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Can You Survive Long Commutes? 209

Posted by Cliff
from the airports-can-be-worse-than-a-beltway dept.
Should I Be a Frequent Flier asks: "I am currently considering a job offer in an Aerospace company, and suffice it to say, I am very excited. Unfortunately, there is a catch - I would have to fly to work. While this may seem appropriate for an Aerospace job, it might not be appropriate for a married life, as it would require that I spend two or three nights a week away from my family. This is a big step, and I don't want to pass up a wonderful opportunity, but I don't what to wreck my marriage for a job. Does anyone have any experience with this sort of arrangement, either pro or con?"
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Can You Survive Long Commutes?

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  • by shadwwulf (145057) on Saturday May 27, 2006 @09:28PM (#15418403) Homepage
    MOVE!!!

    Pretty much any place in the country has the same services you have where you live. Nice people exist called real estate agents that can help you with this, if you happen to own your home.

    It'll kill your relationship with your family. Don't do it man..

    MTW
  • Move? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by numbski (515011) * <numbskiNO@SPAMhksilver.net> on Saturday May 27, 2006 @09:29PM (#15418407) Homepage Journal
    I don't mean to be so obvious, but really...if the opportunity is worth it (sounds like it is), then move. I know pulling children out of schools, or asking your spouse to find a different job seems cruel and unfair, but it happens. I've been through the cross-country move-for-a-job thing twice now. It sucks, I won't lie to you, but it will wear on you far less in the long run than trying to commute like that and not have time with your spouse.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday May 27, 2006 @09:32PM (#15418415)
    Why are you asking me? I'm not your wife/husband. They're the only other person who could tell you if this job would wreck your family.
  • by AuMatar (183847) on Saturday May 27, 2006 @09:33PM (#15418416)
    Maybe its because I put a high value on my family, but I would never take a job that required me to be away from them with such regularity. You're talking about missing a quarter or more of their lives. No amount of money is worth that.
  • Newsflash (Score:3, Insightful)

    by babbling (952366) on Saturday May 27, 2006 @09:38PM (#15418430)
    People lose more than half of their lives (along with time that could be spent with family/friends) by working full-time jobs. This is how most people have chosen to live their lives.
  • by TubeSteak (669689) on Saturday May 27, 2006 @09:42PM (#15418442) Journal
    As usual, the answer depends on a few things.

    The most important one, I think, has to do with what stage your marriage/family is at. If the kid(s) is/are young, don't do it.

    Assuming your family situation/schedule is such that you can dissappear two or three days a week without seriously screwing things up, your wife is the next factor.

    Even if your wife is currently "okay" with the idea, it might not last. Her family history is extremely relevant to this discussion. All kinds of psychological issues might crop up while/because you're gone.

    Marriage counseling is a smart move, no matter what you decide.

    If you go ahead with the job, you need to figure out, in advance, what problems you might have and how to deal with them. If you don't take the job, make sure you aren't going to resent the fact that your wife had some role in keeping you from it.

    The alternative, if the kids are young, is to move.
  • Depends (Score:3, Insightful)

    by reldruH (956292) on Saturday May 27, 2006 @09:43PM (#15418445) Journal
    There's no golden rule. What works for somebody else might be perfect for you or the worst possible thing you could do. The most important thing is to be honest and open and trust your wife to be the same. Talk it over with her and come to some kind of understanding. The worst thing would be having to sit down again six months later and one of you say something like 'I thought I could handle it, so I didn't say anything before, but I really didn't want you to take this job.' That's when you're in trouble. Also, be open to change. You might think you'll be OK and find out a few months in that you're not or vice-versa. Be open and honest and you have a better than average chance of things working out.
  • by geminidomino (614729) * on Saturday May 27, 2006 @09:46PM (#15418458) Journal
    Honestly, if moving isn't an option (as it may well not be), slashdotters aren't the ones you should be asking. You really should talk about it with your wife.
  • by sentientbrendan (316150) on Saturday May 27, 2006 @09:52PM (#15418478)
    when you say aerospace company, I bet that means you will be flying to different sites around the world, not a particular work spot. I think that most slashdotters are speaking from their experience where they've been asked to move where the company is, but that doesn't really apply here.

    I know one boeing engineer who flies to the middle east and africa on a regular basis to help with sales. He seems ok with it, but has drawn a firm line as regards how many hours he's willing to spend at work and how much time he's willing to spend overseas. I've been told he's refused promotions several times that would have required too much time out off his family life.

    My suggestion is that when you are in town, make sure you aren't working overtime, and that you get home to spend time with your family. I'd also explore the option of bringing your family along on vacations once in a while (I don't know how practical this is though...).

