Managing Commuting as a Parent
hi there, i am a new mom on maternity leave. my daughter is 2.5 months old and will be 4 months when i return to work.
i live in berkeley and was offered a new job in berkeley, that would start around the same time. the job would probably be more stressful in some ways just by the nature of the job, but i would also have the added stress of trying to make a good impression while being new to the job and being a new mom.
my current job provides safe child care at a slight discount close by but it is currently in fremont [there's a chance i could convince them to let me work from hayward]. there's also a chance they might let me work from home a few days a week. the old job is comfy. people like me, i like my team. they would be very understanding about having to leave early if daughter was sick, etc. i would not have to worry about making new impressions or learning a new job.
has anyone faced a similar situation? was taking a new job as a new mom ok? has anyone commuted far w a baby? how was it? thank you maggie
Dear New Mom, Congratulations on your new baby and on having two good employment options!!
I think you are really smart to be looking at things like current status/standing at your company vs trying something new. Most new parents are really surprised by how tired they are (the entire first year at least) as well as how many sick days they need to take to care for an ailing baby during the first year. It's stressful to have to take unexpected days off in any situation, let alone while trying to establish relationships and reputation at a new company.
My personal experience is that I received a significant increase in responsibility while I was prego with my first child (hadn't announced yet). While it was a great career opportunity it proved to be incredibly poorly timed. I had a very hard time managing the stress of my new roles at both work and home when I returned from maternity leave Either one would have been challenging and for me taking on both was a mega challenge and in the end I was not able to make it all work. Things were complicated by the fact that my job required semi-regular travel across the country. I had good status at my company but that slowly eroded as i continued to struggle. In the end I decided to leave that company and now have a much less stressful job at a much smaller and less intense company in the same industry that I really enjoy. i even get to work from home so it all worked at well in the end (and allowed me have a 2nd child while still working).
In fairness, i suffered from Post Partum anxiety/depression and while I felt I had fully recovered by the time I returned to work in retrospect this was probably part of the problem.
I concluded I can have it all; just not all at the same time. I know some moms do it well but wanted to let you know it's not possible for everyone.
Also, don't discount the benefits of being close by your baby during the day.
Congrats again! If I knew then what I knew now....
I have a counter commute and I get pretty sick of it, especially early on when I was a new Mom. If your old job might consider allowing you to work from home I would get that figured out for certain before you make a decision. That potentially could be very beneficial. If you are stuck making the commute it might be very frustrating. I hate losing 50 min-1.5 hours a day to my drive. I have great childcare but I get no exercise and no time for myself to do any errands. If I could chop that commute down I could fit in a few things during the week. I would also try to figure out which job is more family friendly. Are there many other moms/parents? I was a super high performer but have cut my extra time way back. It's really hard for me to get all my work done now. I sort of knew my place wasn't family friendly but it became strikingly clear how ''old school'' it is when I went back. So, these are some things I would try to flush out more. Commuting Mom
Hi, Congrats on having these options. I am the not-so-new mother of a 15-month old and don't have the most challenging/rewarding/exciting job BUT it lets me work from home. This has been a god-send since my child was born. I was able to pump while on calls, breast feed during the day, take short naps when I was exhausted and could be around my child pretty much all day (nanny at home) while working. At no point did the baby or I feel anxiety at being separated. I feel incredibly lucky to have had this set up. Because I have the trust of my coworkers and have been a high-performer, I felt my work was willing to cut me some slack. I was able to do most of my work when my child was sleeping and after-hours. In retrospect, I don't think I could have handled dropping my baby off at day-care Mon-Fri 9-5.
I have thought abt getting a new job from time to time but I feel the flexibility that this job gives me is a blessing and is the most important this in my life at this point. Once pre-school, etc. starts, I can start my search for a better and more rewarding job.
