Help Your Au Pair Take Snow Days In Stride

by cv harquail on January 19, 2015

Few events clarify the gap between how working parents and their school age kids respond to changes than the announcement of a snow day.

When I was little, I thought snow days were magical.

Au Pairs enjoy their first snowfall au pair advice low cost childcareAn overwhelming amount of snow combined with a day off from school seemed like a gift from the heavens — to me.

Not so to my single working-outside-the-home mother.

She’d be left scrambling, looking for a high school student or neighbor able not only to keep an eye on me and my sisters, but also willing to deal with the snow pants, sleds, freezing fingers and clamor for hot cocoa that always, always goes along with a snow day.

Snow Days are magical moments for appreciating the flexibility of au pair childcare. 

With your au pair right there, no one needs to dig a tunnel through the drifts to your house so that your kids can be cared for while you look for your other snow boot and wonder how late the train will be.

Help Your Au Pair Make The Most of a Snowday

  • Gently ask your Au Pair to change her plans.
  • Re-jigger your carefully-composed au pair schedule to carve out hours from somewhere else in the week. Maybe you can give your au pair some different time off, that might feel like a treat.
  • Make sure you have a saucer or sled big enough for kids AND a grown up.
  • Tell your Au Pair where in the garage the sled might be found. It will not be where it’s supposed to be.
  • Buy your sled in August when Costco actually has them in stock. Don’t wait until the day it snows. (Please, please learn from my mistakes, people.)
  • Teach your au pair the 4 different ways to make hot cocoa (with swiss miss, cocoa powder, chocolate syrup or — in a pinch — your stash of emergency Dove bars.

Prepare your Au Pair for the CONCEPT of a Snow Day

It’s important (if you live in a ‘snow possible’ area) to tell your au pair about snow days and let him know that, should one occur, he might need to change his plans for that day.

[See: 10 Days of Work that Might Surprise Your Au Pair ]

Oh, and let your Au Pair know to plan  NOT to drive the car.

Snow days are also one of those events that can become a cultural exchange moment.

Culture is revealed often revealed by the exception, the rare day, when ‘normal’ breaks down.

Imagine all the different things you might tell  SwissAuPair, who asks:

 Why are so many schools closed when it is snowing? (I was an Aupair in places with permanent snow from october to april, no snow-days). I think it is for safety reasons, but why is snow in some states “safer” (no snow days) than in others (snow days because of a centimeter of snow)?

I would be so happy if someone could help me understand. I would by the way love snow days, so many funny things to do with HK!

How to explain this all?


See also: Do you let your Au Pair drive in the snow?
Celebrate Your Au Pair’s First Snowfall!



Multitasking Host Mom January 19, 2015 at 10:16 am

Nothing makes me appreciate the fact that we have au pairs more than when school is suddenly called off due to snow and all I have to do is tell the AP she will have the kids all day….as opposed to when I was the one calling every babysitter I knew begging for someone to watch my kids so I could go to work. (I work in a hospital so I have to be there.) We do put this in our handbook that this will happen, and since our kids are school age we almost always have the extra hours to cover the APs working more that week. Plus I agree that this is a fun time to play in the snow with the kids. We have had AP who never saw snow and were as excited as the kids to go sledding.
Now to answer the APs question. We lived in the south (where a dusting of snow shut down everything for a week) and the north (where there was six feet snow drifts and life went on as normal). Some of the difference is due to the ability of the city to remove snow and keep the roads from icing. Areas with snow not being common to not find it cost effective to keep the equipment and supplies on hand. Also some of it is what the area is use to…another cultural thing.

Host Mom in the City January 20, 2015 at 9:49 am

I get the impression that it has everything to do with the city’s ability to handle the snow. Do they have enough snowplows to clear the road, salt and such (and the trucks to spread it) to treat the roads beforehand, whatever it takes to de-ice all the school buses, shovel all the walks up to the public buildings, etc. It takes a pretty big infrastructure to have a city safe for work and school when it snows. Areas that don’t get frequent snow don’t have that infrastructure. Areas that are snow from October to March, of course, do.

Taking a Computer Lunch January 19, 2015 at 10:49 am

We happen to live in a city where the threat of snow is enough to close schools, which becomes laughable when we just have a day of rain – we call it snizzle – not quite snow, not quite drizzle. When we do have a significant amount of snow our city shuts completely down and nothing moves for days (we once returned home four days after a significant snow only to find two tire tracks leading into our street – after seeing one lane of a major highway still had not been plowed). While we don’t have the same sense of humor as New Yorkers, who start telling jokes soon after any event, we do give good humored names to major snow events.

Weather forecasting has improved enormously. When we know snow is coming, we immediately tell our AP that her shift will start an hour later – this will keep us within the 10-hour day should school be canceled (we have school-age children, so we also give her a heads-up that she may be spending the day at home with the kids). DH explicitly discusses the leftovers in the fridge and food and the pantry that may be consumed for lunch. We also go over the kids’ daytime schedules.

While we reset AP expectations for her day, DH and I reset ours. We may end up taking leave – DH to shovel the wheelchair ramp in the event there is school, me to come home early and keep the AP day within 10 hours. Meetings get canceled or rescheduled. We have learned in 14 1/2 years of hosting that we gain nothing by breaking the rules because it snows.

