We had a tempestuous, uneasy relationship -- the bus and I. In the mornings, I luxuriated in dozing off in its relatively comfortable seats for the hour-long journey between my suburban home and my job in the city. That morning nap was almost worth having to get up at the crack of dawn just to board the bus on time.
But in the evenings, my ten-wheeled friend became a foe. Inevitably, the bus got stuck in traffic, ran late, was too crowded, took too long for people to get on and off, etc, etc. I resented the bus, raging against its shortcomings in real-time, emailed rants to anyone who would read them. My emotions ran high over more than plain inconvenience. As a mom rushing home to her child, I wasn't just annoyed with the bus -- I was stressed out by my commute.
And I was one of many.
A report published on PBS.org reviewed a number of commuting studies and found that:
- Commuting disproportionately limits and stresses out women compared to men. From restricting job prospects to requiring aviationlike coordinate plotting, daily travel pressures are wearing women down ... Commuting, for women, gets added to an already heavy workload that often includes child care and the majority of day-to-day household tasks, the researchers explained.
I was fortunate in that my mother helped me a great deal, first watching my son full time while I worked and, later, picking him up from daycare and tending to him until I got home at night. Her tremendous assistance notwithstanding, I still found it trying to feed, bathe, and put him to bed by a reasonable hour largely because my commute had chewed up such a significant portion of my day and also sapped a good deal of my energy. (You wouldn't think sitting on a bus for an hour would be tiring, yet somehow it really was.) Ideally, my husband would have been able to split more of those nighttime parenting responsibilities with me, but his hours were, and still are, even longer than mine.
When it comes to parents balancing demanding careers with spending time with their children, I think eliminating the minutes and hours wasted by commuting is key. Clearly, there are some super moms and dads who somehow successfully squeeze ungodly commutes, quality parenting time, and professional achievements into their lives...but if you asked them if they'd rather be riding the bus or reading Junior an extra bedtime story, you know what their answers would be.
After I had my second child, I knew I couldn't keep it all up anymore. My commute was one of the biggest -- if not the biggest -- reasons I changed career tracks and now work mostly from home as a freelance writer. Here, too, I was part of a trend: A 2007 University of Chicago study found that in cities with increasing commute times, more women dropped out of the labor force. (OK, so I didn't technically drop out of the labor force but I did leave my last in-office job. You get the point.)
I love what I do now. I enjoy my work and am grateful that the time I once spent commuting can now be devoted to my sons. But I do miss my old job and the advantages of being a staffer. For my family, moving to the city isn't an option for various reasons, yet I can't help but wonder if it'd be worth returning to work in the city -- the place with the best job prospects for me -- once the kids are older and easier to wrangle. Perhaps with some schedule accommodations, I could even get home earlier to see them?
All that said, I'm still not sure I can make peace with losing so much time to the commuter bus again. It's going to take serious soul-searching to decide whether to put those wheels in motion.
More from babble:
The Real Reason Women Quit Their Careers to Become Stay-At-Home Moms
I Have Three Kids and No Guilt About Working Full-Time
Wives Lose in Battle for "Me Time," According to Study (and Me)