Jon Magidsohn has moved his house, business and family to follow his wife around the world. Four times. Here’s why that is part of the new norm.
‘We play to our strengths.’
That’s become an accepted catch-phrase in my family. It reminds us why and how we stay together.
In my experience, we choose our partners in life based on what each person brings to the partnership. A successful relationship will flourish when everyone does their job.
It’s not as systematic as it sounds; I’m not talking about a commercial enterprise. I mean you just do what comes naturally in order to make the relationship work. In other words someone cooks, someone pays the bills, someone calls the school, someone books holidays, someone buys groceries, someone fixes the toilet, someone dusts, someone hires an internet provider, someone does the laundry and so on. In my family, my wife often has the ideas and I implement them. It’s more than a simple lifestyle choice. You play to your strengths.
That’s why I’ve moved my house, business and family to follow my wife around the world. Four times.
It started small. In the late 1990s, my wife, Sue, and I lived in Toronto where I had a sole-proprietor business and she was finishing journalism school. Soon after she graduated, she was offered a job as a television reporter in Windsor, Ontario about 225 miles away. It was a no-brainer; she had to go where the work was and I could easily move my business down Highway 401. Besides, she made more money than I did. Sue’s nascent career flourished in the newsroom and three years later she accepted a position back in Toronto, a news market fifteen times the size. So we moved again, this time with a dog and two cats. It was the right choice for her and it allowed me the opportunity to change direction as I’d grown tired of having my own business. My new sales job, as much as I sucked at it, was well-timed, offering a regular salary as we prepared for the birth of our first child.
When our son was six months old, Sue died after a nasty skirmish with breast cancer. I quit my job to be a professional widower, looking after my son’s needs and then, if I had the time and energy, my own. I still lived in the house Sue and I bought and had no intention of going anywhere. It was my home and, in my grief, a sanctuary of sorts.
Many months later, when the worst of widowhood was behind me, to my unexpected good fortune a surprising romance was kindled with my old friend, Deborah, from high school. It was fun, comfortable and we avoided the awkward period of getting acquainted; we already knew each other well. The one complicating factor was that she now lived in England. After about a year of mutual travels and long-distance scheming, my allegiance to Toronto waned so I packed up the house and my son, moved to London and married Deborah.
The regenerated New Me continued to be Dad first, everything else second. I did the school runs, managed the house and worked part-time as a handyman while pursuing opportunities to write. Deborah, who had a ‘proper’ nine-to-five job in the charity sector, adopted our son and became Mum. She couldn’t have gone to work every day and fulfilled her role if I didn’t fulfil mine—and vice versa.
As a human rights campaigner, Deborah had always wanted to go abroad to work on the ground in a country that could benefit from her expertise. Before I knew it, we were in Bangalore, India, where Deborah found herself very much in demand and from where I am writing this article. Our son is now eleven years old.
I’ve moved four times in fifteen years to be with the woman—women—I loved and it always seemed like the most natural and collaborative thing to do. Sue had career ambitions; mine was already in motion. Deborah wanted to find new like-minded people to work with while I worked alone. I was never bullied into moving nor did I ever come up with any better reasons not to move, including consideration of our son’s best interests. When I moved him from Toronto to London, it was for his father’s happiness and the addition of a second parent to our family. When we moved to India, despite his complaints about missing his friends, Deborah and I thought that we would all benefit from experiencing how different cultures existed. It was an opportunity we couldn’t resist.
So what’s the big deal? Why is this even worth mentioning? If I was a woman writing about following her husband around the world nobody would be interested; it’s been happening for centuries. But men and dads are now on the frontline of domestic life like never before. It never even occurred to me that making these moves would be considered noteworthy. Deborah says it’s because I have no ego. I probably have enough of an ego to admit she may be right.
Maybe it’s because I, like a lot of men, never anticipated being a follower. I foresaw a more self-reliant existence into which a partner would somehow fit. I had intended to stay in Toronto to chase my dreams—whatever they were—in the city where I’d been raised. Now the thought of living there fills me with angst. Not because I don’t like it there; I still identify as Canadian and it will always be, in some ways, home. But rather the thought of it forces me to acknowledge what my life would be missing.
How fortunate I am to have found two women who were both profoundly skilled at their professions, with a calling and a passion that they were each able to convert into a dependable source of income. I’d never had that kind of passion—or earning potential—and I never discovered anything close to a calling until I became a father. With each of my partners, what I brought to the relationship was entirely compatible with what they brought. We’d achieved balance.
We didn’t make these moves because of any one thing; not for money or career or convenience or boredom or opportunity or ambition or even love. It was for all of these things and something greater; something fundamentally us. It is how we chose to function in this singular adventure called life. Successful relationships thrive on functionality, even when circumstance or relocation threatens a breakdown.
For now we are enjoying India but Deborah is certain her next job will be back in the UK. So she will be ready to move when the right position comes along and I will follow my wife for the fifth time. Because we play to our strengths. And for us, at least, that’s the best way to play.
Photo: karrienodalo / flickr