My sense is this-- as a new mom, you'll have sleepless nights and much exhaustion. A commute, having to make a good impression, new colleagues, etc. are big stressors. At least for another year, you might want to stick with your current job. You'll be happier for it, in the long run. That's my 2 cents! WorkathomeMom
I have been working FT (w/ 1 day at home) at my job for almost 8 years now at a large, very popular company in a job that I do enjoy most of the time. Although I am doing a job a bit different than what I came here to do, I like it, like my boss and also have a lot of vacation time this year. The pay is good, benefits are great and there are a lot of perks I like. There is some travel involved but not a lot and it\x92s manageable. The only downer is that I have a 45-50 min. commute each way most days and dread all the time I have to waste in traffic. Fortunately my spouse gets home earlier to help with the kids but I miss being around them and missing out on some of their activities. We have a wonderful nanny who takes good care of them so I know they are well cared for and I feel like I get some good, quality time with them when I am home. Our 2 kids are easy and the older one understands that there are 2 working parents in our house. I have thought about looking around for a job closer to home with less commute but am scared to lose some flexibility I have at this job and possibly go to a job I probably won't enjoy as much. I am interested to hear from others if you have done this and if you regretted leaving for these reasons. I just don't want to be resentful that I left something I shouldn't have. And please don\x92t say to quit and be home with the kids, it is not an option for us. Thanks Working mom
Is moving closer to your job an option? Or increasing your work- from-home days? Or more flexible start/end times so you can avoid heavy traffic? Juggling too
I'm only 8 miles from my office, and it still takes almost 30 minutes. So even if you get something closer, it still may not make a big difference. It sounds like you're in a great spot with your current employer. The economy is faltering somewhat, and more job losses and insecurity are certainly likely. I'd vote for keeping what you have- the flexibility and vacation are worth it compared to the maybe 30 minutes a day you could save on the commute. Nothing worse than feeling like you're in prison in a job. Maybe a plan B- could you talk them into letting you work from home one day a week or even once every two weeks? another working mom
You say you have been there for 8 years. Is it possible to work 2 days a week at home?
Or to leave early two days a week and make up the hours in the evening from home?
Or cut your hours by 10% in exchange for a small pay cut?
Having a job you like, with great benefits and flexibility, is a valuable thing. And the fact that you have been there so long might give you some leverage to make it a little less oppressive in terms of the commute. Good luck keeping the balance
Would it be possible for you to work more days at home - maybe go into work once a week? It seems like you really have a great job, and it probably will be hard getting the same ''deal'' for starters in a new position - you might even end up putting in those hours you planned to save on the commute in your new job?
I was in a similar situation to yours in Boston - long commutes, great nanny, spouse that worked closer to home, worked 1 day from home and was playing with the idea of getting something else.
Then my husband got relocated to the Bay Area, and after much fretting on what to do (resign, get a new job, STAH etc) I just asked my boss that if we could give telecommuting a try - and if it would work it would be a win-win. They didn't have to loose me as an employee - and I got the benefit of working from home with a 10 step commute everyday. So we tried it out and now I've been telecommuting for two years :-)
You are not in the exact same situation, but if you feel they don't want to loose you as an employee, you can have some bargain power with your current employer as well? I think there are a lot of flexibility with a good employer/emplyee. Good luck! Camilla
Look for a new job. If you don't find something that fits you, you'll know at least you tried. But if you never look, you'll never know if there is something as good or better than what you have now! -
Just to make sure I'm reading this right: You have a job you like, a boss you like, good pay, good benefits, good perks and lots of vacation; they let you work at home one day a week, your kids are easy, they are looked after by a ''wonderful'' nanny, your husband gets home early to help out and you feel that the time you spend with them is ''good, quality'' time.
And the problem is that your commute is 45 to 50 minutes each way? (By the way, does anyone in the Bay area have a commute of less than 40 minutes?) Is it that you just hate the traffic (and who doesn't?) All commutes are potenitally a ''waste,'' as you put it. That's why, when my commute was more than an hour each way, I started listening to books on tape and audio Spanish lessons.
How much more time will you save in a new commute that's going to really add significantly to your time with the children? Maybe a total of an hour each day? Yes, that time is precious. But would everyone feel better if you instead had a 10 minute commute to a job you hate?
The only advice I have for you: get down on your knees and with sobbing gratitude give thanks to the heavens above for having such a perfect work situtation. Unless you can guarantee that you'll be able to replicate what you have in a job that's closer (though you would be losing the seniority you've built up at the current job) hang onto this job like grim death. We're in a recession. There are literally hundreds of thousands of Bay area working moms who would be thrilled to have even half the working conditions you state. Kinda shocked at the question
When we decided to start having kids, I took an easy job close to home with flexible hours. (Though know that even though it is only 2 miles it takes almost 15 minutes because it is all surface streets.) Parts of it have been great: I like that I only have to commute a few miles to work and that I can drop by my kids' schools or take them to doctor's appointments. I work at home several hours a day so I'm around a lot, and that's worth a lot to me. But, I feel like my soul is dying. Sometimes it doesn't matter that I'm around so much because I'm so miserable with my job which is 40 hours every week. I wish I had a job I loved. Some ideas to make it better for you: Could you work at home two (or more) days/week? Could you work four 10-hour days with one of them at home? Or 9- hour days with every other Friday off? Could you go down to 80% time? Could you shift your schedule an hour earlier so you are home at a more reasonable hour? Could you carpool with someone you like so your commute doesn't feel like such a big time suck? Could you take public transit and work on the bus/BART/train -- work stuff if you can swing it, house stuff (paying bills, writing letters, etc.) if you can't.