The neighborhood in which I live is on the edge of an international community in which the majority of inhabitants did not grow up driving in snow at all. I always warn my APs that while they may know how to drive in snow, they have to drive as if every other driver around them may not. Skype is a great way to stay in touch with local friends until the streets are plowed.

WarmStateMomma January 19, 2015 at 2:09 pm

SwissAP: in places where snow is not common, life tends to shut down for safety reasons. Most locals have little to no experience driving in the snow and the local govt has few or no resources dedicated to managing ice or snow. If the city has lots of overpasses or bridges, the ice can make things pretty dangerous. I have heard the terms “snow tires” and “chains” but they are not available in much of the US and many of us wouldn’t know what to do with them anyway. :). Sort of how the rare hurricanes to hit the northern part of the U.S. have a bigger effect than when they hit someplace like Florida.

SwissAupair January 23, 2015 at 2:16 am

We are not allowed to use snow tires on a regular base, because they kind of ruin the street. I think in some towns in the mountains with permanent snow people are allowed to have snowtires, but I would not know where exactly… And driving with snow-chains is also not really an option, since you can only go very slow. I can drive in the snow, but I never know if others can as well, so I prefer not to drive when I don’t really need to.

HRHM January 23, 2015 at 10:57 am

In the US snow tires are just regular tires with a deeper tread pattern and can be used year round although most people don’t because they are more expensive and you don’t want to wear them out using them in the non-snow times of the year.

The tires with metal on them are called “studded tires” or studs.

In Colorado you can use chains in the mountains as needed but they are a pain to put on and take off, slow you, and ruin your gas mileage. We go up every weekend and don’t own chains.

Seattle Mom January 19, 2015 at 2:31 pm

Look up the video “sliding cars in Seattle snow storm November 2010” on YouTube to see what happens on hilly city streets in the snow and ice with no plowing or salt. You have to wait until 1:40 to get to the good part, and definitely wait to see the bus.

I would post the link except I am on my phone and still haven’t figured out how to post links.

NoVA Twin Mom January 20, 2015 at 10:27 am

I’ll add a story about DC’s Commutageddon, which occurred a week after our first au pair arrived. Luckily it was my last week of maternity leave so I wasn’t trapped in it. For reference, a commute from DC to Sterling or Reston (mentioned in the article as taking 13 HOURS that day) would take – at the outside – about two hours on a bad day. Closer to 90 minutes normally.

Returning HM January 20, 2015 at 1:08 pm

We lived in DC back then and this storm was EXACTLY what made us return to the au pair program. That winter there were I think 11 days of school closings in Montgomery County. By the first of February of that year, we were searching for our new AP to arrive the following August.

NoVA Twin Mom January 20, 2015 at 11:08 am

I meant to add, that the reason that schools and the Federal Government close is to AVOID situations like Commutageddon. If we’re not all on the road at once when the weather gets bad, then things like this don’t happen. That particular day I believe they determined at about noon that the weather was going downhill and rather than staggering dismissal times sent everyone that normally leaves work over a three hour period home at once.

Ever since the “powers that be” have been more aware that not only do people have to get to work/school, they also have to be able to get home safely. :)

Seattle Mom January 20, 2015 at 6:01 pm

Here’s the youtube link:

Mimi January 19, 2015 at 9:05 pm

We have frequent snow and snow days here. When the schools close, my workplace usually does, too. In the rare case it doesn’t, we play it by ear. Most APs have been happy to go out with the kids or keep them occupied indoors. Our current AP had never seen snow before coming here and isn’t inclined to do this. She is also used to only taking care of HK #4 who is the most happy and mellow baby in the universe, so she was anxious when we had our first snow day last week and neither HD nor I could stay home for the day. It wasn’t a bad day…the boys only had a brief moment of cabin fever, but I came home to a wrecked house and wet soggy snow clothes everywhere. She was totally frazzled and ran for cover when HD got home. The boys helped clean when I got home and we chatted after dinner about the mess, etc., and we gave her tix for a sporting event we knew she would enjoy later that week as a consolation prize for the day.

Even though most of our APs have come from winter weather countries, we do not let them drive in the snow until we have evaluated their winter weather driving skills. HD or I will take them to a giant empty parking lot and blow donuts in the car until they demonstrate an ability to control the car and a lack of panic when it slides.

We live in a sparsely populated town with a large area and it is common for side roads like ours to not be plowed until a storm is well over. The town does this to save money. Schools and businesses will close when road conditions warrant it as a safety precaution due to the danger of driving on the narrow and winding local roads. We have had road fatalities during bad storms, so even the local university will close when it’s bad.

AlwaysHopeful HM January 20, 2015 at 11:38 am

For schools, another consideration is whether the sidewalks are too icy or temp is too cold for kids to walk to/stand at the bus stop. My son is in a private school that doesn’t have busses, so many times he will have to go to school on time while his neighborhood friends have the day off or a 2 hour delay.

SwissAupair January 23, 2015 at 2:08 am

Thank you for all of your answers :)

Host Mom in the City January 23, 2015 at 9:25 am

Thanks for the question :) It’s one all of my au pairs have had – why on earth are there so many school closings for not that much snow??? I think before they understood why, they thought it was just silly Americans. Now they understand the infrastructure needed to make a city safe for snow, and that many cities simply don’t have it.

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