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Vol. 10, No. 1 = No. 10 (2002 Winter)

When Women Educators are Commuters in Commuter Marriages

  • Sandy Harris
  • Sandra Lowery
  • Michael Arnold
June 19, 2017


"How difficult for [women], then, to achieve a balance in the midst of these contradictory tensions, and yet how necessary for the proper functioning of our lives." (Anne Morrow Lindbergh, Gifts from the Sea in Exley, 1996).

She put down the telephone and shouted with glee! The dream job she had always wanted was hers. Just 40, with a new Ph.D. degree hanging on her wall, she was now officially a university professor. The new job was located 3 1/2 hours away from her home and she and her husband who owned a small business had already discussed how she would rent a small apartment and work there four days out of the week and drive back to their home for a long weekend each week. He had already committed to going to all of their oldest son's soccer games since, as a senior, this was his last year to play soccer before going away to university. Their middle schooler was oblivious to just about everything, but she knew her husband's job allowed him to be flexible enough to be around when he was needed. This was May 20.

On July 8, she arrived at the university, unpacked in the small, furnished apartment, and went to her new office. She had a great week teaching. On Friday, she drove home to be with her family. The second week of summer school, her middle school-aged son, rode back with her, because he had missed her, and stayed with her that week in her apartment. On the weekend, they drove the 3 1/2 hours back home. She spent the weekend running errands. The refrigerator was empty, the washing had not been done, and the house was a mess. When she left the house to make the 3 1/2 hour drive to her new "dream" job for the last week of summer school, she was crying. Her husband, who had been so supportive, at first, was definitely not happy that things were not running very smoothly at home. She had not realized how stressed her oldest son was about starting his senior year, until his soccer coach had called her about some problems they were trying to work out. She finished that last week of summer school. On Friday, she turned the key of her new apartment in to the leasing office. She put the key to her university office in an envelope with a letter of resignation. She drove home and never returned. She just couldn’t make it work.

This scenario is not fiction. It happened and continues to happen frequently in America today as women, caught in the double bind of needing to work for family finances and wanting to enter satisfying professional positions, are caught between family and career conflicts; they are prepared but unable to practice their profession. What can they do? Sometimes they wait, sometimes they do something else, and, increasingly, today, they commute. In order to understand the growing phenomenon of women who commute, this paper reviews some of the changing concepts regarding male and female roles within marriage and then explores what the literature says about career development of women and the impact of immobility. The purpose of this study is to explore the concept of commuting when women live away from home to work in another community for career purposes. Why do they do this? What kind of problems occur? What suggestions would these women give to others who might be contemplating such a move