FIRST PERSON | According to an article in The Week, studies show that long commutes can wreak havoc on workers’ relationships, finances and health. This news doesn’t surprise me. Living in rural Southwest Virginia where good paying jobs are often scarce, driving a long distance to work is nothing new for my family.
My husband currently drives over 45 miles, one way, to work each day in nearby Tennessee. He normally works 12 to 14 hour shifts, and he works five to six days a week. That is two hours a day that he spends driving. In the past he has worked jobs that required a one way commute of more than 75 miles each day into the nearby state of Kentucky.
My husband is not the only member of our family with a long commute. Our son is living at home while he attends college, and works split shifts around his class schedule. He drives 45 miles one way, and in the other direction from his father, Monday through Friday. Many of our friends and neighbors also drive long distances to work each day.
In the past, when my husband and I shared a vehicle, I was limited to working in the same town as my husband’s job, so that we could share the commute. We commuted together for several years, until I recently began working from home.
Driving in the car together and talking with one another for two hours each day actually strengthened our bond and our marriage. Since we no longer commute together each day to work, it has put a strain on our relationship. That is two hours a day we no longer have to talk to one another.
Having to drive such a long distance each day to work has also put financial strains on our household. We spend $400 to $600 a month on gas, and our car frequently needs maintenance and repairs. Even a small increase in prices at the pump is painful, and means cutting back on other things, such as eating out or shopping, to make up the difference.
Many have suggested that we move closer to our work, but as fragile as the economy is, it doesn’t make sense to us to go to the expense of selling our house and buying another one when there is no guarantee that the job will last. There is also no guarantee that we could sell our home even if we wanted to, and with a still struggling real estate market, it’s even more unlikely that we would get a price for our home that would make selling worthwhile. When our children were younger we didn’t sell out and move since we lived close to relatives who could babysit as well as lived in a safe neighborhood with good schools.
With a stagnate economy and real estate market, the long distance commuting is likely to continue for our family and many others, no matter how damaging it might be to one’s relationships, budgets and health.