I admire your wisdom. You state it wonderfully when you said, "there are too many things to do for one person." You have sensed your limitations and have addressed this with the correct response. I would wonder if your husband or another supportive person is available to lend a hand. It has been my experience that people truly want to help but need to be told what you would like them to do. Reach out to persons whom the Lord has put in your path to help.
Newborns and toddlers help us set goals and priorities. Very young children such as yours require quite a bit of attention and supervision. It is necessary for their safety alone that we be watchful and diligent. However, a second and fourth grader have achieved a level of independence which makes it feasible to let them work or play on their own as long as you are available and near.
I would imagine your biggest work load comes from your commitment to school work and their education. Look through your studies for your second and fourth grader. What is a priority and what isn't? In my homeschool, Math and Religion are the priorities. Math is so learning intensive for my children and requires a lot of instruction. Which subjects can be worked independent of your constant help and which need you one-on-one? I am impressed with curriculums formatted like what I have seen from CHC. It is a parent-friendly binder of lesson plans that sets doable goals and explains in advance which subjects are priorities for the days work. It is flexible and lends itself well to the ups and downs of real family life, where the needs of children come first.
In my own situation, I find that workbooks are a big help, especially those with the answer keys in the same book. My children are able to work on them for the most part without my constant help. When you are on the couch nursing the baby it is possible for one of the school children to sit next to you and get your assistance. I believe in rewarding young children when they have worked well on their own and have accomplished a realistic amount of work. Remember homeschooling gives us the freedom to set our days up the way that best suits our family.
Keep housework at a minimum. Make your home clutter free and baby friendly. Do not expect to have an immaculate house or even work towards that goal. Again, set priorities. For me the priority is laundry. It doesn't have to be folded, just clean. Let the answering machine take your calls or take the phone off the hook. My children seem to stray away from the task at hand when I am on the phone. However (can I blame them?) I have set a bad example by leaving the work we are doing to chit chat on the phone.
Sleep deprivation is a common problem for moms. It makes us weary and irritable. Too much sleep deprivation can certainly lead to physical problems. These reasons are enough for us to do what we can to get enough sleep. Remember what you learned in childbirth class? Sleep when the baby sleeps. This may not mean that you are able to get into the bed but perhaps you can take a nap. I used to cozy up in the rocker recliner with the baby and whoever else that wanted to snuggle. I would take the phone off the hook, lock the doors and close the blinds so as not to be disturbed. Older children played in their rooms or in the same room with me. It was understood that mommy was resting and they needed to be quiet. Children are very loving and seem to naturally understand when a parent truly has a physical need. They are also very helpful. These are the blessings of being "childlike," as the Lord asks of us. After your rest time, reward the children, it is your way to show them that you appreciate their help.
Your plate is full and you are to be admired. I am impressed that your question is really about "keeping joyful" for the sake of the children. Jesus wants us to be joyful. It is mentioned nearly as often in the Bible as love. I have drawn a conclusion from that—to love is to find joy. A mother such as yourself whose concern is how to better care for her children is a mom full of love. I suspect that you are indeed joyful in the Lord, just overwhelmed at the moment with the work ahead of you. Remember, go easy on yourself.
The days of "little people and nursing persons" fly by all too quickly. Soon you will begin to see relief from your work load. In the meantime set priorities, remembering that "mommy" needs to be a priority as well.
Take comfort in the Blessed Mother's prayers. Run to her often when you are feeling overwhelmed. Pray the rosary. Jesus wants you to succeed in doing His will and He will send you the grace necessary.
Dearest Jesus, we pray for the physical and mental strength to handle the demands of young children. When we rest, Lord, let our sleep be peaceful. Give us the wisdom to set realistic priorities, knowing that we are not to ask more of ourselves than You ask of us. Amen.
Isaiah 55. This is a beautiful scripture to read when you are feeling tired and oppressed by the demands of life. I like to meditate upon this scripture when I return from receiving the most Precious Body of Jesus at Eucharist. Jesus is as close to me then as He can be in this earthly life.
Sending out a prayer,