Being home with your kids is great, but having a job you like with a boss and co-workers you get along with is also great. Sometimes you can only have one. Good luck
Help us! We need some ideas and advice on what to do! The situation is:
My husband, after years of working for (and getting laid off from,) start ups....ones he usually didnt really like ....has found a job doing stuff he loves AND is at a company that is not going to go belly up. The downside is...its in Redwood City, and we live in Berkeley.
He has been doing the commute now for about 6 months...and it sucks! He is not home usually until 7:30 or 8pm, by that time our two kids (7 and 9) are in bed or very close to it. Most nights he is either to tired, or just doesnt get home in time to even read a story. He has tried going in early and leaving early, but even leaving at 4pm the traffic is so bad it takes him 2+ hours to get home. We are trying to get pregnant again....and i had a vision the other day of, not only being alone with the kids and the puppy every afternoon and eve, but then adding an infant to that? My heart raced just thinking about it!
The reason we havent packed up already is that we LOVE Berkeley. We own a home very close to downtown, and although its a fixer, and nowhere near being done, it has our blood, sweat and tears in it. We love the community, and our circle of friends we have developed.
But, i also love my husband, ...and i love having a weekday co-parent.
What do you think?
Are there eastbay-ish area's on that side of the bay? Towns that have local coffee shops, farmers markets and dog friendly video stores? (that last one isn't a necessity, i just love Reel though!) I know that its not that far to visit friends if we move, but, i have just become attached to Berkeley. As for me, i am a student and have the abilty to transfer to either San Jose State or Sf State with it not being a big loss.
Thanks in advance for your thoughts.......... cris
We were in a similar situation a few years ago except my husband was attending graduate school at Stanford and we lived in Berkeley. Luckily we did not have children at the time. The commute took an awful toll on our relationship, and I reluctantly moved to Menlo Park. I did not think I could love living down there but I actually did! There was less crime, so many things to do, great book stores and farmer's markets and beautiful places to just hop on your bike and cycle forever.
Later we had children and lived again in Berkeley, and I (again) still couldn't accept living somewhere else in the Bay Area. And I did. Yes, Berkeley is a wonderful place to live, but you would be surprised at how you will take to a new community and make it yours.
As a spouse of an attorney, who spends most nights alone with the kids, I will tell you that it is far better to MOVE than to risk marital problems or have the continued stress of that kind of commute. And that commute - Redwood City to Berkeley - is a bad commute. It will also be far better for your children to see your spouse, and reduce the stress on your parenting. in favor of moving
Stop....you are complicating your life as it is. You are a student, a mother of two and take care of the home? What else do you need, please take a breather. If you love Berkeley, stay in Berkeley; because you have your support group there. Your children are 7 and 9, you just have to tell them to go to bed and see their father in the morning.Even if your husband will come earlier to home, he will be tired all the same.Having a third child will not solve any problems, will aggravate them. This is the bay area, all the husbands come around 8:00pm. Unless you decide to move, where you are not going to have the same support group, and environement. Finish your studies, get a job; wait a couple of years, by then if you still want to have a third child do it.I have a 20,17 and a 5 year old.No biggie. Seen this before
Hi there! I wanted to respond because we were recently in a very similar situation. We lived in Oakland and my husband commuted to his job in Redwood City. We managed this for about 6 mos. before he hit the wall and just couldn't do it anymore. I was VERY reluctant to move and sort of dragged my feet about the whole thing. Well, we've since moved to Mountain View and we couldn't be happier! Really! For one thing, we're saving a ton of money on gas and bridge tolls. My husband is way less stressed out because he doesn't have to sit in traffic for at least an hour each way. (And what an awful way to start and end your day... dreading the commute!). We have lots more space for the same amount of money. And the community is wonderful! We're very close to downtown Mountain View which has an abundance of little shops and restaurants and parks. The Sunday farmers market is excellent! (Although I do miss Berkeley Bowl...). Anyway, my advice is to move - not just for your husband, but for you too! My favorite part of our new living situation is that my husband and I see each other lots more - and he's much happier when he walks through the door at night. And that's totally worth it. enjoying my happy new home!
