Momma’s Little Angels

Nowadays we are surrounded by married couples in various stages of married life- the newly married, the freshly honeymooned- the our-first-ramzan-togethers, the year olds, the happily pregnants, the 2 years olds with one kid, and the 4 years old with 2 kids and the 3 plus years and no kids. Each new dynamic with it brings for me, in my current observational mode a fresh set of realizations about couple intimacy and closeness, family dynamics, about love and terrifyingly, about loyalties.

Drawing on a recurrent conversation with a friend, who thinks its “time to get married” because his mother wants grandchildren, the mom and son relationship always takes me by surprise. Trying to talk to him about his own need for a lasting relationship is hard- his primary aim in getting married is his mother’s needs. I’m scared for the girl who marries him-

To be honest, I always found that somewhat endearing- guys who watch out for their mothers; maybe because I have grown up in female dominated house I found it fascinating to notice that boys could feel as much as girls did for their mothers- but what i eventually realized is that this relationship borders on the scary. It’s almost like one word from mom and a previously independent man, fully capable of not only managing house and home and a career while wooing the lady of his choice will be reduced to a blithering idiot, useless in his ability to even form a sentence, much less have an opinion.

From the time we are young we are taught that parents come first, that we should always love and respect those people who made most of the sacrifices for us while so we could grow up safe, stable, loved. In our culture it is more than a given. It’s almost a freakish obsession.

Of course I love my parents and I would do anything for them but does that give me the right to ignore a set of priorities aimed at other indivudals who are also a part of my life? Does it always have to be a tug of war for the exact same kind of love? Why are the different kinds of love, duties, needs so hard to recognize and separate? Does a man think that standing up for someone he loves over his mother means he does not love his mother- can it not mean that that situation requires his compassion to be elsewhere? And where is it written that there is a limited amout of love that can be given out and we have to fight for it?

Talking to that same friend, who insists that his wife will be secondary to his mother because his mother brought him up and he owes her more, I want to bang his head on the wall. Or mine. “How can you possibly compare the two?” He shrugs and asks how can you not. If there are two women in his life, obviously the one that has given him more, will be the ony he should give more too. I breathe deeply. Reason with the fool, says an iner voice. “So firstly your wife comes in as a child bearing machine because your mother has grandmaternal instincts, and then she does not even enjoy a priority status in your life? Why would she marry you?”

Even in this day and age, when man has walked on the moon and achieved supreme intellectual heights, his emotional IQ remains grazing the floor as he remains largely unable to distinguish between different levels of relationships, loves, loyalties and existences. He remains oblivious to the fact that there are sides to be taken (without needing to hurt), that priorities should be given (without tagging them with a forever) and that in most cases in life, balances have to be maintained maturely, with faith and understanding and some kind of know-how of human nature, because types of love cannot be interchangeable.


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15 thoughts on “Momma’s Little Angels”

  1. oh jammie, one can go on and on about specimens of the male species who take ‘maan key qadmon taley jannat’ to fanatic proportions.

    I just wanted to add one litte thought here though: the mothers of these sons are often equally to blame and it’s kind of ironic the role a woman in plays in making another woman’s life miserable.

    Last thought: why can’t more mothers-in-law and daughters-in-law see each other as something other than ‘the other woman’?

  2. thanks cheesoo-

    bakpakchik- completely agreed- since my grievance currently is with the friend who refuses to be a man- i wanted to spare the mom- but yes ia gree the moms can also be the more adult people and realize that just like they came into a new house one day, so will this new person- and she will want to be a wife more sometimes than a daughter in law- its kind of nuts πŸ™‚

  3. OMG! you’ve taken the words right out of my mouth!

    i know of a case whereby the husband told his wife right after he got married that should a dispute arise, she can leave if she chooses to, but he wont leave his family.

    here’s what’s most amusing: this incident has been narrated over and over by HIS family (mother and sisters) as tho its such a great thing that their son is so fiercely loyal and cares so much about them!! *sigh*

    i think u mentioned, about a man standing up for someone he loves, over his mother. perhaps we could simply look at it as standing up for justice. he obviously doesnt love his mother less if he corrects her for whining abt him spending too much time at work. why is it suddenly so disrespectful for him to correct her for whining abt him spending too much time with his wife, for instance.

    mention this to a religious man and the world famous weak hadith about jannah lying under the feet of the mother comes ur way. what abt the millions of authentic ones regarding justice?

    i’ve come to realize that our sex-ist world seriously tends to expect a womans happiness in her marriage within a very narrow microscope – mostly on her ability to appease and sacrifice on behalf of others. absence of problems rather than a challenging life is seen as the “perfect” life.

    which systematically translates into her ability to take a 180 degree bend in her personality to appease her in laws. because after all, for the sake of your husband’s happiness…!! keyword: husband’s!