    If you still don't get enough time with your family, I suggest starting new families at the various locations you fly to. If you marry the right people you might even turn a profit and be able to quit your job and be a husband full time.
  • I'll probably get modded down like the parent, but the parent has a point. It's absolute madness to consult a bunch of random geeks on the internet about this. Your question doesn't relate to open source software or emerging technology; it's not news for nerds or anything for nerds. And I have a point too: what someone says is far more important than how he says it.
  • by WhiteWolf666 (145211) <sherwin AT amiran DOT us> on Saturday May 27, 2006 @10:15PM (#15418561) Homepage Journal
    Err... yes, and no.

    I'm guessing wife is supportive. However, he's probably double checking (seeking advice) to make sure that his default opininon of, "Yes, its a good idea", and his wife's default opinion of, "Yes, I love him, I can make it work," are pratical.

    If his wife was 86'ing the idea, I'm guessing he wouldn't bother asking Slashdot ;-)
  • by SysKoll (48967) on Saturday May 27, 2006 @10:18PM (#15418569)
    Jobs come and go. A wife and kids... they're bloody hard to replace.

    I have a 3 hours/day commute (90 mins each way, sometimes it takes 2 hours to get there) and it's really eating into my productivity and my life. My advice: move to someplace closer, even if it's a smaller place, with your family.

    Then again, consider that aerospace isn't the most stable kind of carrer today. Right up with microelectronics for cycles. Boeing has a huge bad rap for mistreating its engineers nowadays. Where are you moving to? Chicago?

  • by kasparov (105041) * on Saturday May 27, 2006 @10:21PM (#15418577)
    I worked for a company that did a lot of remote network installs. 50% travel, i.e. we were typically gone every other work week (though often we could get done in 3/4 days). There were 20 of us in the department. 10 of us were married. I was there 1.5 years. 5 of us got divorced. In a 1.5 year time period. 5 of us (yes, me included).

    The problem is, if you don't take this opportunity there is a good chance that you will resent having to turn down an opportunity that you are really excited about. Resentment kills relationships--it has a tendency to fester over the years. If you take the job, your wife (if she is like our wives were) could resent that you are essentially choosing your job over her (no, you can not rationalize this away by saying you are doing it "for the both of you", if she feels this way, she will continue to feel this way despite your best efforts. Feelings are feelings, they don't have to fit themselves to any arguments you come up with). Or, you can move. There are chances for resentment here as well--it really depends on your situation. I would normally say that I would try to see if she offered to move, but this doesn't necessarily mean that there won't be resentment on her part later (remember the rule--feelings are feelings--the fact that she offered of her own free will has no bearing on the feelings she has days/months/years later).

    So, frankly, you are in a very difficult situation. What to do greatly depends on the personality traits of both you and your wife. Proceed carefully and discuss things in detail. Try not to make any life-altering decisions until finding out what all of both of your options are. Find out what she would be doing for a living if you both moved to the new town. Are there things that she would like to do there? How does moving there fit in with her personal life goals. Would it be a long-term move? What happens if she gets a great job offer several years later?

    Anyway, I would say be very careful about any situation that you will be away on a regular basis. Some people can handle it, but I would definitely say that they are the minority. Good luck, and I hope some of this helps.

  • by tropicflite (319208) on Saturday May 27, 2006 @10:25PM (#15418595)
    As an airline pilot I've been living is one city and commuting to another for many years. In my case, my wife knew when we got married that the job would involve me being away for days at a time and so that was part of the ground rules of the relationship. In your case, though, it's a substantial change.

    I can tell you, it's not only the fact that you're away for a days at a time... but the commute itself is just tiring. I've been lucky that my commutes have all been north - south, but my east - west commuter friends tell me that the time zone change makes a bad situation even worse. Also, the fact that after a hard week's work you know you still have an air commute home is something that wears you down. I probably don't have to tell your how aggravating airports are these days... security, weather delays, mechanical delays, etc. etc. You will be spending a lot of time waiting around at the airport, because flights don't just go when you want them to. You'll also spend a lot of time onboard planes even if the commute isn't very far because of various delays. On the plus side, you'll have plenty of time to get Linux running the way you like it on your laptop. On the minus side, you'll wind up leaving home and arriving back home at very early or late hours and there's a good chance you'll miss your kid singing in the school play, your anniversary, and the like.

