I've been putting off writing about this because I feel deep down inside that if I say it aloud it might mean it's true, but I put The Caterpillar in a day care two weeks ago.

My intention in writing about this issue is not to start a war here about working moms vs. stay at home moms. So if you're planning on making some self-righteous comment about how day care is tantamount to whipping your child with an electric cord and moms who use day care are evil or an equally self-righteous comment about how moms who think their kids shouldn't be in day care are sad, pathetic shells of a human being and how dare everyone not completely agree with you, nay, embrace and follow your choice, please remember that I am queen here and I will shoo you out of my comment section with a broom if I have to (I'm one of those evil queens).

I, personally, have had the great luxury and flexibility to keep my full time job while being a full time mother. At least that's the way I look at it. So, in essence, I've been both a working mom and a stay at home mom. While my situation is fairly unique and often I think it causes more stress than if I'd made the choice to simply do one or the other, it's given me a unique perspective on the issue and I've been able to learn that there are, like anything in this world of ours, both pros and cons about each choice.

I totally and completely admire women who make the sacrifice to stay home with their children full time. In fact, I stare at them with little beady, green-colored eyes of jealousy. For various reasons, that isn't an option for us. Sure, we could live on my husband's salary alone... now... but that wasn't a possibility when The Dormouse was born. We live in Washington, D.C., so while we might have been able to pay the mortgage with only his salary back then, we would have had to beg on the street corners for those little extras: things like heat, food and health care. Now, he's out of school, has a steady job that might last more than a year (fingers crossed, folks!) and I have to admit, if I really, really wanted to only be a mom, we could probably do without my income. I could stay home and clip coupons and budget and we could make it work. But by the time we were in this situation, I'd already set up the sweet working arrangement that I have now. When you have something good it's hard to give it up. And now we can afford things like clothes that are on the 30% percent off rack at Target, a modest deposit into each of the girls' college fund and our retirement fund each month, and health care. Plus, I have this deep-seated fear in the back of my mind that at some point in the future one of will lose his or her job due to some unforeseen circumstance and we'll actually need to rely on the other's salary. It's happened too many times in our marriage and the only thing that's kept me from jumping out a window like a stock broker in 1929 is the fact that when my husband's come home to tell me he's been laid off... again... I knew that my salary could carry us through until he was able to find work again. I am not secure enough to go without that safety net.

So that's our situation. I've kept my full-time job while we are raising the girls but I've been able to work out a situation with a very flexible employer where I can work in the office but bring my baby with me, telecommute from home, use liberal flex time and leave and still see my daughters' first steps, hear their first words... be an overwhelming presence in their lives, etc. It wouldn't work for everyone, but it does for me... mainly because I gotz the mad multitasking skillz.

So lately my kids have made me feel like drinking a bottle of vanilla. The Caterpillar still refuses to communicate with speech and instead screams, although the growing vocabulary of signs has made it significantly easier. The Dormouse has picked up so much attitude from school that I think they might be teaching it as a regular subject of coursework in Kindergarten. She sometimes comes home with poor reports about talking too much and not finishing her task and we are desperately trying to find a way to nip that in the bud before it turns into Audrey II from Little Shop of Horrors. All of this turned into The Perfect Storm over the holiday break with The Dormouse, The Caterpillar, and I all home all the time. I contemplated checking into a hotel... in Guam... just to get away from the cacophony of screaming, whistling, yelling at The Dormouse to stick to her task, fighting over a toy, banging on the piano, cleaning up messes, climbing on me, sensory overload that was my life this Christmas. At some point I realized that I hadn't had a break from it all for a very long time and if I didn't get one soon... well Involuntary Admission into a psych hospital would be a lot more expensive than my Zoloft prescription.

Add to that the fact that The Caterpillar is becoming more of a handful at the office and while it hadn't come to the point that my boss had asked me to look for other arrangements, the handwriting was on the wall.

And the last fact: my weakness as a mother is socialization. It's not one of my better qualities that I would prefer sitting around in my pajamas watching TV to almost any kind of social interaction, but I know this about myself. I just would prefer not to pass it on to my kids. I've tried to do the playgroup thing, but between the life schedule I lead and the fact that I hate them with a red, hot fiery hated, it just doesn't work for me. So knowing that I have to stay on top of the language development thing, I needed an opportunity for The Caterpillar to be around other kids.

So I bit the inside of my cheek until it bled and after the first of the year, enrolled her in a toddler pre-school program two days a week. If you can't tell from all the over explaining here, I'm conflicted about it. Intellectually, I know it's the right thing to do. The right thing for her; the right thing for us. This is the place where The Dormouse went to preschool and not only did she have a great experience there but the staff already know and love The Caterpillar. When I went to talk about enrolling her, the director actually clapped her hands and said, "Oh goody!"

The Caterpillar is loving her new digs so much. She squeals with excitement every time I bring her in and she sees her new friends. She loves all the toys, the activities, the large expansive room to play in and the gym equipment she can safely climb on without anyone yelling, "no No NO NO NO!!!" She hardly notices when I leave.

But for me? The guilt. I feel badly every time I drop her off, every time I enjoy the fact that I can go to the bathroom without first concocting an elaborate plan. On the days after she's been at 'Little Girl School' as The Dormouse calls it, she takes extra long naps, prompting me to email my friends and exclaim, "Day care ROCKS!" And then the guilt, it burns even more.