If you are a separated or divorced parent in Massachusetts, you are likely dealing with some disruption today. I know this because today is Monday, and ends in a “y.” Of course as parents, disruption is the norm, and we can handle it! Parenting is certainly rewarding, but also presents challenges – especially during and after a divorce.
Combine the regular parenting and custody issues such as communications and coordinating transportation and swirl in a Hurricane/Nor’easter for even more excitement! The power just went off for the record. Seriously.
Sandy is wreaking havoc with power lines, tree branches, flooding and parenting plans. Many Massachusetts schools preemptively cancelled school on Sunday. The celebratory cheers of school-aged children could be heard throughout the Commonwealth.
But the cheers did not drown out the collective groaning of parents as they scrambled to get gas for the generator (if you have one), trimmed loose tree branches, secured loose objects in the yard (I found an arsenal of Nerf Guns ready to bean my neighbors if swirled up by the storm), stock up on non-perishable food items which, according to my kids, include Doritos, Cheetos (I didn’t fight them on this one) and Oreos.
To further complicate matters for Massachusetts divorced parents , there is the sticky question of:
Whose parenting time is it when there is an unexpected school cancellation?
This dilema may add an entire other layer to the phrase “state of emergency”!
Hopefully, your parenting plan addresses this question and you need to read no further. If it doesn’t, here are some suggestions to consider:
- If the kids are already with you, keep them at your house rather than trying to transport them in less than optimal driving conditions.
- If one parent has the ability to telecommute, that parent has the children stay with them. If the telecommuting parent will need to make up the time lost staying home with the children, the parent who did not have the kids on the “snow” or whatever day can help out by extending weekend or evening time to even out the schedule and assist the other parent by giving them catch-up time at work.
Of course, the above solutions require the parents to communicate with one another and help each other find solutions that work for the whole family. If this is difficult or impossible, I suggest consulting with your Boston area divorce lawyer, divorce mediator, and/or engaging a parenting coordinator to help come up with a framework for dealing with unexpected school cancellations. Every family undergoes their own challenges regarding snow (or hurricane) days. Having a plan in place ahead of time can go a long way towards reducing anxiety for you, your kids and their other parent.
In the meantime, your kids will celebrate their time off by staying in their pajamas, coming up with new and inventive ways to needle their siblings and frequently requesting hot chocolate to go with their Doritos, Cheetos and Oreos (OH MY!) while you juggle keeping up with work responsibilities and childcare.
Here are a few strategies to help you keep your sanity while trying to work from home:
- If your babysitter lives next door, lucky you! Remember those trustworthy high school students that live in your neighborhood also have the day off and may want to make some cash. They can help your kids make a snowman or woman, or a giant windsock, or sandbag the house, while you catch up with work.
- Offer to switch off with your children’s friends’ parents who may be in a similar bind. Hold up your end of the bargain though. You do not want to be the one
is always asking for the favor.
- Talk to your boss ahead of time about telecommuting on days when school is cancelled or delayed. Bear in mind that working from home presents its own set of challenges, like why there is an oreo smushed into your laptop.
- Be prepared to turn on the TV (if you have power) while you have that telephone conference. I know it’s not the best solution but, having a movie saved on the DVR could be the key to having uninterrupted work time. If you dont have power, try telling the kids that the TV is actually working, and it is a show about darkness.
- If your kids can read, post the “Rules of Interruption” on your office or workspace door. These rules may include no interrupting Mom or Dad when they are on the phone unless you or your sibling is bleeding. Just kidding—but you get the idea. Knock before entering your office or workspace and wait for the enter command is another good rule to post.
- Set a timer on the stove or microwave (if possible) for the kids to let them know when you will be off your conference call or ready to take a break from the computer.
I hate to be a spoilsport but Hurricane Sandy is only the beginning. The Farmer’s Almanac says it’s going to be a tough winter. Good luck, parents!
The Divorce Collaborative has offices in Bedford, Franklin, and Shrewsbury, MA. Please call us at (877) 842-1199 to schedule an appointment.
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