Wednesday, May 12, 2010

An unexpected commuter marriage glitch

Suppose you have a normal marriage. You know, where both cars park together at the same address every night. Now suppose that your hubby accidentally drives away in the car that has the car seat, and the baby is with you. What do you do? Simple, you just don't take the baby anywhere you need to go in the car until hub comes home.

Now suppose your hubby drives the car seat to a place where he lives two hours away, and you can't get the car seat back for FIVE days (Hub is at a local important conference and can't take 4 hours out to bring you the car seat back)!

Here's what you do. Take your kid to the day care everyday in the pouring rain on your bike with him in a trailer. Endure the looks of disdain you receive from a few people for taking your poor innocent little baby out in the elements like that. Also receive congratulation and admiration from others who think of you as WonderWoman, braving the elements 6 months pregnant and pulling a loaded trailer behind your bike! And whatever you do, don't tell your admirers the full story...


  1. Yikes! Hope you get the car with the car seat back soon!

  2. That's awesome. One of my colleagues moved to a new University ahead of his spouse and their car and became 'that guy.' You know, the one who bikes to and from home depot with the bike trailer. In the snow.

  3. No, here is what you do: Drive to wal mart and buy another car seat! :D Best thing ever: duplicate seats.

  4. or, um, buy a second car seat? borrow one?

    maybe that protocol goes something like this:

    1. make neighborly friends with other parents
    2. call them in desperation
    3. repay them by returning said car seat + baked goods

    seriously though, that sucks. i think it's worth the money to buy another one, especially if you're now pregnant again, it sounds like you might need it!

  5. You ARE Wonder Woman. No question.

  6. I've been doing the commuter marriage thing for three years now. I am an associate prof in engineering, I have a three year old and an infant, and my husband (also an academic) works four hours away and sleeps there four nights a week. I've been in several yucky situations like the one described in this post, including car breaking down on deserted country road with baby in the car and hubby unavailable, basement flooding with screaming baby upstairs and hubby unavailable, locking baby in the car with hubby unavailable, water breaking for second baby and being rushed to the hospital with hubby unavailable (he made it in time for the birth, but just), heater failing in the middle of winter with two kids and hubby unavailable, you get the picture.

    I learned several small but key things the first year, including (1) get duplicate car seats for your kids, (2) become a AAA member, (3) become friends with some single moms (who have useful advice and can help support you) and also at least one stay-at-home mom and/or neighbor who may be home to get that emergency call when your working mom friends are not, (4) get a good home repair book and learn a little bit about how to shut off the water to the house, how your heater works, etc. (5) give copies of your house key and car keys to a couple of trusted friends.

    These suggestions seem obvious in retrospect, but somehow are very hard to come up with when you are exhausted and there are one or more screaming kids in the picture, not to mention the fact that you are tired from taking care of the kids on your own while simultaneously being stressed about your own work.

    My heart really goes out to you, Two Body. So how do we all avoid learning these things the hard way? Is there some repository of advice for couples like us that I have missed? The books that I have seen on commuter marriages focus a lot on keeping the marriage healthy and not so much on practical advice and logistics. Any suggestions out there?

  7. Thanks so much Anonymous Friday 8:39. Your story and advice are very helpful to me and part of why I started my blog. The blog seems like the best way to connect with others in my spot, perhaps you should blog for mine and others' sake? :)

    There may be one more person with a comparable life as mine in this samll town, but I have to find them, and then make time to befriend them (and Lord knows that is hard to come by for either of us).

    I do have a few stay-at-home Mom friends, as backups, but haven't found the ever elusive advice-giving single Mom...

  8. Howdy, Anon Friday 8:39 again. Well, I can't really blog regularly (carpal tunnel) but thanks for your kind words. I'm not sure I have much more to offer other than the above advice. But I do read your blog fairly regularly and I'll try to write again if I have something relevant to say. I also read Janus Prof, but other than your two blogs (and I guess JP will soon not be in a commuter marriage!), I haven't found many other academic women with kids in commuter marriages. Is there a good way to find others in similar situations and provide mutual support/advice whle preserving some privacy? I don't know.

  9. I've been in this situation somewhat since B was born, although that's about to come to an end. Because of my job flexibility (our jobs are/were 6 hrs apart) I've been able to largely telecommute for the last year, but I've had several weeks when I've made the drive with B (alone), set up shop in the apartment (no food there on arrival late at night), and tried to work for a week while taking care of B (who always gets sick on those trips) with minimal childcare. Last time (which should be the last time for sure), I had to juggle baby up all night several nights with double ear infections/ruptured eardrums, A/C that went out in apartment over the weekend (in the south, when much needed), and no sitters available with two student defenses and a million end of term meetings. It was awful.

    I also spent the last month of pregnancy hoping I would not go into labor between Sunday at noon and Thursday midnight (thankfully, it started on a Saturday night -- although it didn't end until Tues at 12:20 am).

    And you're right -- so few fellow academics understand from direct experience what it's like. Talking to friends with military spouses has been helpful for me. They have a wealth of knowledge on going it alone (although they usually have good support within the military community, too, and typically are not working full time).