Owning a swimming pool

Over a year ago, when we staring looking for a new home in town, whether or not there was a pool didn’t really enter into our decision making process. For my wife, it was a detriment, and to me, I was neutral on the topic. We were both fairly active swimmers in our youth, and for me, I have a weakness for the smell of chlorine. Chlorine reminds me of early Saturday mornings when the sunlight could make it into the windows of the pool where I taught swimming lessons. The sun would light up the place and the day seemed to be full of the boundless energy of the kids I was teaching. I miss that feeling.

When our current home came up on our radar, we were more interested in the house itself rather than the fact it had a pool in the backyard. For us, when we decided to buy our home, it was a matter of whether or not we would keep the pool. We decided to use it for a season and a make a decision after whether or not we’d keep it.

Almost a year into our new home, and my wife and I gave owning a pool a go, and I have some thoughts to share.

Owning a pool is such an extravagance for my family. One of our more regular routines was to go for a weekly swim at the local public pool as a family, and we were quite content with that routine. Having a pool somewhat trivialized that experience. While we did swim more than once a week (when the weather was nice enough) it was not a regular thing. Also, just having the pool there at all times didn’t mean we would swim every day (which I sort of expected to happen when it was really hot out). Sometimes you’re just not up for a swim (usually just laziness directed towards changing into a bathing suit) so you’d just say you’ll go tomorrow.

Owning a pool is also a lot of work. Not that I am opposed to heavy lifting, but maintaining a pool is a daily chore that must be completed, otherwise your water turns green. Ideally the work is done during daylight hours when you can see what you are doing. With three kids, finding time during the day to check chemicals, or vacuum, or skim, can be hard, especially when they want to “help” you. Doing pool chores first thing in the morning or immediately after work ended up being the most ideal times to do the work, but those are meal times and can be quite difficult for one parent to manage all the kids while preparing a meal while the other one is out taking care of the pool.

Finally, opening and closing the pool is also a lot of work. Full-day jobs in fact. Can’t leave the pool by itself while filling in case it overflows or something goes wrong, can’t leave the pool when draining it or risk damaging the pump. Pools are also just dirty in general, a lot dirtier than I expected. Lots of stuff makes its way into the water that will need to be fished out of somewhere, and the waterline needs a good scrubbing once in a while.

The overall experience was not a negative one. Running the pool was cheaper than I expected. I spent a small chunk on chemicals first thing in the summer, and they lasted almost the whole way through. The amount of electricity the pump consumes is fairly trivial. Filling the pool wasn’t nearly as expensive as I expected it to be, too, although that cost may have been balanced out by the fact that I had just replaced 3 of our 4 old, high-flow toilets with low-flow models the month prior, thus negating the additional water consumption the next month when I filled the pool.

The biggest benefit was in my kids’ swimming abilities. There was a measurable improvement in their ability to swim over the course of the 3 active months of pool use. Their comfort around the water improved significantly, the safety lessons learned made them more cautious (safety really took hold after my daughter fell in backwards once while I was there with them), but most importantly, swimming tires them out. Be it the exertion from all the kicking, or from their little low-fat bodies working hard to keep them warm while in the water, they would often sleep well that night if they had a good swim during the day.

The verdict right now is to keep the pool. Mainly for the kids. We have heard of plenty of anecdotal stories from friends whose families had pools in their youth who’d say they loved them and the memories they created, just as I love my memories of teaching swimming lessons.

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