The Winter that Nearly Killed All of the Moms

By J. Shelleby

Decades from now, there will be a youthful graduate student researching pharmaceutical trends. She will notice a sudden, jarring spike in anti-depressant prescriptions in the early months of 2014. “What could have caused this anomaly?” she will ask, she herself still years from motherhood, she herself still yet ever hopeful that an unexpected day at home with her children will be always welcome, always a source of joy. Only if she stumbles upon an old timer, a mother who has lived long enough to recall it, will she hear the truth. This is the story she will hear.


Once upon a time, there was a killer winter.

It was not the treacherous roads or bone-chilling cold that brought calamity. It was not the lack of food, or the inaccessibility of water that birthed tragedy.

In fact, as winter began, it seemed so innocuous. It even seemed friendly at first. With every falling flake of snow, it whispered promises of hours of spontaneous delight, of sweet life-long memories, of unrivaled outdoor beauty. It said: Embrace me, I am only here for a moment; love me, for soon I will be gone.

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And so, many of them did. They loved the killer. They embraced it. They shouted for joy in the streets, on their FaceBook pages and in their texts: “A snow day! What joy! What beauty!” The most foolish of them (once, dear reader, this was me; once upon a time I was the most foolish of them all) literally sang their way through those first snow days, bundling their young children head to toe, bundling themselves from head to toe, traipsing through the inches of snow with shovels and sleds, snapping photos and recording videos to set to music, to mark this moment, to preserve this fleeting season, because, they believed (foolishly, blindly), “This snow day may be the last.”


The winter lulled them with its promises, lured them deeper into its lair. Then, in mid-January, it began to show its true colors. What should have been a 3-day weekend honoring Martin Luther King, Jr. became 5 days off, due to snow. Even the most foolish of them began to see clearly. They could sense now what was happening, and fear set in.

But it was too late to escape.

Finally, in the darkness of February—somehow the shortest and longest month of every year—the killer pounced.

Monday: Snow day!

Tuesday: 2-hour delay!

Wednesday: School canceled due to ice storm!

Thursday: School canceled due to widespread loss of power due to ice storm!

Friday: School canceled due to use of schools as shelters due to widespread loss of power due to ice storm!

Even the children begged to return to school. But their pleas went unheard.


For those without power, the pain went ever deeper. No television or Internet to placate the bored children. No fresh snow to send them out into. No hot water to run bubble baths or ovens in which to bake cookies. Perhaps the worst of all: no coffee.

And then: the threat of another storm coming over the weekend, the guarantee of more snow, of more time off from school.

A wail went up from the Northeast, a cry went up from every mother. Like Chinese water torture, the thought of even one more day off began to make the mothers weep. Please, God, they prayed, take my children back to school. I love them, I do, but I need my routine! I need my quiet!

The Extroverts wept because they could not attend their playdates and coffee hours. The Introverts wept because they were never. Ever. Alone.

For it was different, somehow, than the planned time off at Christmas, or Easter, or summer. Spontaneous time off in the middle of winter was like a deep-fried egg roll: one or two was quite delightful, but five or six, and you began to feel sick. More than that, and you descended into insanity. You practically died.

That was how it happened.

That was the winter that nearly killed all of the moms.

44 thoughts on “The Winter that Nearly Killed All of the Moms

  1. Thank you for writing and sharing this! Made me laugh more than anything else the last couple of days! We are without power but have been lucky enough to have somewhere to stay…But I’m that introvert who so desperately needs my time alone! You nailed it! Fingers ( and arms, legs, eyes) crossed for school on Monday!!!

    • Agreed. Going insane is an equal opportunity. SAHDs are just as welcome. In all seriousness, I was aware as I posted it that I didn’t mention dads. It wasn’t that I didn’t remember you all, it was just for writing flow that I omitted it. (“The Winter that Nearly Killed All the Stay At Home Parents” just didn’t have the same ring to it.) But I know there are plenty of dads experiencing the same frustration!

    • Quite frankly as a SAHD myself I think this is all a bit silly and overly wrought. My gosh how hard is it to arrange play dates with other parents stuck in the same situation?
      The world isnt going to end.

      • Thanks for your constructive comment. I actually did manage to have a great time seeing my best friend and letting our schoolage children play together on one of those days off. My piece was meant to be read as tongue in cheek–the over-the-top drama is the thing that makes it funny. So, yes, it is silly. Hopefully silly enough to make a few people laugh.

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  3. You hit this one so perfectly, I *had* to repost it. Better living through pharmaceuticals, and as shakespeare sang it, once more into the breach, dear friends, once more into the breach.

  4. Yes! I laughed through this post since it is so true! I was fine in the beginning with the snow days but then I got annoyed. No time to myself for days on end almost killed me.

  5. Beatuifully written!! Love it! I’ve gone through the same metamorphasis! Fortunately lat last night we were able to leave it behind to stay at my parents house in Lewes DE. Not a drop of snow here, anywhere.. it’s sureal…..and not as pretty really without all the white…(oh no, there I go again!)

    • I agree–the snow makes winter so lovely to look at. And I think if this last storm had been snow instead of ice, it would have been a lot more fun! But ice–well, there’s no real silver lining to that.

  6. Love your article! So true!
    However, as much as I love your article, I love that you spell your name the SAME way I do! I have never met (not that we’ve actually met) another one of me. And living so close- I live in North Wilmington. How exciting? Do you love spelling it differently or hate it?

    • I did a doubletake when I saw your name awaiting approval. I couldn’t believe my eyes. Like you, I have NEVER met anyone with our spelling! I’ve grown accustomed to the misspelling throughout my life, so I can’t say I hate it. Although, I’m sure it was directly responsible for the simple, only-one-way-to-spell-them names we gave our children!