  4. great post. first thought: I’m at the “2.5 years and no kids” category..!
    second thought: it seems so much easier to address this from the american point of parents love my husband and adore the fact that he makes me happy. There is no competition for affection between father and husband, y’know? How could there POSSIBLY be?
    Men that place their mothers on the same spectrum as their wives are delusional…mothers that place themselves on the same spectrum as their dils are …insecure? unfulfilled? It’s such a complex relationship and it’s made that way entirely by our culture. 😦 I’m always so envious of my non-desi friends’ relationships with their in-laws. oh and yours too jam! πŸ™‚

  5. I hope you don’t mind me leaving comments since you don’t know me. It’s just that your posts are usually so close to what is on my mind and in my heart…here is how I see it: Typical desi marriage (there are always exceptions) is the husband loves his family over his wife (since he has only “arranged” feelings for her anyways. Our society teaches men not to have emotions as to them it is a sign of weakness. The wife has been brought up to feel her parents house is not hers (over and over again), her husbands house is where she belongs but she is in for a big surprise because her husbands house is her MILs and SILs territory. So where is my home? This question leaves the wife very insecure. There are suddenly teams and sides to be taken, the couple who was suppose to be “one” is divided and the husband is on his family side. Naturally the wife decides that the kids will be on her side (and under her control) and spends her entire lifetime raising kids who care. The wife promises herself that in this world where no one watches over her needs, she is going to raise a man who will put her needs over everyone else. Voila the vicious cycle continues. I have seen it one too many times. While growing up the son watches his mom treated unfairly by her in-laws and his father, he grows up with a resolve that he will never hurt her, disappoint her like his father and his family. Voila now when his wife comes in to the picture, the son forgets he is continuing the cycle, instead, in his mind, he is undoing all the wrongs done to his mother. Wrongs that his wife will never understand. So yet another cycle of a loveless compromise begins for a couple.

    There is another problem -the hardest thing for a mother(ask any mother!) is to let her child go and make their own choices in life, be it on any side of the globe. In desi-land, like you said it takes freakish proportions because usually the mother has never had a chance to have her own life, her own home and her independance, has not felt or experienced that unconditional love till she has a son who is old enough to earn her those dreams. As horrible as it sounds, our system of joint families and beta and bahoo living with in-laws is crumbling unless the MIL takes a step back and the son actually have the galls to stand up for their wife’s rights and give them the love and affection deserved. What they forget is, on DoJ, they will be asked about their wife and children also, not only their parents.

  6. Like you said, parents make infinite sacrifices for their children. Mother in particular goes through a whole lot compared to fathers in terms of hormonal changes during pregnancy, the pain during child birth, the post-partum depression, the 2-hour sleep cycles for the first 3 months of a child’s life and a lifetime of nurturing.

    Boys love their mothers, and I would pity anyone who doesn’t. They would fight for their mothers in any way they can, it is in the protective nature of man. Telling your mother off, hurting her feelings or to disrespect her is just wrong.

    A better way would be to first learn more about marriage based on the faith you follow, as most faiths (like Islam) provide a clear definition of marriage, its requirements, its responsibilities and how to treat your parents.

    Islam has placed a lot of emphasis on the rights of a wife. “Nor should you treat them [women] with harshness… and live with them on a footing of kindness and equity. If you take a dislike to them it may be that you dislike a thing, and Allah brings about through it a great deal of good” (Qur’an, 4:19). Prophet Mohammed (PBUH) said, “Fear Allah in regard to women. You were given them as a safekeeping from Allah and by the word of Allah, they have become lawful to you” (Muslim, 1218).

    To the point that in Islam, Marriage is:
    – Haram (forbidden) for someone who is sure that they will be unjust to their wife or husband
    – Makruh (disliked) for someone who fears they will be unjust to their wife or husband
    – Sunna (recommended) for a man who has the ability to have sex, pay the Mahr (marriage payment) and maintain the rights of a wife.
    – Wajib (requisite) for someone whose desire is overwhelming
    – Fard (obligatory) for someone who fears for his or her chastity

    We are all prone to emotional stress and hurt, women are no different. Their nurturing nature knows no bounds whether they are the daughters, wives or mothers. There will be arguments between mothers and daughter-in-laws, there is no silver bullet for that. But as a Husband and a Son, it is up to us to be fair to both our mothers and wives and IMHO the best way we can do that is by starting with a clear definition of our responsibilities.

    A well written book on the subject is “Islamic Marriage – Revised edition” by Hedaya Hartford (ISBN:1-59239-012-9).

    Other books you can find in Pakistan are:
    1. The way to a happy married life (Kutub Khana Mazhari – Gulshan-e-Iqbal #2, Karachi)
    2. Rights of Husband and Wife (Mufti Muhammad Abdul Ghani)

  7. faraz- thoery is a lot easier than action- most of the men i know willingly accept the “place” of their wife and what she needs being impt- when most of the time when it comes right down to showing it clearly where they stand, they bury their heads in sand ostrich style. this is MEANT to be a sort of generlaized statement- of COUSRE there are men who arent like that- unfortunately a majority give them all a bad name πŸ™‚

  8. this past week i read your entire blog, from the very first post to this most recent one. i’m engaged (i proposed 2 yrs ago, he said yes) and probably not getting married for another 4 yrs or so until i’m done with my doctorate in psychology. i couldn’t tear myself away from your blog because it was facsinating to see glimpses of how u evolved. i somehow felt very connected to some of your experiences, and it’s kind of nice to know that someone out there is already living the kind of future you hope for yourself. may you be blessed with everything u and k wish for.

  9. Lovely post. And so true. Not just with wives, even guys who chose to lie and go behind their mother’s back as far as girlfriends go and then ditch them for an arranged marriage citing being unable to break their mother’s heart.

    I don’t quite see how they can justify that stance when they’ve spent all their lives lying to their parents about their activities outside the home. Seen it happen so many times here in Canada.

  10. omg… im having these wedding blues and blacks and all the colors… and posts like these make it even worse… where do i run?

  11. Thank you for writing this. I needed to read it. Of course, I am not desi, and I do have personal interest in this but…I dunno. Thanks.

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