I have decided to put preschool shopping on the back burner for now. I'm dropping it before I drop.
After contacting a local co-op preschool that works for our budget (though perhaps not for our timeline) and not hearing back, I had a cartoon-lightbulb-over-head realization:
If we can't afford preschool, we can't afford preschool.
It's really very simple. And there's not a reason to worry about it. There are plenty of things that I'd like for my family, my child, myself...but that are out of our price range. There is absolutely zero point in worrying about where I'll find money in the budget when there isn't anything to find!
The more important realization came later, when I'd come to terms with the budget numbers and heaved more than a few sighs of disappointment. It occurred to me that the preschool hunt had been making me anxious to the point of not being a very nice person. And my kid - who was supposed to be benefitting from all of this - was picking up on it like crazy. The more anxious I got, the more anxiety Westley seemed to exhibit.
I have some wonderful memories of my own preschool experience, and I'd still like some sort of (gently) structured pre-school environment for Westley (because I think he'd love it after he got over his distaste for "uh-ver chirren.") But I'm not willing to continue to create a bunch of unnecessary stress for myself and (especially!) him over it.