بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم
Her frilly dress flaps in the wind as she goes running to her parents as soon as she feels the prick of a thorn; the pinch of gravel; the sting of an insect. They drop what they are doing to pick her up in their arms, lavish her with attention, and console her with kisses and soothing words, as her siblings compassionately crowd around her in sympathetic silence, waiting patiently for her sobs to wane, her tears to dry and her pout to turn into a smile. When that happens, this family’s little world, which came to a standstill with this little girl’s first cry, starts to revolve again…
When that first baby girl comes into this world, she wins the heart of her family as soon as they set eyes on her.
Treated like the delicate, precious, sensitive little being that she is, she is cooed and cuddled; gifted ornaments of gold and adorned with trinkets; her form is dressed up in swathes of satin and silk; her hair is tied with colorful barrettes and clips; her hands and feet are decorated with henna; her couture meticulously hand-embellished with ribbons, tulle and lace. Behold! – a perpetual source of beauty, joy, chatter, and merriment is born!
The little girl might grow older in age as the years pass, but if she is pampered indulgently by her family throughout her childhood (especially if she is the only girl), with her every whim catered to and all her desires fulfilled by doting relatives, more often that not she will find it tough to ever really grow up.
While it is common and fairly normal to witness the above, fictional scenario for a girl who is a minor up to her turning into a teenager, it seems a tad inappropriate when it involves married girls and women who are well into their twenties, thirties or even forties; when they behave in exactly the same manner as the little girl above who hurt her little finger and promptly went crying about it to her biological family.
First things first – why are we talking only about daughters?
For one thing, I have already blogged in the past about how parents, especially mothers in our local culture, spoil their sons’ habits while the latter are still very young. In that post, I shared my observations about how this kind of upbringing eventually impacts the son’s personality and lifestyle negatively when he becomes an adult, a husband, and the head of his own family.
Secondly, I will be honest. I am a now-reformed, former “pampered daughter” myself. I was raised with so much love, exclusive privileges and indulgent care that I did not even realize how blessed I was in the special VIP treatment I received, until I grew older and witnessed how many of my school and/or college girlfriends, especially those with many sisters, were treated by their parents and families.
Upon entering my twenties, I firsthand saw some of my girlfriends forced by their parents into marriage with a particular person they had chosen for her. When I expressed shock and disgust, a few of my other friends taunted me, “Unlike us, you are very spoiled and pampered. Not every girl gets whatever she wants the way you do!”
Thirdly, and this is the most important reason why I have decided to blog about this topic, is that in Islam, there exists a disparity in the excellence or superiority of parents’ rights upon a married offspring, depending on the gender of the latter. For a married man, his parents continue to enjoy the position of superior rights upon him just as they did when he was single. For a married woman, however, her husband replaces her parents as being the one who has the greatest rights upon her. Yes, his rights upon her are greater than even those of her biological mother!
Further, according to Islam, a husband possesses the right and authority to limit his wife’s contact with, and the number, frequency, and length of her visits to, her parents’ house. Of course, most husbands do not misuse or practice this authority today without due reason, but that’s besides the point here.
I must admit that when I was single, when I gained knowledge about this disparity of the greatness of parents’ Islamic rights upon their married offspring on the basis of gender, I questioned the wisdom or fairness behind it; today, I seek Allah’s forgiveness for my past naivete and ignorance.
Years of experience in my own marriage and also the observation of how pampered daughters persistently fail to adjust easily to, flourish, grow and prosper in their marital homes, even after they have been married for years – made me slowly understand the wisdom behind Islam’s Divine rulings and laws pertaining to a husband’s superior rights over his wife as compared to her parents.
In this post, I intend to share those observations, insha’Allah. But first….
The common traits of a typical pampered married daughter:
- She is a perpetual whiner: she complains, cribs, cries and whines to her parents about everything that she thinks is wrong with her life, even if she is 35 or 40 years old.