  7. Absolutely great post ! Spot on ! I still remember those moments of joy when the first flakes fell. Now, after no power since Wednesday not so much ! Thanks for the much needed laughs !

  8. How funny that this post was recommended to me by a friend in CA who didn’t know that I live only 20 minutes from Kennett Square. (In Newark, which apparently just missed this week’s ice storm by a few miles.) You nailed it. Thanks for the laughter in this long, cold winter!

    • Ginger, i should ‘fess up to you: i made the post overdramatic just for a laugh. If you asked any of my friends IRL, they’d tell you how happy I am to be at home with my kids. And i never even lost power but pretty much everyone else I know did. So the post wasn’t necessarily reflecting everything from me personally. I agree with you; they grow up fast and I do make every effort to enjoy it.

  9. Thank you for this. It is nice to know that someone has read my mind. My husband doesn’t get why being trapped in the house with 3 children in the dead of winter will drive me insane. Add to that all those Facebook friends posting pics of happily frolically in the snow. Glad to know I am not alone!

  10. Perfectly timed. I’m convinced this hilarious and well-written piece will go viral overnight (for those with power that is).

  11. I read this hoping you intend to be tongue in cheek. You see, I lost my not-yet four year old son two weeks ago and we spent the last four weeks held captive in two different hospitals, I never left his side for more than an hour or so. They were the best and worst days of my life, to be forced to be the center of each other’s universe for 29 days seems like heaven to me now. Love and kind wishes to you and your loved little ones.

      • Thank you for your sympathies. No, you didn’t increase my pain, I can’t imagine my pain could possibly be any worse. It’s just that I’ve gained a lot of perspective since his passing and it sounds all too cliché to say “enjoy them while they’re little”, but it is so very true.

    • Maria,
      Please accept this big giant virtual mommy hug from the MOPS in Kennett Square. I am so sorry for your loss. I pray you receive a “peace that passes all understanding”.

  12. This definitely made me laugh. And the crazy thing is, the first few snow days were days I randomly requested off just to have ‘ME’ time, and both those days blew up in my face. Woo sah to all those without power. Hang in there

  13. May I add spouses who are addicted to the TV? Thank god we figured out cable works and hooked up the cable and TV to the generator; otherwise I’d probably be in jail for assault, maybe even murder! We can heat with the fireplace but please don’t leave us without cable, TV, and the Internet! Read a book? Heavens, they’d rather do drugs….

  14. Thank you Jamye. I’m a retired grandpop who sat my grandson for 3 years from 8 weeks old. This wkd. we spent time with the boys just outside of Philly. Of course they were thrilled but what really cranked them up was a 20 minute excursion in the snow. Their mom was even more thrilled to get the time almost alone (with a 4 mos. old) while we enjoyed the “outside time”. Sometimes….it’s the little joys that build the family!

  15. Wahh, no play date. Guess you don’t work?? Shouldn’t have had kids then if they were that much trouble. Send them to day care and go to work. Sheesh.

    • Ouch, there’s got to be one overly negative, judgemental individual commenting on every blog. If you can’t say something nice, don’t say it at all. The blog is funny, especially for those of us who have spent the last 6 weeks cooped up in a house with small (and big) children. It’s not easy, and many of us are struggling with the constant disruptions to our routines. For those of us who aren’t superstar pintrest moms, it’s hard coming up with new things to occupy our children while they are stuck in the house.
      Being a stay at home mom can also be isolating. There are many of us that thrive on having those playdates and quick coffee meetings. We love our children, but still need to be connected to others. Internet and social media are not a replacement for face to face interactions. As a mommy who works part time, I can totally relate to that feeling of disappointment when a much anticipated play date is canceled.
      Lastly, the author NEVER says having her children home is a bother. Please stop judging and putting words into people’s mouths.

      • Thank you for understanding the sentiment I was getting at. I truly love being home with my kids, but such a prolonged disruption to my routine can be trying. I just thought i’d have some fun and I’m thrilled it’s resonated with so many.

  16. It could also be the winter that nearly killed all the working mommies and daddies who have no where to send their kids because there is no school and family and friends are still without power too and mommy and daddy still have to work and no more time off days to take:-) This week was nuts!
    But also thank you for posting this…it definitely made me laugh and so glad that we finally got power back yesterday afternoon!

  17. And then the old-timer will tell the grad student to look at Jan-Feb 2011, which was WAY worse for snow closures than 2014 has been so far. My kids didn’t have a full week of school between New Year’s Day and President’s Day.

  18. And single teachers are reveling in this freakish weather. There are a few of us still at peace! Very well written! I thoroughly enjoyed this. You writing made me feel your pain. Thank a teacher when your kids go back! Lol.

  19. We homeschool and my children are what keep me from falling into the deepest of depressions (I have S.A.D.). I am very grateful for them:) BUT, nonetheless, this is a hilarious post! lol
    I know it must be so hard when your life is set up to accommodate school so everything is all out of balance when nature doesn’t cooperate!

  20. I swear, people take things too seriously sometimes. I love my little girl so much and I do cherish every moment I spend with her – obviously. However, I work at home and I plan for her to be at school during the day so I can get my work done. I don’t have a back up plan for when she is home from school. I have spent the last 2 months working until late at night because she was home for one snow day and then getting up early because she is home for another snow day. It is very exhausting.
    This post made me laugh and I appreciate you writing it.

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  23. Feel so lucky that we never lost power! The rest of the feelings of desperation I can relate to! And I’d add that thinking of the kids having to make up all those days off when it’s sunny and warm makes me sad too! Those are my time with my kids I am bummed to have to miss out on those days with them!

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