Where are the Nannies Without Borders when you need them? For working parents who have already blown through their repertoire of "fun things to do with kids when you're stuck inside!" -- and also their patience and vacation days-- this winter has been particularly cruel.
And it threatens to get worse. In Boston earlier this month, on the same day that school was cancelled, yet again, an assistant professor at the Harvard Kennedy School unleashed a pro-snow day study. It concluded that snow days don't, in fact, have a negative impact on learning -- a finding that threatens to embolden superintendents to err on the side of cancellation. Talk about kicking parents while they're down.
Psychologists have yet to name the combination of despair and bitterness a snow day can trigger, but it's not unlike the famous five stages of grief described by psychiatrist Elisabeth Kubler-Ross.
Based on interviews I've conducted with house-bound would-be working parents, they are:
Stage One: Denial
- "It doesn't look like it's accumulating."
- "The meteorologists are always wrong."
- "If they were going to call a snowday, they would have called it already."
Stage Two: Anger
- "I stayed home last time -- my husband/wife is staying home tomorrow."
- "Let my boss spend the day with a two-year-old and see how easy it is to get work done."
- "When I was a kid they never cancelled school."
Stage Three: Bargaining
- "If they don't cancel school tomorrow, I promise I will: a) chaperone a field trip; b) get off my phone when my son is at bat; c) be better about making sure my kids floss, and not just the morning of the dentist appointment."
Stage Four: Depression
- "That brown-noser in accounting is going to make a play for my job."
- "I'm going to be stuck at home with a toddler and a kindergartner, and they're going to want to go sledding."
- "I am powerless over the hot chocolate and brownies I bought in a pathetic attempt to make the day seem festive."
Stage five: Acceptance
- "My children are going to spend eight hours playing Madden."
Anger and frustration followed an incident Tuesday, in which up to 40 students had their lunches taken away from them at the cashier's station in an elementary school cafeteria. The food was thrown away; the students were told their accounts had no credit on them.
On Saturday, Janet Yellen becomes the first woman to head the U.S. Federal Reserve, an honor which has brought her top billing in a British poll of the world’s ten most powerful female financiers. Eight of the women – including Yellen – combined their glittering careers with a family and children.
This may come as a revelation to Nigel Farage, head of the fast-growing U.K. Independence Party. Farage has just caused a storm of protest with some outspoken comments in London’s financial centre – the City as it’s known – on the subject of maternity and work. To quote:
"If a woman broker who has a client base, has a child and takes two or three years off work, she is worth far less to her employer when she comes back than when she went away," said Farage, claiming that said woman's clients will have drifted off, and her contacts will have dwindled.
"This helps explain why female finance workers in Britain earn on average 30% less than men," he said.
Should Nigel Farage know what he’s talking about? He spent more than 20 years working as a commodities broker before he became involved in politics.
"He’s talking absolute rubbish!" declares Louise Cooper – a former stockbroker and a mother of two. "You don’t get two or three years off to have a baby. The maximum amount of time you get off is 12 months. And many women choose to take four, five, or six months. That is usually much less than gardening leave," says Cooper.
"Gardening leave" is the time that city workers – having quit their jobs – must stay away from work before they are allowed to join a rival company. In London, it usually lasts six months to a year.
Cooper asks: "Why is six months or so of maternity leave more damaging to a company than twelve months of gardening leave?"
Kirstie Ayre – an employment expert with the Pinsent Masons law firm - said the notion that women are "somehow intrinsically worth less to financial institutions because they might leave to have a family is laughable."
"These days when an employee leaves, the company does not automatically lose clients. Those contacts are usually shared between teams of employees," she said.
Others complained that Nigel Farage’s comments were harmful to working mothers.
"We found his remarks very disappointing. This will make life so much more difficult for the many women who are doing a very impressive job of balancing their work and family responsibilities," said Rosalind Bragg, director of the charity Maternity Action.
Bragg is afraid that Farage’s comments will fuel further prejudice against working women, already a major problem.
"Since the economic downturn began, the rates of pregnancy discrimination in the U.K. have grown dramatically, and that’s true of the finance sector as much as it is of the wider labor market. In 2006, 30,000 women lost their jobs as a result of pregnancy discrimination, and now the figure’s risen to about 60,000 a year. That’s roughly 1 in 7 pregnant women in the workforce," she said.
Rogers, the current head of U.S. Cyber Command, is a cryptologist by trade. If confirmed, he'll take over the spy agency at a crucial time in its history, when its activities have come under close public scrutiny.
The appeals court in Florence found Knox and her ex-boyfriend guilty of the 2007 murder of Meredith Kercher and sentenced her to 28 1/2 years in prison. Knox currently lives in Seattle, and the sentence is likely to set up a long battle over her extradition.
Human Rights Watch says neighborhoods in the capital, Damascus, and the city of Hama were targeted by the government because they were opposition strongholds.
Paramount became the first big studio to distribute a major film in the U.S. only in digital, and others will probably follow. Small cinemas are struggling to raise money for the transition. Despite resistance from some major directors, the end of film is almost upon us.
The American actress has stepped down as a goodwill representative for Oxfam International. She came in for criticism after agreeing to serve as a spokeswoman, and appear in a Super Bowl ad, for an Israeli company that produces at-home soda-makers in the occupied West Bank.
The world's largest breeding colony of Magellanic penguins is seeing unprecedented deaths among young birds. A scientist who has spent 30 years studying the penguins says that climate change is to blame — triggering, among other things, more heat waves and wetter storms that kill fledglings.