- She is rather self-absorbed, and her need for attention borders a bit on narcissism. E.g. if any of her siblings forget her birthday, or otherwise undermine her importance in even the teeniest way (in her eyes), e.g. when one of them forgets to call her up when she expects them to, or gets delayed in rushing to visit her as soon as she arrives in town, she promptly launches into an indignant rant, proceeding to pour complains about this trivial issue in front of her parents, until they are successfully manipulated into bringing the perpetrator to task for doing this to her.
- She doesn’t have a good relationship with any of her in-laws. She cannot bring herself to say even one positive thing about them, no matter how many qualities they might possess. Many people have heard the details of, or have a pretty good inkling about, how supposedly unjust they were to her in the beginning of her marriage. After all, they didn’t even let her choose the color and design of her own bridal dress….how rude and absolutely heartless of them! Eh?
- She has a compulsive need to call up her parents, or the landline number at her parents’ house, every day of her life. Alternatively, she might be online on Skype 24 hours a day to be available to talk to her parents at all times. (Please note: this point does not apply to married daughters who are still within the first 2-3 years of their marriage, are going through marital troubles, or are living a somewhat isolated/lonely life in a foreign country where they have no friends yet).
- When asked who “her family” comprises of, she will mention her parents and siblings first, then her husband and children.
- She misses her biological family direly, even if she has a nice husband, a marriage with no major problems/troubles, a fairly easy and comfortable lifestyle, a few children of her own, and over ten years have passed since her marriage.
- Whenever she is worried or anxious, or faces a problem in life, she seeks and gives top priority to her parents’ advice and counsel, instead of her husband’s or in-laws’. She respects and values their opinion more than her husband’s in almost all matters, even if she outwardly obeys him and doesn’t do anything without his consent.
- She is always planning and anxiously awaiting her next official visit to her parents’ house (if she lives in another city or country). If she lives in the same city, she is over at their house every day, or every other day.
- Besides these “official” visits, she looks for chances to run off to live at her parents’ home for a few weeks or months on the slightest pretext, depending upon the situation e.g. if she is expecting a (third or fourth) baby, has even slight health troubles, or if her husband is traveling abroad for business or work.
- She possesses a strong sense of entitlement upon the time, attention and resources of everyone in her parents’ house — simply because she still considers it her own home, even if she has been married for a decade. So for example, when she visits her parents home for a few days, she will take over their cell phone and also start answering the phone landline at their house; become the main person operating/holding the television remote control; she’ll be the one deciding what social/domestic activities will happen on a day-to-day basis, since, as I said, the indulgent parents do whatever she says, out of years of habit. The household’s daily menu will be changed according to her liking (rather, only that which she or her children like will be cooked), the household car/driver will no longer be available to others if she wants to use it for her own errands (primarily her shopping/parlor/healthcare needs), and everyone’s social schedule will have to adjust to her demands and preferences. This even applies if she has married brothers living in her parents’ house. Ask any “bhabi” (brother’s wife) what happens when her pampered, “Daddy’s Girl”, married sister-in-law comes for a visit. She will probably tell you that the household seems to get affected as if by a whirlwind – the parents’-in-law attention is diverted totally to their daughter; the brothers cannot go anywhere or do anything socially of their own free will (this can include even spending private time with their wives after coming home from work) unless Miss High Maintenance gives her unofficial approval first. Woe betide the bhabi who utters a peep of complaint throughout her sister’s-in-law stay, because she will promptly be criticized behind her back when the visiting princess ‘nightingale’ sings about it to her parents.
- Her parents, especially her mother, know each and every detail of her life, especially every nitty-gritty event in history involving her husband and in-laws, because she reveals all to them without the slightest reservation. She also talks in length about her daily routine to them, from what she bought last when she went shopping, to what she has cooked on any particular day, to what she plans to do tomorrow.
- In some extreme cases, her mother (and/or sisters) might even be aware of her intimate sexual idiosyncrasies with her husband, and all the little details of every fight she has ever had with him. This is typically sad of course, because it is an action in total violation of the verse in the Quran that describes “صَالِح” Muslim women as those who protect in their husband’s absence what Allah would have them guard, namely, his honor and his wealth. Also, Allah has called Muslims spouses each other’s “لباس” or garment – and we all know that the primary purpose of a garment is to cover the body in front of others.