    Having said all that, it's a rare privilege that people can live where they want and work where they want at the same time. There's compromise in every situation, and personally I prefer commuting once a week by air to sitting in car traffic twice a day. Also, depending on the type of relationship you have with your wife, you may find that a little 'breathing room' makes you appreciate each other more when you're together. You have a chance to miss each other a bit. When I get home from my trip each week, I get the celebrity reception from the whole family.

    Some wives are more the independent type, and others prefer the subordinate role. If your wife is comfortable making decisions and doesn't require your input for every little thing, then that's in your favor. In the end, though, you'll have to make sure you're both truly comfortable with the decision, because if you do it and she doesn't like it (even if she says it's ok), her resentment will start building up, which will create instability. YMMV. Good luck.
  • by gremlin_591002 (548935) on Saturday May 27, 2006 @10:30PM (#15418606) Journal
    I was on a short term contract with a major oil company. It was work I kinda just fell into. I'd fly out sunday morning, spend two weeks working 12 hour days. On the weekends I didn't go home, I played tourist. I learned a lot, explored a lot and just about ruined a relationship. By the time I got done flying to and from the job site I was spending 36 hours at home every two weeks. After a year the job was moving to off shore platforms, the work was more dangerous, the time away would have been even longer. I called a meeting with my contract manager and said, "This work is going to last at least another year, if you commit to 12 months of employment, I'll move my family, no more expensive plane flights, no more scary cell phone bills." He went to bat for me with his boss, in the end, they couldn't promise the contract length and I went home, got married, and had kids.

    I've never looked back and I still keep in touch with my contacts in that company. Moving is a very real option unless you are doing site to site travel.

    Consider non traditional work schedules, 3 weeks on, 1 off. Extended time is required to properly bond with your family. Big firms know this. They should also know that a stable family life makes for a more productive workier. At least twice a year, fly the family to you instead of flying home, it's an adventure and an educational tour all at once.
  • Depends (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday May 27, 2006 @10:35PM (#15418625)
    I spent a winter working in the oilfield as a roughneck for some cash one winter ten years ago. I would spend 2-3 weeks working 12 hour days, 7 days a week, with 1 week off. Since travel came from my own time, I ended up with 5 days at home in a 3-4 week period. My wife hated it, and had I stayed much longer, she would have quit her job and come out to be with me. I'm a total homebody, so I was happy to quit once I had enough cash banked to last through til spring. I couldn't even imagine doing this today now that we have kids.

    On the other hand, my dad has worked in the oilfield for most of his life. All through my childhood, he worked different shifts, ranging from 2 weeks on / 1 off, to 5 weeks on / 5 weeks off. I survived. Sure, he missed both my brother's and my high school graduations, and lots of other things, but we would also spend a month each summer on vacation as a family, including an unforgettable 5 weeks in Europe when I turned 16. My parents have been married for over 37 years, and he's still doing that type of work. If anything, his schedule is even worse today.

    Of course, 2-3 nights isn't that big of a deal. I do that (and longer) on occasion as a consultant, but not every week, and less frequently now. My wife is a shift worker, and we'll see each other for maybe an hour in some 3 day stretches when she's on nights and I'm working days.

    Every person is different. My dad is fine with that type of work schedule, I wasn't. My mom was fine with that type of lifestyle, my wife isn't. My brother and I turned out okay, and while I wish my dad had been around more, I still feel that him spending his entire month home watching sports on TV was more of a problem than his work schedule. You won't know until you try, but just make sure you know what you'll give up if problems arise - preferably the new job. And be willing to compensate for it - focus on your family when you're at home, and save Slashdot for evenings when you're alone at work.

  • by jamesh (87723) on Saturday May 27, 2006 @10:47PM (#15418676)
    When you have a difficult decision to make, it is important to ask as many people as possible what they think you should do. One of them is sure to tell you to do what it is you actually want to do anyway :)

    As for moving, it may be that you don't want your family living near a place where rockets are tested, or maybe the place of work is a long way away from populated area's for exactly this reason. Or maybe it's a secret government agency and he's actual flying to the far side of the moon twice a week.

    One of my pet peeves is 'ask slashdot' articles with an obvious answer ('move closer to work' in this case), where they don't say why this isn't a possibility. Then 20 different threads are started exploring the possible reasons why this might not be possible.
  • 5-4-3 (Score:5, Insightful)

    by crath (80215) on Saturday May 27, 2006 @10:58PM (#15418704) Homepage
    In the consulting industry (which is where I work), many of us regularly work what we call a 5-4-3 schedule: 5 days of work, 4 days at the client site, 3 nights away from home. We fly out on Monday AM, and return on Thursday PM; working Friday from home.

