Now that I've caught up on all the really great things that happened since George's arrival, I want to talk about how overwhelming I've found daily life with four little kids. I was incredibly fortunate to have so much help - Adam was off on paternity leave for all of November and December, then my sister was home with me most of January and February before she started her new job.
Before George was born, our weekdays went very smoothly. Adam and I woke up before the kids to pray and get ready for the day. We all left the house at 8:00 am - Adam riding his bike to work and me taking all the kids to drop Claire off at school. A few days a week we stayed for daily Mass and then headed to the gym or to run errands. Maggie and Betsy did music class and art class - on those mornings Mass didn't fit in easily but I had time to get all of the house cleaning done while they played happily. We picked Claire up from half-day kindergarten after lunch and then Betsy would take a nap while I helped with homework. I got to have one-on-one time with Betsy one afternoon a week while Claire and Maggie went to Catechesis. The two little girls entertained themselves with other younger siblings at the playground during soccer practice, while I got to chat with a friend.
All of this was very difficult or impossible to maintain with a little baby. I was too tired from feeding George in the middle of the night to drive Claire to school most of the time. Since we only have one car, that meant Adam would drive her and then come home to get his bike and ride to work. Of course, that also meant no more daily Mass. Being the only parent juggling three kids at music class and art class was really stressful. Especially art class, when all the other families just had one child and I actually had to assist the girls with projects while keeping a baby happy. I definitely wasn't leaving George in the gym childcare after he was hospitalized for RSV. Wearing a baby and pushing two kids in a shopping cart isn't a super relaxing way to grocery shop, but I couldn't try pick-up or delivery because we were obligated to buy Scrip gift cards for our groceries to support the school and you can't use gift cards to order groceries online. Since soccer was over, we wanted to put the two oldest girls in swim lessons, but I couldn't handle taking all four to the pool by myself, so we scheduled those for Saturday mornings. The best swim lessons we could afford were at a YMCA almost thirty minutes away. I also could never manage to get any house cleaning done during the week, so I would often spend most of the weekend tackling chores. The only way we managed to complete our required volunteer hours for the school was due to scheduling shifts while Adam and Allison were home in the winter months.
Early into this stressful spring semester, it was time to figure out the plan for next school year. Claire would be going to the parish school full-time for first grade - staying until 3:15 instead of 1:30. The only preschool we could afford for Maggie was the same coop preschool we did with Claire. To complete our weekly volunteer commitment, we figured Adam wouldn't get to work until noon that day and stay until 8:00 pm. Of course, there would be evening and weekend volunteer commitments for the preschool as well, and we'd also have to meet our volunteer hours at the parish school. We wouldn't want Claire staying for two hours of Catechesis on top of a full school day, so we planned to move that to Sunday afternoons. We wouldn't be able to afford much in the way of extracurriculars anyway, but we knew we'd want to limit them to Fridays after school or Saturday mornings, that way Claire would have time to play after a long school day. Oh, and once a week school would get out an hour earlier, which would mean cutting naps very short for pick up unless I could beg a friend to drive Claire home.
A typical day would mean waking George up at 6:00 so I could put him down for a nap at 8:00, have Adam do some work from home, take Betsy along to drop Claire at 8:30 and Maggie at 9:00, rush home so Adam could get to work, wake George up by 10:00, pick Maggie up at 11:30, head home for lunch, get the two youngest down for naps by 1:00, prep dinner and do chores with Maggie's "help", wake Betsy and George right before 3:00 and throw them into the car to get to the school at 3:15, always be one of the last cars in line so Claire is one of the last kids picked up, finally get home at 4:00, help with homework and finish dinner with a baby wreaking havoc all along the way.
It would be tough but workable if we knew George was going to be our last baby. But, as Catholics, Adam and I don't believe in birth control and do not trust ourselves to use natural family planning correctly for over a decade (we are still in our twenties) unless we had a very serious reason to do so. We are fully on board with spacing our children out a bit more than we have so far, but we are, God-willing, not done having babies. So....if we can't change the having babies every few years, we'd need to change other aspects of how we've set up our life in order to, well, survive it.
Obviously, the coop preschool just wasn't going to work. After a lot of prayer, we came to the conclusion that the driving, volunteering, and expense of parish school wasn't right for us either. The bus stop for the public school is right across the street from our house - that makes so much more sense, right? No more carline with babies and toddlers, no volunteer requirements, minimal expense. Although I'd still have to drive to preschool if we wanted to go down that road, at least we'd be able to afford one that didn't require such a huge time commitment.
We do have some worries about sending our kids to public school in this area (Seattle in 2018 is very different from Houston in 1998) but our biggest reservation was just that the school day is sooooooooo long for little kids. We want our children to have time to play! With their siblings and their toys at home, not just at recess. We want to have them in a few extracurriculars, but that seems like too much to tack onto an already too long school day, so scheduling them on the weekend felt like our only option, which isn't ideal. I also felt like with Claire in school all day, I'd only get to see her at the most stressful times of the day to juggle many small children - the morning rush out the door and the homework/dinner/bedtime grind in the evening. I don't want almost all of her interactions with me to be when I'm at my worst.
All of this to say, we are going to give homeschooling a try! For right now, we think it will be the best way to give our kids the childhood we'd like for them - more time to play, more time for extracurriculars, and, most importantly, calmer parents.