The struggles of being a child of a super commuter

Jessica Machado, Staff Writer

When senior Iyana Mayo has papers that she needs her mother to sign for school, she usually ends up having her grandmother sign them for her because her mother is busy commuting, already on the road in the morning or driving home at night from San Jose.

“I probably really only see her on Fridays because my schedule is pretty crazy and so is hers because she works full time and she’s a student in nursing school in San Jose, so she gets home really late,” Mayo said. “[When she leaves] I’m asleep, and by the time I wake up, my grandma has to take me to school so I don’t really see her.”

Despite the long distance commute for her mother, Mayo says that the super commuting has only brought them closer because it forces them to cherish the time they have together.

“I think that, as a mother, her mind is on a lot of things so I wouldn’t want to add to that stress,” Mayo said. “I try to help out as much as I can and keep the attention away from me so she could stay focused on other things.”

Mayo says that the only days that she has time to spend with her mother is on the weekends, but putting in such a strong effort into the relationship does have its pros and cons. Of course, they want to spend more time together, but Mayo understands that her mother is working hard to support them as well as completing her education.

“She does tell me sometimes, ‘Well, I wish I was home more,’” Mayo said. “I understand where she’s coming from. She’s working hard.”

Super commuters are people that leave their residence at the crack of dawn and return after the sun has set—sometimes quite a long time after the sun has set. Some commuters don’t even come home; they either have another house by their work or stay in a hotel because the commute is too far for them to make every day.

“My dad works in Monterey and he usually comes home super early Wednesday morning and then he’ll leave Thursday night and then he won’t come back until the next Wednesday morning,” senior Mason Aguila said.

Aguila says that he tries to spend the whole day with his father when he is home. He says that their relationship has faltered due to the small window of time that he is given to spend quality time with his father, but he still feels like they have a father-son connection.

“I don’t feel like I’m as close to him because I don’t spend as much time with him,” Aguila said.

Many people in Central Valley commute to places like the Bay Area, because that is where all the high paying jobs are.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau’s report “Who Drives to Work? Commuting by Automobile in the United States: 2013,” the number of commuters from San Joaquin County, the Stockton and Lodi area, commuting to Alameda County and Contra Costa County, which is comprised of San Francisco, Oakland, and Hayward, was just short of 30,000 people, and Santa Clara County, which includes San Jose, Sunnyvale, and Santa Clara, was about 8,000 people.

Senior Samantha Tran is a child of two super commuters. She agrees with Mayo, saying that she also has a strong relationship with her parents, despite the long commute and short hours spent together. She and her siblings try to make the most out of the small window of time allotted to spending time with their parents.

“As soon as they get home [my siblings and I]…try to talk to them, or we watch TV with them until they fall asleep,” Tran said. “We do whatever we can to spend time with them.”

Tran’s parents both commute to the Bay Area on a daily basis. She says that they leave home around four in the morning and do not return home until eight and, sometimes, as late as midnight.

“There are some days, honestly, where I didn’t see them because they came home late and I was asleep or there are just some days when they come home and they’re too tired, so they just eat and go to bed,” Tran said. “It just got hard sometimes because I just didn’t get to see them during the weekdays.”

Studies have shown the lack of time super commuters spend with their families and the surplus of time spent in traffic not only deteriorates their well-being, but also negatively affects their relationships with their family, especially their children.

“Time spent driving is always time that must be made up somewhere: self driving cars are still in the future, and papers don’t grade themselves,”  English department chair Grace Morledge said in an email interview.

Morledge commutes about 60 miles each way. She says that she used to carpool with other teachers to this area, but she now rents a room from a former Bear Creek administrator. Morledge only sees her husband, who is retired, when they are both at home.

“For me [I see him] on weekends, and for him it’s whenever he’s not off on a big backpacking excursion,” Morledge said. “My commute does affect our relationship to a degree that every year I wonder how much longer I can keep up this schedule.”

The children of super commuters usually understand that time is a premium and they take advantage of seeing their parents when they can.

“I honestly don’t care what I do with my parents or my family, as long as I’m spending time with them,” Tran said. “We don’t have to be going out all the time. I enjoy just sitting at home with them and talking.”