Your situation sound very familiar. We lived on the peninsula for 3 years before buying our house in Oakland two years ago. My husband still works in Foster City, though, and I work in San Jose! We love the Easy Bay--our old house, our friends, our neighborhood. We have our first child due any day now, so concerns about the time and energy spent commuting are on our minds, and we often think of quitting here and moving back over the bay.
My husband and I both came from the East Bay originally, and to be honest we were not able to find an ''eastbay-ish'' area on the peninsula. People are friendly enough, schools are good, and a few places have proper, walkable downtown areas and are dog-friendly. But if it's cultural diversity and quirkly politics and general funkiness that you enjoy, you may find the peninsula lacking. We found it to be fairly homogeneous culturally (or, when not, segregated instead), and generally conservative. San Carlos itself was very much a 50's retirement town, and as a young couple we felt very isolated. Mountain View has the best in the way of a true downtown, but in a city where apartments outnumber houses, the MV housing market is prohibitive for us. Redwood City itself was starting to look promising just as we moved away, so there may be something to look into there.
I'll be reading the advice from other people along with you, in the hopes that we missed something in our time there. If we could carry Berkeley over the bay with us, we would, too!
Good luck! Kelly
I'm a Life Decision Coach - I help people with this kind of hard decision.
Some questions that may be helpful for you: -How long does your husband anticipate being in this job? -What are all of the things you and your husband care about that are affected by this decision? (commute time, Berkeley friends, Berkeley-type community, your school situation, time with kids, time with each other,...) -How would each of these be impacted by moving? -Have you looked around different communities on the Peninsula? If so, could you see yourselves living in any of them?
Good luck! Dave
I thought I would write as someone who grew up on the Peninsula, has moved to Berkeley and did the commute from Berkeley to Palo Alto for about six months. I have family that lives in Belmont and Redwood Shores.
We lived on the Peninsula for about 7 years. Having done the commute from Berkeley to Stanford, I really empathize with how difficult it is (I quit my job and am now in graduate school).
Now in terms of the Peninsula, I would say that the first major difference is that Berkeley is really a city, an urban area and the Peninsula is the suburbs. That has changed over time as more business have set up their offices in Redwood City, San Carlos, San Mateo etc. Redwood City has a great Saturday Farmers Market (it may not run all year). Lots of organic vegetables, artists and usually live music. Redwood City has done a lot to revitalize their downtown area and it has some coffee shops and restraunts and live jazz during the summer. San Carlos also has a great downtown area with lots of independent restraunts (reasonably priced - in fact they have a great kid friendly sports bar that is one of the places we miss). In addition, Redwood City has Signoria Market which is open all year and which has expanded to include organic meats and pastas. They also have beautiful flowers. I would say that both San Carlos and Redwood City downtowns are similair to what you find on Solano Avenue. There are a number of great parks in the area as well.
I would offer one word of caution, if you opt to move, then really live into the move and make a life on the Peninsula. At different point in our lives we moved to Castro Valley but maintained most of our life on the Peninsula which meant we spent all our time in the car. It was really hard. When we made the decision to move to Berkeley, we really intentionally chose to make a life here and fell in love with it. I wouldn't advise trying to live life in 2 places.
Best of luck and hope this helps. Please feel free to contact me if you want more information, places to check out etc. Margaret mm_sequeira [at] hotmail.com
It's never taken me 2+ hrs to get from Redwood City to Berkeley, nor the other way around. The traffic can be awful, but I don't believe it is that bad every day (pre-holiday period an exception). YOu could try getting into a carpool, so he'd have to come and go with the carpool, and he won't be as tired since he may not be driving (he could even potentially find a vanpool). They used to have an organization for that -try 511.org to begin. Try that first if you don't want to move. There are plenty of communities that you may be happy with over there, and there are even some things that are better than berkeley-safer, better weather, not so stressful just to get to a store, etc. San Mateo might be the place to start looking, but it's ALL a bit pricier too. And just go check out all the downtowns of these various places, and maybe you'll find something you'll like. You'd probably love Palo Alto, which has a fabulous downtown, and the libraries are great, the parks are great, the weather is great, you can walk around safely, police even come when you call about noisy neighbors. But it's pricey, pricey, pricey.
