We don’t get a lot of snow days here in North Carolina. Certainly not as many as we used to get during long and cold New York winters. I guess it’s the reason I appreciate the small amounts of snow that paralyze our streets in the South and the resulting snow days so much more.

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We like to use a snow day as a mental health day in our family. They are the days when the stress and worry of the kids’ next exams or homework assignments gets paused. When my partners and clients don’t expect me to keep our appointments because all the roads are iced over. When this Mama suddenly could give two hoots about whether the laundry has been folded or the dishes put away. When the general stress of our strictly scheduled days melts away into a day filled with snow cream, family games, sledding and cozy fires burning dry our wet socks.

I have a hard time taking time off from my business. I feel guilty taking naps even if I was up the night before with a sick kid. I forget to take breaks during the day even when my personal stress meter is sounding an alarm of impatience and short-temperedness. I mostly ignore my Apple watch reminder to “breathe”.

Why do we feel the need to always stay busy? Or feel so guilty for taking breaks from our routine?

I love snow days because they force us to take a breath, re-group and give our schedules a pause. I especially love them because they are usually unexpected breaks announced late at night or early in the morning. We don’t have time to stress about what the surprise break from work will mean or how we will make up the time or who will be available to answer questions in our absence.

If the roads are closed, businesses are shut, and kids stay home from school-we simply don’t have a choice. And somehow, having that decision made for us allows us to easily accept and embrace it as a day off.

I don’t think we should have to wait for a snowfall to claim “Snow Days”. I’m a fan of keeping the kids home from school or activities once in a while. I encourage them to always communicate their needs and stress levels with us. I check in with them in the middle of intense exam periods or as they barrel towards the end of their semesters. I invite them to take a day to catch their breaths. They know not to call for a “mental health day” unless they need it. Skipping an exam they haven’t studied for or being afraid to confront a teacher about a missing assignment is not a valid reason to skip school at our house. Feeling overwhelmed, anxious or exhausted is.

All four kids have asked for (maybe) 5 “snow” days total in the last 5 years. I think for them, there’s just something in the knowing that the break days are there should they want them. A “Snow Day” waiting for them whenever they need one. It doesn’t matter if the sky is clear and there’s not a snowflake in sight. It just matters that they understand the value of stepping back in order to move forward in a healthier, more productive way. It matters that they feel supported and they they know I understand all too well that sometimes, they just need a break.

Frankly, I don’t know anyone who can’t use a “Snow” day as a “Mental Health” day every once in a while.

PS- Are you planning on taking a “Snow” day soon?