Embracing the Commute

During the last 24 months, I put over 70,000 miles on the odometer of my silver Ford Flex.

I figure that is approximately 1300 hours in the “cool mom car,” most of which were spent without the children. I would drop the girls off at school in Calabasas (30 minutes from my house) and drive either to the office in Glendale or back home to Malibu.

Either way, I spent at least an hour in the car before 9:00 a.m. and often an hour and a half. Occasionally, I drove to see clients in Orange County (76 miles each way). Sometimes I went to Las Vegas, Dallas, Milwaukee or Miami. There are many reasons why I chose to travel and commute and just as many why I do not do that anymore.

I embraced the commute in an optimistic fashion and saw the positives of the drive:

  1. Taste of Los Angeles. I live in a fairly remote location. Commuting allowed me to connect with Los Angeles. The drive was like an adventure and I often took advantage of what the city has to offer when I was out in the real world on my way home after work.
  2. Being in touch. While talking on the phone at home is not my favorite activity, in the car it seems the perfect thing to do. While I don’t like to have business conversations without pen and paper, I got in the routine of chatting with out-of-town friends and relatives during the drive. These calls became a ritual and I felt relationships strengthening as I drove. While driving my children to and from school, I had undivided time with all three of them together and we bonded over singing favorite songs.
  3. Thinking.  Lots of ideas come to mind when you are alone in a vehicle for hours on end. On the morning drive, I had enough time to ponder an issue in my head before getting to work. In the evening, I could process and wrap up thoughts from the day as I drove from the valley to the beach.

It’s been over a month since I left my staffing company in the hands of my capable and energetic successor. Tuesday before Labor Day, my children began their new local and public schools.  For the first couple of weeks, I found myself in old habits and realized that I drove needlessly to run errands which could have been accomplished closer to home. Now I am settling in to new routine and find that stress melts off layer by layer as I become more distanced from the drive.

Now, I am starting to enjoy the benefits of being at home:

  1. Basic needs. As my oldest daughter pointed out, the new drive to school only lasts for one song. Leaving the house later to arrive at school allows us all more time for sleep. The afternoon quick skip home gives the girls an extra hour to do homework which also gets us to bed at a more reasonable time. We now get at least 8 – 10 hours of sleep each night. If you want to be happy, then sleep should not be compromised. Not getting enough sleep is a reason to change the way that you live.
  2. Community. I feel like I have come home. From the very first time that I visited the west side of Malibu in 1999, I fell in love with its peaceful and laid back style of living. It is not unusual to overhear conversations between locals about how happy and lucky they are to live in the community. I feel the same way and am glad to have time to stop and connect with neighbors and friends.
  3. Time with the kids. This part of parenting is temporary (when I said this to him, a friend pointed out that everything is temporary). I am close enough to pick up the kids when they need me, able to volunteer at the school (I am 3rd grade Math Mom) and am packing lunches for the first time ever (my kids are 13, 10 and 8). I have observed that I am much more patient with the children when our time spent together does not begin at the end of a battle with traffic and when it’s dark enough to point out the current phase of the moon.

And now while all is happy and peaceful and I am in a current state of bliss, there remains the elephant in the room. “What are you going to do?”  I am not totally sure yet how to answer this and I am making a plan.  One thing is certain. While determining the path of the next stage in my career, I am fully qualified to weigh the benefits and rewards of a really long commute!

Photo credit iStockphoto

About the Author

Diane Prince Johnston

Diane Prince Johnston is an experienced entrepreneur with a background in staffing. Diane has participated in founding multiple companies; taking them from start-up ventures to purchase offerings resulting in owner exit strategies. Diane is a social media educator and speaker, volunteer mentor at JVS Los Angeles, job seeker advocate and career counselor. Diane enjoys beach living in Malibu with her 3 daughters and Havanese puppy. She loves to hike, write and read.


Andrea Ballard

Diane, I recently moved, and am also enjoying not having the commute. If I had known how much less stressful it would have been for me, I would have much more seriously investigated public transportation. The loss of flexibility is worth not dealing with traffic and parking.

Also, living in a smaller town, I find people are much more reluctant to hop in the car and cross town. Some new friends were amazed that I shopped for groceries on the “the west side of town” when I live on the east side of town – and it’s only 4 miles.

Now I just have to find a new way to get my NPR fix…


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