    This is very do-able, and needn't impact your family negatively. The trick is to stay in close touch when you're on the road, and to develop a routine. My family's routines are structured around the regular days I am away. I make sure that when I'm home I am really home; which means I don't get out much with my old friends in the neighbourhood... since I'm out during the week with my project team I'm not anxious to get out when I'm home.

    One last point: your spouse has to buy into this 100% before you commit to it.
  • by Fished (574624) <amphigory@gmaCOMMAil.com minus punct> on Saturday May 27, 2006 @11:19PM (#15418780)
    I did this (four days at work, three days home every week) for about six months several years ago. I think that, for us, the separation probably strengthened our marriage by encouraging us to make the time together count. (And, yes, we had a lot of sex during those three days home.)

    However, I wouldn't even consider it now. Here are some factors to consider:

    1. Children. Do you have children? Do you want to have children? If so, then you need to think very carefully about how that's going to play out. Young children especially will grow very quickly if you don't have daily contact.
    2. Is this a permanent thing? After about six months of this, both my wife and I were ready for it to be over. I was able to make a telecommuting arrangement, but the nature of the work (computer systems troubleshooting) and the nature of the company (major, national company with 10's of thousands of employees) allowed that. What's your exit strategy?
    3. How stable is your marriage? While it was okay for us, when I worked (bi-vocationally) as a minister in a military town I saw way too many women who would fall into adultery when their husband was away for months at a time. And we won't even get into what soldiers in remote locations do. (Call me old-fashioned, but I happen to think that adultery is wrong on either side of the equation.)
    4. Can you handle it? It can get really lonely being away from home like that. You're not in the "remote" location often enough to form roots, and you're away from home often enough that friendships tend to be compromised. It's not just your wife, it's you too.
    I could probably list more, but the bottom line is that this is not (necessarily) the end of the world, but you definitely need to think hard about whether it's what you want in life. I would personally not advise it unless your marriage is stable, you trust your wife (i.e. you won't be concerned about her having outside relationships--which can be bad whether she's having them or not) and you have no small children. But it will have to be your call.
  • by josepha48 (13953) on Saturday May 27, 2006 @11:31PM (#15418813) Journal
    I hated it! I saw my home enough to feed my fish, and do my laundry.

    But that is me.. I have heard that there are some people who enjoy that much travel. The last one that I knew was a Republican who was raised by a nanny and had no problems raising his kids by a nanny. Personally, I think that that kind of parenting is more like a sperm doner that pays child support.

    Having a family or someone at home and traveling that much, you have to ask yourself, ( IMHO ) do you have to travel to support your family? If the answer is no, then the question is, do you love you job more than your family and which is more important to you?

    Something to keep in mind though. If you invest in highspeed internet and some really good quality web cams ( Quickcams now have 1.3 Mpxl versions out ) you can do that much travelling and do video conferencing with your family when you are away.

    Just my feeling though

  • by grammar fascist (239789) on Saturday May 27, 2006 @11:42PM (#15418846) Homepage
    You're talking about missing a quarter or more of their lives. No amount of money is worth that.

    Seconded, thirded, fourthed, and fifthed. I have a wife and three kids, and they're voting too. :)

    Just yesterday, I came home from work and my little 13-month-old held her hands up and said "YAY!" for the first time. I wouldn't want to miss anything like that.
  • by SoupIsGood Food (1179) on Sunday May 28, 2006 @12:15AM (#15418927)
    I work 3rd shift on a "SSMTW" schedule for a Telecom/ISP Which Shall Remain Nameless. I will call it Tiswsrncom. I live in a fantastic community, a small New England town better known for its culture, comforts and conveniences than its proximity to anywhere you can make money for knowing what "ls -laF" does. So, I commute 45mins each way, 1.5 hours total daily, while speeding, to get to a job that's a long ways away from being close to real money.

    My S.O. is so totally not cool with this. For one, she wants me awake during the day on the weekends, especially long weekends. For another, she doesn't want to wake up from a nightmare to be greeted by an empty bed.

    But she and I both realize that it's not going to be forever. I'm working where I am to put a roof over our heads in a very nice part of a very nice town, at a rate that would put us in a rat-infested hovel closer to a majot city. She's going to law school (or, in other cases, might be raising a kid or two, a fully acceptable full-time occupation, be you dad or mom), and I'm working for crap money at a crap job I have to drive halfway to Outer Mongolia to be near.

    But here's the deal: in three years, I'll have either seniority or a new company paying me what I'm worth. My S.O. will be pulling down fast-track corporation money the closer she gets to her degree. This will mean a larger new house nearer to where she works, or where I work, or an enormous investment property right where we are, only I'll be there the whole weekend and all night as I go to day shift, and we'll enjoy our position.

