We just finished our winter school break in Florida. We had fun, our girls had fun, and my wife and I traded off working at different times.
But the juggle prompted me to do some vacation-care math.
What I calculated made me some combo of angry and bewildered.
It was a feeling right up there with the first time I calculated the difference between my salary and my post-tax income. Or the day way back in 2020 when I “bought” a condo and the real estate lawyer showed me how much I would pay for it after 30 years of interest.
Here are the days without school in our town, a place full of people who work a lot and are here for the high-quality public schools.
School vacation: 19 (lower this year because Christmas was on Sunday)
Federal holidays: 6
Early dismissals for parent conferences: 4
Religious holidays: 2
Professional learning: 2
Summer break, excluding weekends: 54 days
That’s 33 days off during the school year.
Add in summer break, and it’s 87 days – or 3 months – that kids are NOT in school.
There are 261 weekdays in a year – or 251 workdays if you back out the 10 federal holidays, for those who can take them.
That means a third of the time, most parents have to work when our kids are not in school.
According to Indeed, the job site, the average vacation in the U.S. is 10-14 days, rising to 15-19 days after 10 years of service.
So how do parents make up the difference?
Summer camp is 7, maybe 8 weeks – so 35-40 days – at whatever budget-breaking cost the camp charges for summertime bliss – if you’re organized enough to sign up the moment camp registration opens.
There are school vacation camps for the winter and spring breaks – 10 days in my town – but they’re even harder to get into, if a bit cheaper. Of course, the relative affordability could cost you in the parental guilt for not taking your kids away when all their friends seem to have gone somewhere!
Let’s say you fully camp-up your kids at great cost. You have at max bought 50 days to cover no school. That still leaves at least 27 days your kids have nothing to do, or 17 if you get all 10 federal holidays off. And you have 10 to 19 vacation days.
The math never works, even if you have money, vacation days and great organizational skills. And then just at the moment it seems close, there are unexpected closures for weather or natural disasters.
A few weeks ago, I asked companies to rethink what they require of workers in a post-pandemic workplace, particularly with offering #CareDays. But there’s a limit to what even the most generous, family-friendly companies can do.
So I’ll throw this out there: What will it take for schools to adapt to families as we are?