- Her opinion is sought and given prime importance by her parents in all matters – big or small, even intimate ones related to her siblings, even if these siblings are independent, married and well-settled in their own homes.
- She thus holds a permanent, irrevocable “senior advisory” position in her parents’ household viz. even if they have one or more servile, loyal and obedient daughters-in-law living with them in peace and harmony since many years. The opinion or advice of the latter holds little, if any, importance in front of that of their daughter.
- Through her parents, she knows all the inner details and deliberately hushed-up secrets of her brothers’ and sisters’ marital and/or personal lives, from their individual family issues, to any disputes, health problems, planned career moves or discreet financial matters.
- No family event or celebration can ever exclude the pampered married daughter. Every occasion and event is meticulously planned in such a way that she is able to attend, with her kids in tow of course. This is especially true if she lives in another city or country.
- Last, but not the least, the pampered married daughter’s husband can never be good enough for her in her parents’ eyes. He has too many warts – from his permanently deplete resources that can never match her spending habits, to his “irritating” habit of being too courteous and polite, to the way he sits, stands, walks, talks, coughs or laughs. What a buffoon! “Why did we ever let him marry her?! What were we thinking?”
What’s wrong with indulging in a married daughter like this? Why can’t she love her biological parents more than her husband?
There is nothing wrong with being close to one’s biological family even after your spouse comes into the picture. In fact, it is the ideal, most coveted scenario.
Lucky and enormously fortunate indeed is the family that welcomes a son-in-law with open arms and in return, receives honest, sincere love and respect. Only in such cases, where there are no innate prejudices, hidden suspicions, insincere intentions to deceive, or carefully disguised distrust, envy or resentment, can such a family maintain healthy mutual bonds and flourish with reciprocated love and respect over the years.
In such an ideal scenario, the married daughter’s parents actually feel like they have obtained, through the sacred bond of their daughter’s nikah, another righteous and obedient son, whereas the son-in-law feels fortunate to have obtained a loving, welcoming extended family that gives him – in some cases – even more respect and love than his own biological family ever did.
When things go wrong..
Forget my opinions and observations. Let us just look at the laws that Allah has laid down in Islam — the perfect system of justice that we as Muslims all submit to, and acknowledge to be the best.
I would again bring your attention to the fact that Allah has granted a husband the right to limit his wife’s contact with, and visits to, her parents (and even other people, such as her relatives and friends) – whereas the vice versa is not the case i.e. a wife doesn’t have the right to limit the amount of interaction her husband has with his family or others.
Why is this? Is it not apparently “unfair”?
There are a few factors to consider when trying to decipher the answer:
- Husbands are usually away from their wife and children during the day, busy earning a living.
- They trust their wives in their absence, with their home, household belongings, money, children and most importantly, their honor.
- Wives have more chances to interact socially with people during this time, especially in the current technologically advanced age whence cell phones, Facebook and Skype have made it possible to instantly talk to/communicate with anyone across the globe.
- Women by nature tend to be more talkative, emotional and socially active than men (oh, please don’t fire me for making gender-based generalizations; you know its true!). In other words, they tend to actively maintain familial bonds and like to have someone to talk to where ever they are, especially if they are homemakers who do not have a busy corporate lifestyle. This makes them prone to meet people more often, and – if their guard is not up – to fall prey to the veiled shenanigans of insincere people. Some such people are usually out just looking to kill time, and eagerly hop onto even a hint of a scandal; any fresh piece of gossip; something juicy to pass on to others over their next coffee/tea. Enter a gullible young wife who can be made to gab openly about her life after just a few prying questions (especially if the questioner is an older, trouble-making, scandal-seeking woman a.k.a nosy “aunty” disguised as a sincere well-wisher) and lo! While the wife’s guard is down, out pour details of her marital life that will keep the grapevine of her extended biological family, neighbors, so-called “friends”, or even her extended in-laws abuzz for the next few weeks! I have written more about this in an article here.
