When I was a San Francisco mommy, I complained bitterly if rain kept me and my 1-year-old off the playground for an entire week straight. I was shocked when Chicago friends visited with a 9-month-old who had never been on a swing, until I realized that the last time their Chicago playground had been pleasant, the baby was too little to sit in a swing.
Now I'm braving my second winter as a Chicago mommy, and I have to say it's been tough. We've been housebound due to pneumonia of one kid, then the other kid. On the severely cold days I did bundle them up and get out of the house, but layering and delayering both of them was exhausting. In between everything else, we keep getting bouts of snow and slush that make driving treacherous and stroller-pushing idiotic (read all about my attempt to grocery shop with the stroller here).
After hitting rock bottom -- snapping at the kids, leaving the TV on too long, contemplating going outside to shovel in peace while the baby dismantles the kitchen, threatening to make the 3-year-old go outside and play in a blizzard -- I compiled this list of ways to beat the winter mommy blues. Notably absent are the sunny bits of parenting zine advice like, "make a rainy day box of toys" or "make your own play-do." I'm assuming that you went through all that in January.
1) BREAK A RULE. HELL, BREAK 'EM ALL! From now on, if my kid is not at preschool due to illness, weather or annoying winter holiday (no disrespect meant, Dr. King), I have decided that no other rules apply. Maybe that means you bake cookies and eat them all with the kids before dinner. Maybe it means you don't have to wait until 5 p.m., or after the kids go to bed, for a little mommy cocktail. Or that your Waldorfean child gets to play online computer games all afternoon.
2) DANCE PARTY, TO ADULT MUSIC I got a new CD recently (the soundtrack to Juno), and I cannot overstate how much it elevates my mood to crank it up and dance with the kids. Another favorite -- for me and the girls -- is the band Cake.
3) DON'T TRY TO GET ANYTHING DONE It's a snow day for them, it's a snow day for you. After all, you're already taking on extra work by having your kids inside all day. If playing with the kids is fun for you, get down on the floor and dress those Barbies. If it's not, drag out some toys they haven't seen in awhile and let them go nuts while you treat yourself to a phone call to a friend or browse the Internet.
4) ORDER TAKEOUT You'll need to, since not getting anything done all day means you haven't made dinner or maybe haven't washed any dishes to serve it on.
5) DO GET STUFF DONE If productivity calms you, throw the toys at your kids and grant yourself permission to tackle the kitchen or a desk full of work.
6) GET THEIR FRIENDS TO COME OVER, OR SHIP THEM OFF TO THEIR FRIENDS' HOUSE If your kids are at least 3, it's amazing how more kids can be less work. Seeing this happen with my preschooler recently made me realize why people have big families.
7) FACE THE ELEMENTS There's very little weather that even a small baby can't stand for at least half an hour. If you have a sling or front carrier, it may be best to bundle an infant inside your own coat. Even if, like my daughter, they say they don't want to play out in the cold, they might get interested once they waddle around out there in their snowsuits for awhile. Or, even if it's too bad out to brave the roads, you can always walk somewhere. Even if you have to take the kids down to the corner store, at least it will probably be deserted if the weather's that bad.
8) PUT THEM ON THE PHONE WITH GRANDMA Let her occupy them for awhile.