Commutes. For some, they’re a breeze and for others they’re a nightmare. It is not a part of the workday we normally talk about but they can have a huge impact on wellbeing and mental state, which can affect work and home life. Commutes can affect decisions about where to live, what job to take, and what else you are able to fit into your day. Here we talk about our various commutes and how they fit into our lives.
I have had a variety of commutes since finishing grad school. I’ve taken public transportation with kids in tow and I’ve also driven. There are pros and cons to those…I enjoyed the podcasts in the car, both kid- and adult-oriented. I can make some recommendations if you’re interested! (OK, since you twisted my arm, highly recommend The Alien Adventures of Finn Caspian, Stories Podcast, and The Unexplainable Disappearance of Mars Patel for listening that you’re planning to do with your kids) The public transportation commute was nice because it gave me extra time to read with my kids or do my own thing while not having to worry about driving or having the stress of traffic.
I now bike commute. I am lucky enough that my kids’ school is just a half mile from where I live, so it’s easy enough to take the younger one in the bike trailer and the older one on his own bike and then take off for work. Actually, my husband does drop off, so I just head straight to work on my bike in the morning and stop off on my way home to pick them up. However, between biking and changing etc, my total commute time per day is around an hour and a half, which feels like a large chunk of time. Because of this I work from home several days a week. I know that I am incredibly lucky to have the ability to do that and I think all employers should make that option as easy as possible. Obviously lab work cannot be done at home, but during periods of writing, etc, it should be an option.
The school I teach at is located right downtown in a fairly major city. I thankfully live a short, 12 minute drive away. The problem for me has never been traffic, but parking. In order to get both my kids to school on time, we all have to be out the door by 6:55 AM (sometime, I’ll write a post on how to survive the stressful half an hour between 6:30-7:00 AM). For a number of years, my husband dropped us all off at daycare/work; after work, I then took the bus home and retrieved my car. I’d subsequently go and pick up the kids. When I missed the bus or forgot my keys at work (which happened more times than I care to admit), I’d be upwards of an hour later to pick up my kids. On those days, my kids might spend almost 10 hours at daycare. I’d spend the rest of the evening lamenting how I’d missed one of the few daily hours I get to spend with my children.
I’ve finally decided to fork over the $13/day that it costs to park downtown each day. I find I am infinitely less stressed knowing that I can pick up my kids on my way home at the end of the day. I most certainly feel guilt over the cost and environmental impact (especially given my teacher’s salary); but I’m trying to view it as part of the cost of having kids. On the list of must-haves for my next job: A great, big open-access parking lot.
I recently moved from a major city to a small city and was so excited to give up stressful, crowded subway rides and long walks on sidewalks either disgusting or decrepit. Unexpectedly though, my new drive is possibly even more stressful. We are a one-car family, and so we all have to get out the door together as early as possible, a daily feat. Then we decide for the morning and afternoon who will be dropped off or picked up by whom and in what order, always an annoying negotiation. Even though our three office/childcare locations are within a mile of each other, all about 10 minutes from home, the whole commute takes about an hour door-to-door. In a major city it’s a given that parking will be impossible, so you work around however you can. In a small city surrounded by rural areas though, it’s incredibly frustrating. My institution offers only one place to park for new employees (it’s probably a 7-year wait to get the next level parking), and it happens to be on the exact opposite end of campus from my office, about a 20 minute walk in decent weather. Every day while I walk I curse the situation and draft a letter in my head to the parking office, just like every day in the big city the worst part of my day was my commute and I sent letters to the public transportation office. Everything has changed and nothing has changed. I’d love to embrace the walk and time to think alone, but I can’t get past the way I plan my days and life around the commute more than my job or activities, and so it’s negatively affecting those aspects of my life.
“Are you going to see your friends today at daycare?” I ask my son. We’re both sitting in the backseat of our 15-year old Lincoln Town Car. My husband is driving.
“The light is green!” my toddler exclaims.
“Why don’t you finish your waffle?” I ask him. Yes, he often gets his breakfast on the road.
“Green for GO!” he exclaims, shooting his fist into the air. Of course he’s right in theory that green means go but we’re stuck in morning rush-hour traffic so we’re not really going anywhere. My son keeps a running tally of the colors of the cars and trucks around us, which I find adorable (but anyone else might find annoying!)
We live in a city with an OK public transportation system. There’s also a great bike path that leads almost directly from our house to work (about an 8-mile pedal). However, the issue with biking or taking public transport is the daycare drop-off. Our daycare is en route to work via car, but isn’t feasible to get to via bus or train, and is a difficult bike ride on a hilly and busy road– just not doable for me with a toddler and all his diapers, snacks, crafts, etc. in tow. So my husband and I are currently sucking up the car commute, which takes nearly an hour door-to-door each way, plus parking costs (we pay over $200 monthly). Thankfully, we work close enough to each other that we can carpool.
In the afternoons, I have a cell phone alarm that goes off at 5PM, which is when I need to leave work. My husband typically takes the bus home later. I literally run across campus to the parking garage and fight rush hour traffic to get to my son’s daycare before it closes at 6. I try not to be the last parent in his class to pick him up, but that happens more often than I’d like. Honestly, I find this the most stressful part of my day– from rushing to finish my experiments promptly by 5 to fighting other drivers on the city streets. I try to use the time in the car to listen to public radio and catch up on the news, but it still feels like wasted, anxious time. Thankfully, the giant hug I get from my son when I pick him up makes all the rushing worth it!
What does your commute look like? How has your life changed to accommodate your commute?