For the summer, we managed to get both the Large One and the Small One into a summer camp situation for three days a week (and the same three days for both of them at that... an even more problematic endeavor). They both started that this week. I've learned that as much as I might have complained about the price of day care for one child who's under two, having two children in an all day program is MAD kind of pricey.

I have a wealth of respect and awe for single parents who have more than one kid and manage to a) parent them effectively at all and b) put them in any kind of a day care program while they work that doesn't completely negate more than three quarters of the salary they earn. I've written about our reasons for keeping a two salary income before -- really, I could quit my job and stay home with the kids full time and we could eek by on The KoH's salary paying only for what we absolutely need, as long as what we don't need is health care, college fund contributions, retirement, and you know... more than two meals a day. But my job offers a certain kind of flexibility that makes it feasible for me to keep working while not feeling like my kids are suffering too much. Basically, I'm not a WOHM (Work Outside the Home Mom) or a SAHM (Stay at Home Mom) or a WAHM (Work at Home Mom); I'm some absurd combination of all three that makes me totally appreciate what each of these groups has to go to every day and more thankful than I can communicate that don't have to do just one of those things all the time.

Years ago I saw some investigative news piece on families with two incomes. They brought a financial analyst in to work with a family where the mother and father both worked because they needed both incomes to get by. They never saw each other because they worked opposite shifts; when he came home, she went out the door. They had to use babysitters when their schedules didn't match up. Their lives were incredibly stressful. Their kids had educational needs they weren't fully meeting. They were barely making it anyway. So the financial consultant took a look at all their income and expenses and did a detailed analysis of everything: child care, clothing, travel, food, toys, utilities... everything... just to see if there was anything they could change. At the end of it all, they basically figured out that if the mother (the one with the lower salary in this case) quit her job, didn't use a babysitter, cut out the added expense of gas and clothing for her job, and made just a few adjustments in how she ran the household (which she would now have time to do because she wasn't working), that it was basically a wash. The analyst sat them down at the kitchen table, laid it all out for them and said that she was only bringing in something like $40 a month after factoring in those expenses that are secondary to her having a job. She sat there with a look of shock on her face as it sank in and then burst into tears and said, "You mean I've missed all this time with my children for FORTY DOLLARS?"

I'm forever mindful of that scene as we continually try to navigate and reevaluate our own finances and decisions about working. I love my career and though I often don't like to admit it, I get a certain fulfillment from my job. But I would quit it in a hot second if I didn't see it being the best thing for our family and my girls. I am well compensated for what I do. I'm a crazy multi-tasker. This works for me and my family. I know it wouldn't work for everyone. I'm just incredibly grateful to be able to be in a situation where I have the choice to actually do what works best for me and my family. And I reserve the right to complain about my situation anyway.

It may very well break us - this three days a week, all day child care thing, but they are loving it. The Dormouse is getting to do a TON of cool trips and activities and she's already been to Six Flags, the pool, and a park with a carousel and a train: the trifecta of five-year-old hopes and dreams. While The Caterpillar isn't allowed to go on the outside the center trips, they have some good experiences lined up for her age group too and she's doing really well with the extra socialization. Her speech is coming along nicely these days (as I'm typing this, she just looked at the TV and said "Awesome!") and she's learning to get along with other kids her age (exposing them both to peers has always been my biggest weakness... that's what you get when you're given a hermit as a mother, sorry girls, take it up with the Big Man in the next life). So fortunately, the extra expense is just a three month thing and when The Dormouse goes back to school (First grade. Let me repeat that: first grade. One more time for the cheap seats... FIRST GRADE!! This just seems wrong for a child that was only born three weeks ago and... What?... It was longer than that?... Well I think you must be mistaken because it doesn't seem like five years to me.), we can all loosen our belts and stop subsisting on Ramen noodles (the staple of the American college student) and leftover Cheerios we found in the sofa cushions (I may be exaggerating just a bit.). (I also may have used more than my fair share of parentheses in the last paragraph.) (Let's be honest. I probably used more parentheses in the last paragraph than I have in the entire last year of writing.) (Suck it, high school writing teacher, I'm an adult now and I can totally break the rules if I want.)

Wow, that big digression started out as just a way to explain that while last Monday was day three of The Summer of I Promise To Be A Less Sucky Mother, Friday was day four because in the middle of the week the girls were at camp.

And on day four of Camp Sweatshop, Camp Suckless Mothering (or perhaps I should just amend that to Camp Suck Less Mothering for legal purposes), we turned this:

Into this:

Without one compliant, whine, fight, or screaming match. It's amazing what can be accomplished with some music, a plan, cooperation, and a Mary Poppins attitude.

If I get good enough at this, maybe I can quit my job and rent out my children to clean your house for income.