Arctic Dream

Reversal of Marital Roles

The biggest change since we came to the island was the reversal of roles between Kristin and I. It is bigger than the isolation, the climate, the scenery, the people. When we lived in Boston, I worked and Kristin for the most part took care of the children. Now, these roles, plus a few more, are flipped. This just wasn’t something we thought much about before we left.

Not that we had traditional gender-based roles before. I regularly made dinner during the week, and weekend cooking was entirely my job. When I was not working, I looked after the children more than Kristin. (Wife does not agree.) And Kristin mowed the lawn, and never saved lifting heavy things for me. Gender specific or not, we definitely had clear roles and responsibilities that had been painstakingly worked out over 10 years of marriage. Out the window they went. Defenestrated, using one of my friend Rob’s favorite words.

Say money. In the US, I managed our finances. Not that I was better at it, but when Kristin came to the US I had already established a system, so it didn’t make sense for her to take it over. Now, I don’t even have an ATM card for our bank in Norway.

In Boston, I never touched the vacuum cleaner. I never mopped the house. Now, every Friday, I set aside an hour to clean and vacuum the house. And Kristin has to deal with the end result even though she would’ve done a more thorough job. Thankfully, Kristin kept laundry duties which I detest more than any other chore.

In the morning, I make breakfast and lunch for the children and then walk them to school. I pick up the children in the afternoon. On daddy days I dream up fun and educational activities. In the US, I wake up first and then round up the troops before heading to work. Now, Kristin has to get her lazy, unemployed house-husband out of bed.

Oh, being a house-husband isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. The worst thing is that I no longer have work as an excuse to get out of doing something. One more thing. Although Kristin and I never argued about money; for me, not bringing home the bacon makes eating the bacon just a tiny bit less satisfying.

My sense is that most people who’ve been married for a long time generally operate within a tight comfort zone of roles and responsibilities. Role-related conflicts, which are rampant early on, were either worked out through shouting, stewing, rational decision-making, consulting higher powers — whatever — or the marriage would be no more. Changing roles is a big shock to a marriage.

The good news is that we settled in our new grove quickly with minimal collateral damage. The bad news is, we have to do this all over again when we get back to Boston.

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