    The key is this: your job is an investment in future happiness. If it will bring you wealth and security for the next 30 years, do it. Your wife will understand... she won't be happy, not at all, but if she understands, deep down, what you're doing is for her and not something you're doing to her, you'll be ok.

    If it will bring you strife, unhappiness, anguish and the misery of being alone, forever: go work for 7-11 and screw aerospace. The key is to explain how it will make the both of you deleriously happy for decades if you're unhappy, but mostly content, for a year or three.

    Also, more practically, I sold my '69 Cadillac convertible, and bought something Asian with a 100k mile warranty and 35mpg. Sacrifices must be made, and I couldn't make it with a gas-guzzling, unreliable V8 pickup or luxo-barge.

    SoupIsGood Food
  • by tepples (727027) <tepples@gmaiBLUEl.com minus berry> on Sunday May 28, 2006 @01:09AM (#15419104) Homepage Journal

    Then 20 different threads are started exploring the possible reasons why this might not be possible.

    Which is the entire point of Ask Slashdot: to exhaust the special cases so that each of us may learn about our own special case.

  • by sterno (16320) on Sunday May 28, 2006 @01:19AM (#15419128) Homepage
    My dad was a commercial airline pilot. This meant that he was home for a few days a week and then would be gone for a few days at a time. Provided that it's a fairly predictable few days a week rather than a situation where you end up spending weeks away, it's not too bad. Besides, you'll have airline miles out the wazoo when you want to take the kids to Disney :)

    Where you get into trouble is when you become a road warrior where you fly home on saturday and then fly out on sunday night or monday morning. If you live that kind of life, you're probably better off just filing for divorce in advance. I've known people who have tried to live that life where their home is an airline gate. It rarely works out.
  • by Cthefuture (665326) on Sunday May 28, 2006 @10:22AM (#15420329)
    Seriously, these types of jobs are for single people not people with families. Don't do it.

    If you have a family that should come first. No job is worth destroying that.
  • by kpharmer (452893) on Sunday May 28, 2006 @10:38AM (#15420372)
    > Maybe its because I put a high value on my family, but I would never take a job that required me to be away
    > from them with such regularity. You're talking about missing a quarter or more of their lives. No amount of money is worth that.

    That's fair - but what about the value to a family of living in a good community? If you have strong attachments to a positive local friend & family network, you're well-interated with the schools, churches, etc...

    Then moving to chase a job can be worse than being out of town a few days a week. Especially since you'll likely change jobs again in another few years.

    Bottom line - it really is about the family. Working out of town for 5 days a week will probably lose you your family. Working out of town for 2-3 days a week might be doable. Moving from a great and supportive community to a strange one could also lose you your family.
  • by Thing 1 (178996) on Sunday May 28, 2006 @12:03PM (#15420655) Journal
    Not to be callous or anything, but the divorce rate is well over 50% by now.

    I'd say, contrarily, marriages come and go. Opportunity may not knock more than once.

    (And, children change the equation.)

  • I did this... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Yonder Way (603108) on Sunday May 28, 2006 @03:10PM (#15421319)
    ...and while the money was good, I deeply regret the year I spent so far away from my wife and newbord first child. I was home, but three nights a week I was on the other side of the state on a lucrative consulting gig.

    So while I only worked a few days a week, making more money than I would at a full time job close to home, I missed that precious time full of firsts with my daughter. I will never get that time back again. It was an even bigger waste than going to see Star Wars Episode I in the theater, only stretched out over a year instead of just a couple of hours.

    And no, moving wasn't a viable option. This was just a consulting gig and could have ended after two weeks or two months. And there was no other work to be had in that part of the state.

    So now I've learned to do more with less, pass up jobs that sound good financially if I feel they will put an undue burden on my primary responsibilities (i.e. to my growing family), and I'm now happily working at a job that pays poorly only 7 miles from my home (but has other less tangible rewards).
  • by nightowl03d (882197) on Sunday May 28, 2006 @06:29PM (#15422045)
    If you are early in your career, (less than 5 years out of your last degree), now is the perfect time to find out if you chose your spouse wisely. Take the job, and do the commute. If your wife can't handle it, this is the time to find out while the alimony payments are still relatively low. Once you get 6+ years of experience, on the road consulting is where the money is, so you don't want a spouse who would be a detriment to that life style. If she can handle a year or two of that schedule, you got yourself a keeper. THEN consider moving closer to the primary site if that is what you want to do.

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