MP Dunleavey at DailyWorth, a financial site for women, has (as far as I can tell) coined the phrase “Camp Gap.” The “Camp Gap” encompasses the days between the end of the school year and the beginning of summer camp, when women are faced with the harsh reality of “insufficient, overpriced, erratic child care choices for working families.” The emphasis is Dunleavey’s, but it might as well be mine. My daughter’s last day of school is June 28, and her summer camp – which is only half-day – begins the second week of July.
Dunleavey writes, “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?” Ha! No kidding. How are we supposed to get to work if there’s no one to watch the kids?
As Strollerderby’s Madeline Holler noted in her post, Why Should Women Be Less Ambitious in Work Life, “What drags ambitious working mothers down is the fact that good, quality and, most of all — affordable! — childcare and, eventually, preschool, is hard to find. Once found, the hours don’t always coincide with work realities.” Exactly. Madeline asks, “Why are we so willing to encourage young women who are not yet mothers to ratchet down the drive?” in response to statements from women like Barbara and Shannon Kelley, the mother-daughter authors of Undecided: How to Ditch the Endless Quest for Perfect and Find the Career — and Life — That’s Right for You, like, “Unless you have an awful lot of help at home, I don’t see how you can be at work for 52 hours a week and be arranging play dates and taking your kids to the park and baking cupcakes.” While I certainly agree with my pal Madeline that copping out is not going to solve the childcare problems working mothers face, I also can’t help but see the truth in Barbara Kelley’s assertion, “When we give younger women the message that hey, you can do everything, you can have it all, it’s all going to be perfect, there’s a sense of almost failure when you can’t do it all.” Despite my many achievements, I ask myself at least once a day if I’m doing anything right.
I’m trying to raise a child on my own with no family nearby. I write during the day for this blog and perform comedy a few nights a week. I have an affordable and sweet babysitter to cover for me when I’m at shows, which for the most part occur at an hour that allows me to have dinner and chat with my daughter until just about her bedtime. I don’t feel guilty for being out of the house while she’s asleep since I don’t have to worry about “missing something,” but I do feel guilty about the fact that after paying for childcare, I’m basically breaking even when I gig out. (That is if you discount the currency of sanity, creativity and community being with my fellow comics provides me. But these are things mothers aren’t supposed to need to feel happy, right? Like methane-fueled cars, we’re supposedly built to thrive on poop.)
Dunleavey writes, “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, like, say, our non-existent national maternity leave policy. And the camp gap.” I’m fortunate enough to be in a position where – if I have to – I can make my work work while my child is also at home, thanks to the portability of my laptop and the ability of Nick Jr. to mezmorize for three hours. But three hours of writing does not a full workday make. And there’s the rub: even women who can “make it work” are using stop-gap measures to make enough money to squeak by, leaving us without the capital to get better/longer childcare in order to get higher-paying jobs… in order to get better childcare.
And of course there are those women who will emphatically respond to this conundrum, “And that’s why you should stay home with your children, you selfish, liberal, feminist insult!” Unfortunately, I’m not at liberty to stay home 24/7 since I’m single, and even if I were married, I’d still want to leave the prison house from time to time. One of the ways I was able to be duped by my husband for so long is because I wanted more than anything to believe that we were in a progressive marriage, that we could make both of our careers work. I needed him to babysit our daughter while I acted on my ambitions like I babysat our daughter while he pursued his. Lucky for some, there are marriages out there built on that kind of partnership, but mine wasn’t one. So now I’m trying to piece my work-life balance together in the best way that I can, hoping it will all “work” out.
How do you handle childcare challenges like “Camp Gap?”
How to strike a Life Balance with a Toddler