- Back to scripture — our avowed enemy, Shaitan, considers his prime target to the be the husband-wife relationship, especially where both husband and wife are righteous, and eager to not just act upon and propagate the Deen of Islam, but to also raise little Muslims upon a solid foundation of the Quran and sunnah. Such Muslim couples are his prime target, and since they are more difficult to make slip using the trivial methods that work easily on average Muslims, as they are ardent worshippers and/or possessors of Islamic knowledge, he uses stronger but extremely subtle, discreet and well-disguised tactics on them to try and break them apart and make them hateful to each other.
In order to protect the husband-wife relationship from being adversely affected by trouble-makers in society, Allah has granted the husband the authority to limit his wife’s contact with people whom he thinks will fill his wife’s ears with petty things that could turn her against him – even if they are his or her own parents and close relatives.
Now, coming back to Ms. Pampered who has her heart and mind still stuck in her parents’ home, even years or a decade after her marriage.
First of all, I would like to clarify here that this category excludes new brides, because in the initial 2-3 years of marriage, girls take time to adjust to their new life: a husband, in-laws, living independently perhaps for the first time, managing a household, learning how to cook, having and rearing a baby, and then learning how to manage all of these new roles together.
To top it off, if they move to a new location as a part of their marital transition, it makes it more difficult for them to adjust quickly, with loneliness and homesickness bearing them down often. In this initial phase, thus, it is normal for a young wife to continue to be close to, visit often, talk daily to, and seek emotional support from, her parents and other biological family.
However, the red flags should be seen by everyone, not the least by her own parents, when this scenario continues well beyond that initial adjustment phase; so that a married daughter never really plants her feet firmly in her marital home – ever.
In order to try to find solutions instead of just pointing out the problem, let’s see how we can help the lady who has hopefully realized by reading this post up till here that she is also a pampered daughter, or that she might behave like this in the future after years of her marriage.
Some advice for Ms. High Maintenance:
- Please grow up.
- Please grow up.
- Once again – please, grow up some more…. 🙂
- You’re not that important. Really.
- On a more serious note, though…..You really need to get over yourself and stop blowing your problems, issues, needs and wants out of proportion.
There are hundreds of thousands of people in this world who are more unfortunate than you, such as the homeless, starving, fatally sick, and suicidally depressed; try doing something for them for a change, instead of ranting about how that dress you gave to the tailor (one of the multitudes you get stitched every time a seasonal sale hits the stands) didn’t turn out right at the hem, or about how your sister-in-law callously overlooked your omnipresent importance and invited you at the very last minute to her dinner party.
- Stop over-rating your achievements and those of your kids (such as that “amazing” biryani or cake you made last weekend). Praise for achievements sounds best when it comes from others, unprompted, behind the achiever’s back, instead of when it pours from someone’s own mouth, or when it is plastered on their face by their own doting parents and siblings.
- Try to bite your lip whenever you want to tell someone at your parents’ house what to do and how to do it.
You’re a mature woman and you’ve been married many years; perhaps now, your position at your parents’ house has changed a bit, and is no longer that of warden and/or superintendent, like it was years ago, much less that of the baby princess in diapers screaming from her cot because no one has picked her up for a cuddle in 15 minutes!
So, for example, if your mother or brother’s wife likes to make a certain family dish or curry with her own choice of spices now, do stop yourself before launching into a long monologue about how you still make it the old (and so, of course, the best) way. Even the wisest words become undermined to the level of just “noise”, akin to an irritating drone, if they are not welcome, requested, or worse, forced into the listeners’ ears non-stop.
- Don’t sing to the ‘wardens’ when you visit.
