“I did it for the wrong reasons,” Lindsey Cattau said. “I did it so we could stay together.”
When you open the door to Lindsey Cattau and Joe McDermott’s Port Richmond house, the first thing you notice will be Omar.
“When new people come, he decides to bark at them,” Cattau said of her Bichon Poodle puppy. “And it’s embarrassing.”
But the second thing you notice is Cattau and McDermott’s beautifully decorated home, which has an interior brick wall opposite the stairs. Hanging on it is an old framed photograph of the Eiffel Tower, located famously in the city of Paris, France, where Cattau and McDermott met while studying abroad in 2007. After hanging out in a small French school filled with American exchange students, McDermott eventually asked Cattau to dinner. At the end of the date, he asked to split the check.
“We were in France and I had, like, no money. And I don’t know what I was thinking,” he said. “It’s a story now I guess. I think she’s told everybody that story.”
But it didn’t deter Cattau. Neither did distance.
When the trip abroad ended, McDermott retreated back to the Philadelphia region (he grew up in Montgomery County and went to Penn State), and Cattau, who’s from Wisconsin and attended Gustavus Adolphus College, a small liberal arts school in St. Peter, Minnesota, went back to the midwest.
“We decided we were going to stay together,” Cattau said. “We did the distance thing for 13 months. We would spend all of our money [travelling to each other].”
Eventually, Cattau who had no interest in teaching, decided to enroll in Teach For America, with the intention of getting a chance to live near Philly to be with Joe. Sure enough, she was assigned to a school in Philadelphia.
“I did it for the wrong reasons,” she said. “I did it so we could stay together, and I did it to be a resume booster so I could get into a more prestigious grad school program.”
She didn’t like teaching at first, but it grew on her and she learned to enjoy her new job.
“Something happened to me,” she said. “I just started to love teaching, and I loved my students, and I knew I never wanted to do anything else with my life.”
She loved it so much, it began to take a toll on their relationship. And it wasn’t just Cattau — McDermott was in his first year of Villanova Law School (he’s currently employed as a lawyer for a mortgage company in Cherry Hill), and the two of them simply didn’t have the time to maintain a healthy relationship.
“At one point he said to me ‘I feel like you care more about your students than me,’ and I was like ‘yeah, I do,’” said Cattau. At that point in Cattau’s life, she was working 100 hours between teaching and going to Penn to get her teacher’s certification. McDermott had law school, and that was his focus.
“So, we broke up because he was a first-year law student, and I was a first-year urban educator.”
But they broke up on good terms and remained friends for the next several years, even as Cattau started dating another man, whom she eventually moved in with. Soon after that relationship ended, Cattau found herself at the wedding of her younger sister, Meredith, where she received the best advice she’s ever been told.
“I was her maid of honor, so we were sitting there talking and I said ‘I love you so much. Is there anything you need?’ She looked me in the eyes and she said ‘Get back together with Joe.’”
So she did.
The wedding was in 2012. Soon after, in 2013, McDermott and Cattau were an item again. They got married in 2016.
“Within a year we got married, bought a house, and got a dog so it’s been busy,” she said. And it’s likely going to get even busier sooner rather than later.
“Last year six of our best friends have had kids,” Cattau explained. “That’s kind of the next step.”