I'd move, in a heartbeat. Is Berkeley _really_ worth the sacrifices your whole family is making???
There are lots of little downtown areas on the Peninsula, and some of them might appeal to you. Palo Alto and Menlo Park are very expensive, of course ... but check out Mountain View, Redwood City, San Carlos, San Mateo, Burlingame ... I'm sure there are others. Spend a few weekends down there and see what feels comfortable. Family time is precious. -- Hates commuting
We live in Oakland and I also commute to Redwood City most days for a full time job that I really like. Although I hate the commute and often people make comments to me about what a pain it must be to drive all that way, we have never thought about moving away from Oakland. Yes I wish I had more time with our child but since we are both full time working parents we try to share duties so we both can enjoy as much time as possible with our child. She is on our schedule so she eats with us for dinner every night and goes to bed probably a bit later than some kids but she is fine and we enjoy the evenings we all share together.
We love the east bay - our family and friends are all here and we savor the weekends when we can enjoy what the east bay has to offer. We take advantage of the parks, restaurants, etc. Like you said - we have put in a lot to our house and would not want to move away from it. Plus everything on the Peninsula is SO much more expensive.
Maybe he can leave later in the mornings knowing he will be home later or work from home sometimes so he can see the kids more? Unfortunately the Bay Area is expensive and we all commute crazy distances for jobs we really like. It is just a part of our culture here and the price we pay to live here. commuter parent too
When I had two little children and was newly pregnant with a third, my husband took a job in Hayward. I know it is not as far away as Redwood City but he left in the morning and we wouldn't see him until 8 or 9 at night--for many years. It was hard work but two things helped a lot: First, I decided that we would have a family meal every day only it was breakfast not dinner. I got up, set the table, made orange juice, eggs, muffins, whatever, and we all sat down together. It was work but it made me feel much better about us as a family. The second thing I did was hire babysitters in the late afternoons so I could go lap swimming. I got the routine down to a little over an hour and it broke up the long afternoon and evening. And I rarely put more energy into dinner than most people do for breakfast. It worked. Good luck, Janet
I would move. Commuting is so hard on a marriage, on both partners! Your family's short-term happiness, and long-term survival, depends on reducing the stress caused by such a commute. I understand the pain of leaving your home, but I hope that you will find a nice place near Redwood City that you will come to love. Your kids will grow up knowing their father, and you can have all the other things you stated were so (rightly!) important to you in your post. Good luck. Jennifer
I will be moving to San Jose next month from El Cerrito and am somewhat dreading it. I, like you, really love Berkeley and have always been an East Bay gal. I am in a great coparenting situation with my children's father and he is staying in El Cerrito. I've yet to find any of the quirkiness that Berkeley has to offer in the South Bay. I hear that Los Altos (or is it Los Gatos) has some retaurants and shops other than Buttercup Pantry and The Gap. It remains to be seen. I still will be spending a lot of time in the East Bay as my boys 3.5 & 7 live there part time but am curious as to neighborhoods down south that offer what Berkeley offers. If you do make the move, I would love to perhaps get together for coffee and kids. Maybe we can start a Berkeley Transplant support group. Let me know in your travels if you come upon any hidden cool spots. Amy
I missed the original post (never received the newletter) so maybe this isn't what you are looking for, but based on the replies I thought I would share another suggestion. Have you considered Alameda? My husband commutes to Stanford 4 days/week (telecommutes on Fridays) and I work in SF 3 days/week. We have 2 kids. He carpools and it usually takes him a little over an hour each way. He leaves at 8am and returns around 7pm or a little earlier. He only has to drive 1 day/week and the other 3 days he actually naps in the car. For dinner, we all eat when he gets home at 7 (I give the kids ''appetizers'' about an hour before). They start getting ready for bed at 8. It is not an ideal schedule, and certainly it would be nice if he could leave a 1/2 hour later in the morning and get home a 1/2 hour earlier. But we also looked for houses on the peninsula and decided against it for all the reasons you know (cost, diversity, etc.) Alameda works well for us as a small, liveable city, close to my parents in the East Bay. Someone else already suggested a carpool, which for that route is only 2 people, so it should be posssible to arrange. Good luck! --Happy with Alameda