I’ve been thinking about snow days a lot recently. Of course, we have all had plenty of time to think about them because we have had so many of them.
Through the magic of Facebook, I am blessed to have a good number of “friends.” Some are more familiar to me than others and, together, they comprise a unique social group, with diverse backgrounds, experiences, opinions, interests and perspectives. This is easily seen in the thoughts and photos they share. So understandably, my FB friends have different reactions to our extreme winter and the impact it has had on their schedules, their lives and the school calendar for their children.
From recent posts and shared photos, I have a pretty good idea of which of my FB friends love the cold winter weather, can explain the aerodynamics of sledding, appreciate the art and engineering of building snow people and consider the unexpected time off to be Mother Nature’s gift to be used for rest, relaxation and an extra pot of coffee. I also could make a list of those friends who are simply “over it all” and barely hanging on for spring.
Among my friends there is one group that has been mostly silent, in some cases because they don’t want to be a “Debbie Downer” to those who love the snow and in other cases because they don’t want to call attention to their different perspective. It is for this group that I wish to speak, sharing the challenges of frequent snow days and their impact. Consider the following:
- For low-wage and part-time workers, snow days mean lost pay. No work equals no pay. Even if they can get to work, fewer customers often leads to a shortened workday and less pay.
- For working single parents, snow days are a scheduling nightmare. The coordination of daycare schedules, emergency childcare for school-age children and their own work schedules requires flexibility, creativity and the patience of a saint.
- For disadvantaged families with limited resources, there is less sledding, rarely a yard for building snow people and often insufficient heavy-duty winter clothing – coats, gloves, hats and scarves – to make time outside seem tolerable, let alone enjoyable.
- Most people understand the transportation challenges of snow and ice. Now consider that your car is barely running in moderate temperatures. The battery is old; the tires have bald spots; and, there are no seat warmers or window defrosters to make travel more comfortable. Of course, there is also no garage for your car so any travel means 20 minutes of scraping windows before you can begin.
- Finally, imagine that you are a child of a single-parent with low-wage employment and dependent upon the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, but still often referred to as food stamps). For this child, every snow day not only means lost instructional time and less time with friends but it also means missing two hot meals from the free and reduced price breakfast and lunch program. For these children, snow days mean being hungry.
So, when I post that I am “done with the snow and ice,” it isn’t just because I long to wear my sassy heels instead of snow boots. I want our families to get back to the normalcy of work, school and regular meals. I want our children to get back to learning, socializing with their friends and starting each day with a hearty breakfast followed by a hot lunch.
More snow is predicted in the coming weeks. If you are of the mind to, please enjoy all of the things you love about extra time off, sledding and playing in the snow. But please do so knowing that socioeconomics impact the snow-day experience. At Family Scholar House, our families are working diligently to break the cycle of poverty through education. On snow days, they are just hanging on.