Commuting sucks. Or does it? My answer to that is, it’s all in how you approach it.
When baby number two came along, my husband and I decided to get out of the city. It was all about “the good life”. After a year off on maternity leave with my second child, however, the thought of trying to combine a career, two children and a 1 hour 30mins commute seemed far cry from good!
I came up with a number of reasons as to why it wouldn’t work. Do we take the kids with us on the commute? How do I manage the all-time stressful process of drop off and then miss the lovely hugs at pick up? I will be tired, the kids will miss me, what happens if we get stuck, train delays – and so it went on.
Fast forward nearly 6 months and right now I am commuting… happily tapping away on my laptop writing this and dare I say it, enjoying myself. For me, the commute is by train. A train can be a magical place. Like an airplane, it’s one of those in-between spaces. There are no chores to do, no one asking me for snacks; I am sat down for a period of time and I can choose to fill that time how I want! Be that doing some work, shopping online, listening to Ted talks, staring at the beautiful scenery or – yeah, let’s be honest – scanning social media.
Living on the Coast means I get to experience the Hawkesbury River early in the morning, and it is beautiful. I’ve found the countryside gives you that pinch you sometimes need to remind yourself that there is a whole big wide world out there. Yes I’m a mum, working and running a house and family, but actually, so is everyone else and there is a wonderful big old world at my fingertips. But on the flip side, this perspective can definitely take a holiday when you are trying to drop off children and they both decide that daycare isn’t somewhere they want to be today!
Friends often ask, ‘How’s the commute, bet it’s a nightmare?’ and I’m not going to tell it like it isn’t; sometimes it can feel like one. Particularly when I’ve been up in the night with one of the children.
Like anything though, there are pros and cons!
- Fresh air, clean beaches, numerous days out and kid friendly cafes and restaurants. Amazing parks and natural scenery. That’s a lot for the first point, but I can’t stress that bit enough.
- It takes a village to raise a child. I find the sense of community is far greater than city living.
- Cost of childcare is lower, less time on waitlists.
- Distance. Commuting gives you time to mentally prepare for both aspects of life either way. (Preferably with the theme tune from the latest Wonder Woman film playing in your ears.)
- “Me time”
- Or, you can always do work on train, supermarket shop for delivery – niggly jobs in general can be ticked off
- Time with my partner on commute to just “be”. This was a revelation I had not considered. How often does that happen when kids come into the equation?
- Finally, going into the city is a treat and an event rather than tangled up with daily grind.
- Any issues with delays on the trains – you need a plan B for who has the kids
- Decision between leaving kids local or commuting with you. Personally, we kept it local (cheaper, support network and kids won’t then have extra travel to contend with).
- It can be tiring.
- Kids are sick you’ll still be an hour or so away, plan B needed for collection
- There will be evenings where you work late and the journey in addition can feel enormous when you just want to get back in time for a kiss before bed. FaceTime helps!
- Length of day – commute on top of a day at work. If travel can be built into you work time that’s ideal
So what are my top tips for commuting?
- First up, negotiate your hours in any way possible to benefit you and your family. Being a working mum is hard, but most employers are very accomodating. Early starts and finishes, or flexi days will help you find balance.
- Be organised. All your gear for the next day drop off at the front door or in the car ready to roll.
- Outfits out to dress the kids the night before, depending on age, task them to do it and race you!
- Plan your own outfit. Get it ready and do as much as you can in terms of your own personal prep the night prior. (The Train is great to put your make up on if you run out of time!)
- Find a good parking spot that is reliable and easy access to station if going via public transport.
- Avoid meltdowns with morning rush: Quick grab options for breakfast on-the-go, because I guarantee they will say they are hungry when loading in the car. Yoghurt pouches have proven invaluable in getting us out the door and on our way.
- Choose daycare options on the way to work, or nearby.
- Outsource – we decided a nanny was a great option to take the stress away from trying to get home on time for daycare pick up and the stress involved in that. Our Nanny helps with pick up, dinner early, bath and stories we are nearly always back for a kiss and cuddle. Nanny is also there to cover if there are any delays.
- Meal planning– if you’re not back to do it, favourite meal prepped ready for carer to heat is a winner all round & something for them to look forward to.
- Lastly, forgive yourself – it doesn’t always run smoothly and you can only do your best.
It seems like a contradiction, but who’d have thought a commute would provide the space and time I needed to reconnect to myself professionally and make me more present on the days I’m with my children?
It’s all about perspective and the scenery where I live, seeing my kids play with no boundaries gives me a helluva lot of it!