I told myself I would never fall down the “wife trap rabbit hole.”
My mother and father both worked outside the home, but like many women of their generation, my mother was in charge of keeping the home and caring for the children on top of her paying job. When my boyfriend and I moved in together, I made sure not to take over the housekeeping. We both cooked and cleaned and knew how to operate the washing machine. Home maintenance was either a joint effort or jointly neglected.
Like so many egalitarian efforts, our domestic parity was lost once we had a baby. Everyone probably has a story of how it happened to them. In our case, my husband fell into a depression. On top of that, our 2-week-old baby needed surgery for a stomach condition called pyloric stenosis, and he came out of the operation weak and underweight. Along with the love I gave him, I went into a tough-broad-who-gets-everything-done mode. But I never came out of it.
And so our patterns formed. I took care of the baby. I took care of the house. As my son grew older, I managed everything: food, medical appointments, preschool reconnaissance, after-school activities, birthdays and wardrobe and transportation. We had a second child and we constantly renegotiated the terms of our labor division because neither of us wanted to be stuck in those stereotypical roles. But though my husband had emerged from his depression and I from my tough broad mode, we never got our gender equality groove back despite our efforts.
Then, two years ago, my husband took a job in Luxembourg, where the lingua franca is French. He’s fluent in French, whereas on a good day, I speak it like a 5-year-old. Suddenly, the entire dynamic between us changed.