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Husband (33M) and I (31F) moved our family (2f and 4f) around the world for my job. Husband hates it and wants to go home. I don't think I can ......


Nov. 05, 2019

This might be long. For background, we have been together 10 years and have 2 kids. We are Australian and have lived there our whole lives, until the start of this year when I got a job in France. The pay is very low and we struggle to make ends meet. Otherwise, the oldest child and I have settled in alright, I go to work, she goes to school. Husband and the youngest child have not settled in and mostly stay home in our very small apartment all day. Husband is depressed and wants to move back to Australia. While I want to whatever I can to support him to be happy, I think his plan to go back is deeply flawed, and that he hasn’t given France enough of a chance. He is definitely depressed.
Our new lives in France: My job is great experience for me and a good step forward in my career, but a combination of complicated French bureaucracy, taxes, cultural differences, my lack of French, and probably plain old stupidity from me and my employer meant that I didn’t realise until much too late how low my take home pay would be. I am a postdoc here, so I have a PhD and am working towards a career in academia, but grad students and postdocs are notoriously underpaid and overworked.
The kids are in French public school, the idea being that they’re little and immersed and will pick up French fairly quickly. Kids can start in French school as young as 2 years old as long as they’re toilet-trained. Our youngest is enrolled at school but hasn’t actually been yet because she isn’t toilet-trained yet, and likely won’t be for at least a few more months. We also couldn’t get her into childcare because a rude French lady wouldn’t let us apply because we don’t speak French, and we can’t afford a nanny. So she’s at home with Husband all day every day.
Before we realised just how dire our financial situation would be here, Husband was happy to be a SAHD. Then we realised we would have to get the kids into care right away and get him into work to live comfortably, but we know how limited we are since we don’t speak French. He wants to work in NGOs, but has only managed volunteering positions in the past, and his last paid work was 3 years ago in childcare. So he’s been looking for remote work but there is really nothing. And he will struggle to get a regular job until the youngest is in some other care.
Husband’s depression: Husband is a very positive, patient, kind, and empathetic person. So in general if he is not feeling good about something, you know it’s serious. His general mood and outlook have gone seriously downhill in the last 6 months, to the point he is hating everything about France and has decided the solution is to leave. He wants to get out ASAP, move home, get set up in an apartment, find childcare and a job. There are no real specifics to this plan, and he is resistant to hearing about my reservations (how are you going to pay rent? What if you don’t find a job? I still have 2 years on my contract, what am I supposed to do?)
At first I was so worried about him being depressed I wanted to do whatever I could to support him, and if that meant letting him go, then OK. So I proposed he looks for jobs and if he gets one he can go. He said no, he has to be in Australia while he is looking. So I said OK, maybe he can stay with his mum for a few weeks/months while he looks, or even just stay with her and recharge for a while. He says no, he needs to be doing something with himself, and he needs to be in his own space, he needs an apartment. What about the kids? He wants to take them too, because they’d have a better life in Australia. I managed to talk him down to just taking the youngest leaving right away, as the oldest is nicely settled and can wait until he has something more solidified in place. I’m not really OK with the youngest being so disrupted and going into that kind of uncertainty, but if he left both with me I can’t go to work anymore. I don’t want to split the kids up though, so if they can’t stay with me, maybe they have to go with him. The very idea of him leaving with the kids is heartbreaking to me.
I have brought up seeing a doctor but we don’t speak French or know the system very well so it seems like a very big task to even find someone to talk to.
Husband opportunities in France: The only jobs in France for people who speak English and not French are babysitting, tutoring, or working in British themed pubs. All of which my husband has experience in. However, he doesn’t want to even try to get those jobs because he says he doesn’t have time, being full-time caregiver for our youngest kid, they’re not in his chosen field so he’d be moving backwards, and he already hates France so why would he prolong the misery by working here when he could go back instead. I said he can work after 5pm and I will look after the kids, or I can even take a day off every week so he can work, or the weekends. But he’s not having it. He has always had trouble accepting help from me, and he has a habit of immediately disliking ideas that weren’t his.
(My job provides French lessons for me and husband, but he doesn't want to go because he has no time, he hates any kind of lessons anyway, he has duolingo but he's too miserable to use it)
As for sitting around the house all day, I have looked into resources around us, the local library, playgrounds and parks (are few and far between in France, but they’re around), signing up for toddler gymnastics or swimming lessons, the local community garden. But he says it’s all going to be in French anyway, and it’s so hard to go anywhere with a squirmy toddler (especially coming home, we live on the fourth floor with no elevator), and we have no money to afford anything. I know our parents would be happy to chip in for something like gymnastics, but he thinks it’s a big waste to give us money to keep him somewhere he hates.
My reservations : So first of all, I don’t seem to appear anywhere in Husband’s very vague plans. He assumes I will come back to Australia to join them as soon as I can. But career-wise I will be shooting myself in the foot to cut my contract short here, and there is no guarantee that I can pick up work in Australia (otherwise we wouldn’t have had to leave in the first place). It’s not just that we’ve worked hard for me to get where I am and it would be a shame to throw it all away, but I am the only income and have been for several years. My potential income is quite high, and I should be on my way there in the next few years if all goes well now. Husband has been looking for work in his field for years and has only landed unpaid internships and volunteer positions. This is an unfortunate reality in his field and I’m worried that the longer this goes on the harder it will get. He worked in childcare years ago and was very good at it, and enjoyed it. I encouraged him to continue with that kind of thing but he just thinks that he will end up stuck in that kind of work, wasting time that he could be getting better for his chosen field. He doesn’t see some of the overlaps, connections and opportunities between the two that I see, and I don’t like to argue because he should know better than I do.
Being in France is an opportunity for the kids I want to maximise. If he just holds on a few more months, the youngest kid can go to school and it will be such an amazing experience for her. I also don’t want to uproot the kids any more than absolutely necessary. He doesn’t like the school because it is physically small and doesn’t have any real outdoor space.
Also, I don’t want to flatter myself, but I imagine Husband might be sad without me. I think his plan is totally unrealistic. I don’t want to tell him I don’t believe in him, but realistically he won’t get a job, and definitely not right away. He will be facing a whole different set of challenges and I think he’ll find himself at least as miserable in Australia as he is here.
Neither of us know what to do. Husband says he loves me and the last thing he wants is to be apart from me (which obviously doesn’t sit right with me logically, if you love me so much why are you straining to get away from me? He says it’s not me, it’s France, but my self-worth is pretty low now anyway). I’ve tried to gently ask about his solutions to some of the holes in his plan, and tried to compromise everywhere I can (to the point where I’m just sabotaging and hurting myself so he can do this), but he’s really not listening to reason, and is not budging much on his plan.
I am thinking more and more that him leaving would be a terrible mistake. That it would be bad for him, completely break me, leave us both unemployed, uproot the kids and take away all their stability, kill any trust I have that he will be there for me when I need him. As much as I would like to grab him by the shoulders and shake him until he sees my point of view, I don’t know how to gently and supportively make him stay somewhere he hates.
My questions : Am I just being selfish wanting to keep everyone here to support me in my job? Is my husband’s plan totally unrealistic, or am I just being unsupportive? What can I do to help him without sabotaging myself?
TLDR: My family moved to France because I got a job. Life is hard here. Husband hates it so much he is willing to break up our family to go home. I don't think I can support him in this, but I want to do anything to make him happy.
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