Jessica Lifland and her husband Darragh Caffrey make dinner while their daughter, Katie (5) starts her pasta.
Jessica brings Katie to a swimming class close to their house.
Katie kisses her mom right before her swimming lesson starts.
Katie takes her swimming lesson at the outdoor swimming pool with warm water.
Katie is freezing coming out of water after lesson.
Darragh came to join them at the swimming pool and the family is on the way home.
Katie selects her clothes in her own room.
After dinner Katie and Darragh keep talking in the kitchen.
Darragh plays with Katie in the living room.
Jessica gently picks up Ketie who is crying.
Jessica Lifland Caffrey and Darragh Caffrey live in San Rafael, a town located about 10 miles north of San Francisco in the county of Marin. It’s a pleasant, suburban community with some diversity and good public schools. They used to live in San Francisco but were unable to afford to raise their daughter Katie there. The Caffrerys decided it was the best choice for the family to move to the suburbs and buy a home.
Jessica is a freelance photographer and a photojournalism teacher at City College in San Francisco. Darragh works as a contractor. The couple loves living in the Bay Area because of its culture and diversity. They also like that the region is politically and socially liberal. Jessica previously worked and lived in a more conservative area of the country for a long time and “With my belief system I would not want my child brought up somewhere like that,” she said.
There are problems with raising a family in the Bay Area. They don’t like how the cost of living and the region’s traffic congestion. Also, “There are a lot of helicopter, type-a parents that I can’t compete with,” Jessica explained. “I want her to play, I don’t want her whole life to be scheduled. My husband feels the same way. We want her to enjoy her childhood.”
Katie attends the San Rafael public school system and is a kindergartner at Coleman Elementary School. Unlike San Francisco and Oakland which has a lottery, children go to the school closest to their home.
“I didn’t have to do what I see my friends in the city doing [applying to public schools],” said Jessica. “Applying and going on tours. It’s stressful, and if your kid doesn’t get in then you have to go to private school and who can afford private school?”
Before they moved from San Francisco, they hired a nanny to take care of Katie two days a week when Jessica taught classes. She then took care of her daughter the other three weekdays, which hampered her professional career as a photographer.
Since moving to San Rafael, they have been able to enjoy life more.
Jessica and Darragh used the money they would have spent trying to live in San Francisco and bought a beautiful house. They are now able to save money for Katie’s college tuition.
When she turned three years-old, they were also able to send Katie to a private bi-lingual Montessori preschool (Spanish was the second language).
Now that she is five years old Katie attends a public primary school which is excellent according to Jessica. The school relies on donations and fundraising to be successful, just like other public schools in Oakland and San Francisco and throughout California. For example, the art program at Katie’s school is funded by the Parent Teacher Organization (same as the PTA for other schools). Coleman’s after school program also cost money, but Jessica and Darragh love the classes activities it offers, which include science lessons.
The after school program is essential for the couple since they both work. Kindergarten classes in San Rafael do not run the full day. The school day starts at 9 A.M. till 1:30 and then there is an after-kindergarten program from 1:30 till 3 P.M. when the other grade school classes end. From 3 to 6 P.M. she is part of the school’s regular after school program.
Jessica wishes that Coleman offered a bilingual education, especially because half the students in her daughter’s class are Latino and speak Spanish. She notes that although there are a sizeable Latino population and ethnic diversity, there is not a difference in economic and social classes in San Rafael. Almost everyone they know is middle class.
But despite these concerns, Jessica and Darragh believe living in the suburbs with kids is much easier than in the city. The restaurants are kid-friendly, and there are plenty of parks and hiking trails. There is also a plethora of activities for Katie. If they want the culture of the city, they make the short trip to San Francisco. For example, they sometimes take the ferry into the city and go to the Exploratorium museum.
Growing up in Ireland Darragh is a big proponent of having Katie have a lot of free time as a child. Katie doesn’t have siblings, but their family has made many good friends in San Rafael. Their kids hang out frequently together on weekends.
“This summer she is going to be riding a bike,” said Darragh. “When a kid rides a bike, they get an inner independence, and she can become her own person. She is already showing signs of that in the last year with learning karate and swimming.”
“We try to keep her on as long a leash as possible,” added Jessica. “As long as she is respectful and she does what she is told when she needs to.”
“We’ve both have traveled a bit [around the world], and we both want her to travel as much as possible,” added Jessica.
When asked about how President Trump’s administration might affect Katie, Jessica responded “I’m scared for her generation. They are going to have to clean up this mess. But hopefully, they will have the tools to clean it up.”