The Camp Gap, And A Reality Check

I don’t know what it is with DailyWorth, but they’re giving me a lot of blog fodder lately. Today’s post by M.P. Dunleavey is about the “camp gap.” Apparently, in her small town, school ends on June 14, and camp starts on June 27. This leaves many working days of no coverage. She assumed there would be some program for her school aged child to attend in the meantime, but no dice. She was fretting about that when she got an email from DailyWorth founder Amanda Steinberg also noting that her own kids were bouncing around the house in the break between school and summer camp. Dunleavey writes:

It’s emblematic of an issue that dogs us all: insufficient, overpriced, erratic child care choices for working families. When someone bemoans the lack of women in corporate leadership—currently less than 20% occupy C-suite positions—I feel like screaming: ARE YOU KIDDING ME? All that b.s. about the glass ceiling is just that—until we deal with a few teensy hurdles that put a drag on women’s progress.

Well… I have two thoughts.

First, many children have two parents. Not all, of course, but many. If there is a school-camp gap, either parent can deal with it, but I would posit that if a couple has decided that the woman will be the one to cover it, she was never going to occupy the C-suite anyway. The 20% figure has nothing to do with this situation. That doesn’t necessarily mean anything about the mother’s ambitions. I would probably be the one in my family to cover such a gap, and I have plenty of ambitions. But being the CFO of a major company was never one of them. Very few people achieve such a position, let alone two people who are married to each other. So in general the party in a couple who is going most gung-ho up the corporate ladder will be the one in the C-suite… and the other will be covering the school-camp gap. Male or female.

Second, one big reason there are gaps is that school is not childcare. I know from a practical standpoint it is for many families, but truly effective childcare that enables you to work when you need to without gaps is a different beast. I have come pretty close to that situation over the last two years, and it involves a lot of planning and some expensive redundancies to get rid of gaps. I have made my peace with that — which wasn’t easy, but I’m sure that mental leap is easier on some level because my kids are very little and so it’s pretty clear that we need full-time childcare if we’re both going to work. Once kids are in school, parents may stop thinking that way — happy to get a breather from the expense. But again, I imagine that people who are truly going to make it to the C-suite have engineered their lives so there aren’t gaps, often with live-in childcare due to their travel schedules. This AP article on Nancy Killefer, for instance (Obama’s first nominee for “performance czar”) mentions that she had two nannies and a personal assistant to handle her life while she was on the road. And that was when she had teenagers. Killefer is one of very few women to make the director level at McKinsey. I doubt she was thinking about the school-camp gap, and I doubt she ever had one.

Yes, there are many policies that would make life easier for dual-income families. Actually turning school into childcare might be one of them — 9-5, year round. The ability to deduct the full cost of childcare might be another, or (going the opposite direction) lower marginal tax rates in general so childcare didn’t eat up so much of people’s after-tax income. But these broad issues that affect working parents are a bit different than the C-suite issue. Many women in the upper echelons of corporate America don’t even have kids, let alone a school-camp gap… and they’re still being passed over. There’s something else going on there.

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