempting to run the week's worth of errands you were going to run on Saturday only to discover everything is shut. (See #6)
8. Discover that only one of your posse of friends still has power.
9.  Jump at the first offer of shelter, bring over all your halloween shit, the entire contents of your freezer, and air mattress and wine. 
10. Spend Monday navigating, in no particular order: no power for your laptop, no train service to Manhattan, a busses Standing Room Only, a car fire backing up the Lincoln tunnel, delayed opening or cancelled school (we had both), lunch at home with kids who are miserable in the cold house and would have rather stayed in school with their classmates, thank you very much, crossed signals with the nanny, the roads closed on both sides of the house due to live wires in the street, enduring a 2 hour indoor Halloween parade with 200 other parents although you are the only one who looks like you haven't showered since Friday and are wearing the wool sweater you slept in Saturday night, the sinking realization that this will be the state of things for the foreseeable future and then the two consecutive PA announcements that there will be another delayed opening on Tuesday and oh, Halloween has been postponed.

As you can see by points 1 - 10, yesterday I broke one of the cardinal rules of working parenthood: "Though shalt go with the Flow", also known as "God grant me the patience to accept the things I cannot change" or even, if you can swing it: "Who Cares?"  Yesterday, I felt sorry for myself.

But today is another day.  A cold, still powerless day, yes, but one where I have the presence to recognize those other things that come with perfect storms: rainbows, silver linings and moments of calm.  For me these would be: amazing friends who are enthusiastically hosting us without even a whisper of how long our stay might be, the world's most flexible babysitter who rocked up to cover this morning's delayed opening AND drive carpool for me, a husband who is sleeping alone in a freezing cold house just to keep an eye on things, and who drove me my work clothes this morning at 7:15, kids who are going with the flow and (more or less) behaving themselves while sleeping on an air mattress in an attic guestroom with me, and colleagues who couldn't care less that I didn't make it in yesterday.  Oh, and a seat on the train.

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