Please don’t talk to your parents about the mistakes, wrongs, shortcomings or past misdeeds committed by your in-laws, brothers’ wives, other sisters, cousins, friends or relatives. In other words, please stop starting a fire where there isn’t one. A positive trait possessed by mature, grownup people is that they get over past negative experiences and move on. Nameemah is one of the kaba’ir (major sins) in Islam (fundo-haters, please ignore this fatwa – you might have realized that if you dislike references to Islam or to its fatawa, this whole blog of mine probably won’t appeal to you any way). Nameemah (نميمة) is an Arabic word, a form of which also occurs in the Quran, that is used to describe the action of gossiping; of intentionally or unintentionally saying things that might cause rifts between people who are getting along perfectly fine otherwise. So, if your nephew or niece is being fed packaged cereal, try not to criticize your brother’s wife or your sister to your parents for doing this, especially if you – always being the better one, eh? – go through the pains of boiling and mashing fresh, organic rice, lentils and meat into a smooth paste for your baby, every single day.
- Stop dialing at the drop of a hat!
It really isn’t necessary to call up your parents every day, or even twice/thrice a day, for that matter. Why call them up if you just spoke to them 12 hours ago, and if you know that they are fine? Because you are bored? Feeling lonely and homesick? Read the point below:
- Get a life Find yourself something constructive and productive to do to occupy your spare time, especially work that will benefit others/give back to your local community. Do you know what your goal is in life? Do you even have one? Tap into your hidden talents – stitching, baking, teaching, tutoring, crochet, cooking, babysitting, writing, painting, interior decor, whatever! – and keep yourself busy with it. Get out of your self-imposed bubble; the stuck-in-a-rut time-warp in which you have imprisoned yourself (as if you are still a teen living at your parents’ home) and look outside at the world; at what’s happening globally; and at what you can do to make even one other person’s day or state better. Try to volunteer even one day of the week at any organization or cause that will make you leave your house and interact with, and learn from, other people who are doing positive work for others. This will make you realize that there is more to life than your own home, family and its little problems. Best of all, you will realize how trivial your own problems are, as compared to the magnanimous ones faced by others. And for Allah’s sake, unless you are based in Saudi Arabia, its high time you got yourself a driver’s license and started DRIVING!
- Read, read, read!
Gone are the days when reading was possible only if there was a physical book, newspaper or magazine clasped in your hands. Now, you can read all day via the computer and internet and still be left feeling like you’ve withdrawn but a drop from the ocean of informative and beneficial knowledge that lies at your fingertips through the digital screen. In fact, most mothers’ and homemakers’ problems are now instantly solvable because of the oodles of how-to and self-help websites and blogs online (and if you still don’t know what a “blog” is – umm, I must reiterate that you really need to act upon this point and start reading!). Even if you want to try making mirchon ka salan for the first time, you don’t have to call up your mother and make her recall the recipe; just Google it! Watch a 5-8 minute recipe video and you’re on! So please stop whining about being bored or lonely, or having nothing to do, and get your hands on some good books and/or magazines. Enroll in a course, even if its class is once-a-week. Join a fitness club and start working out. Just do something with your life; stop hanging on to your parents’ finger!
- Try to solve your marital home’s day-to-day problems yourself, with your husband’s support.
Your parents don’t really need to be told how troubled you are by that leaking faucet in your bath, your baby’s nasty diaper rash, your running nose, the car’s dead battery, the all-night drinking fest held by your noisy neighbors last night, or your sleeplessness as a result of the long power outage. Grow up and stop whining!
- Don’t undermine your parents’ daughters-in-law/your brothers’ wives –
Right now, you might be enjoying the temporarily more powerful position in your parents’ home when you visit. Your brothers’ wives probably refrain from complaining about your demands on the whole household, and instead silently acquiesce to all your needs – maybe even go out of their way to serve you during your visits. However, rest assured that this will not last for long! As the natural cycle of life progresses, your parents will eventually age, and authority will transfer to the next generation. The doting parents who run around for you, picking up after you and rushing to wipe your tears, will eventually not be able to do that any more. And your brothers’ wives will become stronger in say and authority in their household, as their children grow older and their years of experience and silent sacrifice pay off. So accept them as permanent members of your family (don’t hush up or hurriedly change the subject as soon as they enter the room, as if they are too dumb to understand that you’re hiding your personal issues from them), embrace their presence in the house, overlook and ignore their shortcomings, and for Allah’s sake, stop complaining about the time, money and attention your brothers give to them! It makes you sound very insecure. Also, perhaps you should avoid overstaying your welcome and keep your visits short, so that none of them ever “dreads” your arrival in the future, especially if your children are not very well-behaved and tend to follow in their mother’s footsteps in treating their maternal grandparents’ home like a playground, in which they can do whatever they want and always get away with it!
