I'm at home with my daughter and husband, and I'm home before they’re asleep because I don't have any exams this week. I sit down at the table and watch my daughter her programming homework - building a Tetris game using Scratch - while my husband stands in the kitchen packing her lunch for tomorrow. I'm not usually home early, so I rest for a minute to enjoy simply being with them. I'm about to take my notebooks and laptop out of my backpack to start on my own homework when I see my husband looking at both of us. He doesn't realize I'm watching him. There's a familiar mix of emotions in his eyes, his forehead, his mouth. Surprise, wonder, puzzlement, pride, bashfulness, some exhaustion, and possibly a little sadness. I hear the voices in his head:
Who are these two, and what did they do with my 3-year old girl and the shy housewife who came here six years ago? I remember when they arrived, between them they spoke six words of English and they cried with relief when I said I would be working from home for a month to introduce them to their new lives.
My new life, I should have said.
My daughter is 10 years old now, and she makes me watch Disney movies to laugh at jokes I don't understand, she's virtual friends with Justin Bieber, and she wants to drive an "electric racecar" when she grows up. My wife, who came here too scared to leave the house, to learn how to drive, to meet American friends, and to even think about becoming something other than a housewife now spends her free time interviewing for jobs with technology start-ups, writing research papers, and dreaming of ways to turn our daughter into a STEM success story. I never thought I could be so proud of them.
But this life isn't the one I imagined when we started this family. My mother wanted me to marry a traditional wife because she was a traditional housewife, her mother was a traditional housewife…and their husbands were happy. What would she think of my wife leaving me at home to wash dishes, take my daughter to after-school lessons, and cook dinner almost every day? Would my mother ask if I was happy?
Am I happy? Do I miss the less complicated life I imagined for us?
I leave my homework on the dinner table and go to him. Standing behind him at the kitchen counter, I wrap my arms around his waist and lean my head against his shoulder. We watch our daughter finish another day in a life we never dreamed would be ours.