I watched a video the other day, and that got me thinking. The video was supposed to be a story with a moral, where a girl refuses to marry a guy on the grounds that she does not want to live in the same house with his mother. The guy moves his mother to an old home, and the girl again refuses to marry because she was actually testing him, and that he failed the love test. Since he was not fair in love with his mother, he could not be fair with the girl as well.
As expected, the commenters had two views. One said it is all right if a girl does not want to live with her in-laws, while the other said that since the guy is responsible for his parents, therefore the girl should not demand to live separately. The person who made the video said that he does not expect his wife to be the maid of the house, but he does want her to accept and love his family.
When I shared the video, I got advice about how a woman should live according to her position as defined in Islam. My take on it is that living with in-laws is a cultural and subcontinental issue, not an Islamic issue (more on that ahead).
After reading everything, I thought about it a lot. I have had male acquaintances in my student life and professional life. One thing common was their expectation from their future spouses. Most of them expected their wives to look after their mothers and other members of their families after marriage. Some expected their wives to be financially stable and have a career so that they can financially secure their future. Some had expectations of a heavy dowry and so on.
Moving on to the dramas, and novels depicting our society, we see a number of dramas showing weddings. In many dramas and novels, when the husband talks to his wife after getting married, he is shown talking about his expectations from the wife “I love my family and I want you to love them the same” “My mother has a temper, but I expect you to tolerate it” “I won’t tolerate if you speak harshly to any of my family members” and so on.
Same happens in homes, during the rishta fiasco. Being single, I have faced my fair share, like any other girl. I have seen mothers concerns ranging from “she will have to quit her job” to “girls these days rob mothers of their sons and start living separately”.
There is a repetitive pattern. And the pattern highlights only the guy’s demands of a family life. While these expectations are common, they are always put in words, making them more prominent. What I feel sad about is, no one bothers asking the girl what does she expect from a relationship. And when does try to voice her concerns, she is labelled as someone who robs sons from their mothers, someone who is needy, or someone who does not have the patience to make a home.
Coming to the “Islamic” part of living with in-laws; a girl is not obliged to live and take care of her in-laws by Islam. She has a right to demand a separate residence, and that does not make her a bad girl. She does not to be shamed for making that demand or decision. When it comes to religion, she is responsible for rearing children as good humans and good Muslims and making her home comfortable for her family and that is all she is obliged to do as a duty. If a girl does look after her in-laws, it is out of her goodness, and the guys should actually be grateful and “ehsaan mand” to their wives, as their wives are making their husbands’ lives easier by taking some of the burden off their husbands’ shoulders.
How many times do husbands express gratitude to their wives for taking care of their in-laws? I have seen men take it for granted, and even be harsh if something goes wrong. How many times would a guy say “oh, your parents need us? Let’s move in with them. Let’s take care of them together?” How many times has a guy said that “ok, I have told you what I expect, but please tell me what do you expect from me”. I have never heard a guy saying that this is what I demand from my future wife, and then adding what he himself would bring to that equation.
I have been thinking a lot. I have not found answers yet.
Disclaimer: None of my points mean that I don’t favor girls staying at home. What I don’t favor is the guy making all the demands, and making a girl feel bad when she voices her expectations from her husband, when she asks to live separately, when she asks a little bit of space around her or when she requests non-interference from her in-laws, because frankly speaking, as a human, she does have a right to all of that.