Dear Arab Parents, Stop Making Your Daughters Wish They Were Married
I was recently exposed to a situation, where I found myself having to explain to a several number of older-aged acquaintances that telling their daughters “wait till you are married, and then do X” is a faulty logic. I am not a parent myself, and some may think that this already makes me unqualified when it comes to discussing what people should and should not do when it comes to raising children.
They understandably claim that being a parent is a job that comes with the need to protect your children from the ills present in today’s society. Accordingly, they also understandably claim that I am not someone who has experienced this need for protection that is an inseparable element from the experience of parenting.
While all this may be true, I think my position can actually be viewed as an advantage; because I am not a parent, I am not filled with the irrational fears that may come from this need to protect children. Hence, my judgement may possibly be much more neutral and objective, when it comes to the topic of raising daughters.
As a daughter of two amazing parents myself, I can not begin to imagine how I would feel if I felt like my life was put on pause until marriage. My parents are the most loving and protective people I know, yet they do give me my freedom. I learned from them that being protective and teaching your child how to be autonomous are not mutually exclusive entities.
I love them more than life, not merely because they are my parents and I have to love them; I love them specifically because they allowed me to pursue my dreams, even when that meant traveling and living abroad alone at a very young age.
I love the fact that my parents do not have a problem with me getting exposed to all kinds of places and people. The fact that they know that they raised a human being autonomous enough to place and set her own limits regardless of situation and context, is something that gives me the confidence and the strength sincerely needed by a woman residing in today’s sexist society.
Unfortunately, the majority of parents within that same society, beg to differ. The truth is, I personally know women who got married at an early age, just to escape their parents’ hegemony, and their parents’ inability to perceive that a woman is not a child: she is an adult.
These women either ended up getting divorced; and/or getting married to a partner they do not truly love; and/or disappointed with a husband that is much more restrictive and controlling than her parents ever were; and/or happily married but feeling like they had missed out on a life and on opportunities that they wished had been made available to them back when they were single.
I never got the concept of raising a human being that can only rely on someone’s presence, when it comes to enjoying life. She relies on the presence of some future or current husband to travel the world, she relies on the presence of some future or current husband to dress a certain way, she relies on the presence of some future or current husband to go to a nightclub, she relies on the presence of some future or current husband to stay out late etc.
When you raise your daughter that way, what you are raising her to become is a dependent entity, not an individual. If you are going to do that, that is fine, but do not be a hypocrite about it, i.e. do not hold her accountable for anything she does wrong nor reward her for anything she has done right. After all, she is a dependent entity; her faults are never fully hers and her achievements aren’t either.
Indeed, you either raise your daughter to become a fully responsible and independent human being, and accept that the consequences of that means that you can not tell a 20 something year how to literally live her life, or you simply raise her to know that she is neither autonomous nor independent.
Again, if you think the latter of the options sounds drastic, this is what you are already actually doing when you tell your daughters “when you get married you can do X, Y, and Z.”
Also, this whole business of making your daughters sound like a liability is problematic. You won’t let her get exposed to certain things out of the fear that this exposure will result in her doing something that may shame you as parents, so you wait till she can make another person look bad – her husband – if she were to misbehave. Your daughter’s presence and freedom ought not be viewed by the people who are supposed to love her the most in this world as a disadvantage that these people can’t wait to rid themselves of.
To be honest, if you raised someone who you do not trust enough to make the right choices out there in the real world (not in the bubble that you created for her), then what is the point really?