As an only daughter who used to do most of the things detailed above in this post for the first few years of her marriage; one who has by now (thankfully) gradually and deliberately cut off the “apron strings” that tied her like a coddled baby to her parents’ loving embrace, I am watching history repeat itself. How, you might ask?
Currently, I am beginning to witness the negative results of pampering an only daughter within my own home. If you might remember, I am the mother of a daughter as well!
Yes, up till now, my daughter is not just an only girl, but also the firstborn in our family. She rules over our hearts, but more so her father’s than anyone else’s. I see how her wails, tantrums and demands get exaggerated and extended when she is in his presence, and how he immediately succumbs to them.
So, with a somewhat wary, sinking heart that beats only in a sincere mother’s chest, I worry whether she will become the drama queen that I once was (or like a few other grownup, pampered daughters whose endless nakhra’s (airs) and demands I have witnessed firsthand in my family). I mean, right now, its a certain accessory that she asks her father to buy her, to which he immediately relents by not just dishing out the dough but by also going out to get it for her even if it is inconvenient for him.
But what if this continues up until she is 25? Will her demands for an expensive designer dress be met the same way? Will we also become like those parents who say clearly to whoever proposes to their daughter, “Everything in the wedding must happen according to [our daughter’s] wishes/desires. She is the apple of our eye.” Will her husband also never be good enough for her in our eyes?
Its all about achieving a balance; a moderate path that will please Allah, insha’Allah. I know that in this world, many a daughters’ birth is met with dismay and grief; many little girls are treated like financial burdens and extra baggage to be shrugged or bartered off to the first bidder at the first opportunity.
Many girls are therefore treated like servants in their parents’ homes, to be used for the service (“khidmat“) of the males in the family until they are married off.
Nowadays, many young, single women are forced or coerced by their parents to work at jobs they dislike, where they mingle with men and face regular sexual harassment, because the parents want them to bring in an income i.e. essentially “pay for themselves” until they are residing in their home.
I’m not a big fan of the cultural philosophy many local people believe in and propagate, viz.: “You are a temporary guest in this house; your real home will be the one you go to after marriage”, no matter how well-intended it might sound. I also detest the adage: “You are leaving your parents’ house in this “doli” [bridal carrier]; now only your janazah (burial shroud) must leave your husband’s home“.
Oh please! Gimme a break!
However, as I said, a critical balance has to be achieved.
Girls should not be pampered with excessive luxuries and privileges, nor given such “high and mighty” treatment, that they eventually fail to stand up on their own feet and cannot adjust to their husband’s home over time, after the initial adjustment period. They should also not be treated like servants or financial burdens, or made to feel inferior to their brothers just because they will one day go off to another home, or simply because they are female.
So instead of spinning useless, fantastical fairy tales about riding off into the horizon with a prince charming who will eventually marry them, little girls need to be trained to brave the challenges and hardships of adult life – whether that is married life or that of being single.
They need to be taught to fend for themselves, to always turn to Allah for help, and to get by without relying on Daddy’s wallet or Mommy’s shoulder. They should be trained to face life’s mundane and minuscule problems and mishaps with gusto and not take themselves too seriously – unless, of course, they really are facing major issues, such as domestic violence, severe health trouble, or oppression.
Just as that fledgling that has its ‘wings clipped’ by being over-protected and indulged, will never be able to fly – even as a fully grown bird – so too will the talented young girl who is too pampered, waste herself once she is “pushed out” from her parents’ “nest”.
She will not be able to cut off her emotional strings, and thus not find her hidden strengths; not learn any new skills, nor master any new domains.
Hence, she might never soar to new heights, never feel the wind beneath her wings, never conquer new dominions — simply because she kept looking back at the safe haven she left behind, and was, consequently, too afraid that she would fall and hurt herself.