Unashamedly Shameful

I’m aware, as I write this piece, that I don’t want to come across as a sanctimonious cow because of a choice I got to make over living alone.  I fully understand culture and I fully understand the expectations that come with that.  Maybe, the point of this piece is to question that expectation a little and to get an understanding on other’s thoughts.

It’s obvious, not only from the delightful sermons at the Mosque over ‘women placing their careers over marriage’ to aunties I meet telling me ‘bus achay rishtay he to nahi’ (there’s no elegible bachelors) that the number of single women over thirty in the British Asian Muslim world is probably the highest its ever been.

Most Asian culture, not just South Asian, is patriarchal when it comes to living arrangements.  Asian women live in their parent’s home until marriage after which they move into their husband’s home.  A nice and tidy transition that doesn’t ruffle too many feathers.

I had the same set-up, living with my parents until around 25 years old then moved out when I got married.  I resisted the expectation of moving back home after my divorce although as you know, if you read the blogs, I did move back eventually for a few years.

It takes me to now though where I live myself.  Living alone hasn’t been without the ruffling of a few feathers and I often question it.  How has it become so normalised to expect women in our culture to live with their parents until they find a suitable partner……..and if we don’t by x age, are we expected to live with our parents indefinitely until someone eventually comes along?

I wonder if we, as women, have some responsibility in this too – going along with that implied subtext that life begins after marriage.  As much as what I like to think that I rejected this idea, deep down, a small part of me probably did believe that myth.

From my own experiences with people who learn I live alone, here’s what’s come to my attention:

  1. As a single woman, it’s seen as my future responsibility to take care of my parents.  My other siblings are married and it’s expected that as the one with ‘nothing to do’, it is my role to do precisely this.  Perhaps people think it will fill some void for me or that I don’t have a life as I don’t have a husband.  I’m therefore seen as someone who has shirked their duty.

  1. It’s seen as shameful.  I recently discovered that an uncle of mine had tried an intervention, that I be convinced not to move into my own place because ‘what will people say?’  I only became aware of this a year later – the irony of caring about my honor over my living arrangements and not protecting it during my divorce wasn’t lost on me.

After my divorce, I was fairly vocal about the fact that I would continue to live separately – maybe part of me was scared that I would be expected to move back with my parents.  My mum supported my decision and although my dad has never been negative over it, he makes it clear that he worries about me.  I’ve had to promise dad that I won’t ever climb into my attic when alone incase I fall off the ladders and down a flight of stairs to my impending death.

I do appreciate that the fight for a divorced woman to live alone may not be as big as somebody who has never been married so I would love to hear your thoughts:

If you live with your parents, what stops you from moving out?  Or is it a non-issue for you and something you would hate?

If you’re single and living alone, how did that conversation go?



12 Replies to “Unashamedly Shameful”

  1. Gender issue aside, here’s my question, why do people want to move away from the parents so much? Did they abandon you when you were growing up? Life is like this /\ you start at the bottom, you reach your peak and it’s all downhill from there. When you are growing up, your parents look after you, by then they have reached the peak and their health, mental state, etc is going downhill. That’s when they need your support and understanding the most. Yet society makes them villains. The pressure to move out and become an “adult”. What is more adult, moving out and doing what you want, when you want and how you want? Or taking responsibility for the people that have you the life you currently enjoy.

    Your parents don’t just need a monthly cheque to survive from you. They need your support on a daily basis. They need someone to talk to. Someone to tell their sad tales of the day when they are worried or stressed about something. They need the emotional support. I’m not at all ashamed to say I live with my parents out of choice and I will care for them until either they are living or until I’m living.

    Last point, which is going to sting a lot of women ,specially, out there. Forcing your husband to leave his parents is a curse you are bringing onto yourselves. (my opinion). Tomorrow you will have kids too. When your kids are growing up, you expect them to look after you when you are old don’t you? Or will just let them go and live on their own? Every parent has this expectation that their kids will look after them in their old age. Yes women move out and they are not expected to take care of the parents. But men are expected to. And when the wife is putting pressure on the husband to move out, she is pushing on a sensitive nerve and sometimes stress like that can break a man. A woman that supports her husband and looks after his parents like they are her own lives happier and gets what she wants. My wife is that example. My wife has given more happiness to my parents than I have in the 1 year we have been married and in return I have given her every happiness I can and more than what she expected.

    When I brought up the subject of living on our own before we got married, my wife threw out that idea the moment it left my lips. That sealed the deal for me and this is what made my wife stand out for me and her thoughts regarding this subject of caring for your parents is what attracts me to her more than anything. My wife is an aaleema, she knows better than I do, how important my parents are. In her words, “Jannah lies beneath the feet of the mother and the father is the key to that Jannah and a woman is luckier than a man in this regards as she has to pairs of each guaranteeing her place in Jannah if she only looks after them. “

    1. I would like to provide some counter arguments to the points you have made:
      “Tomorrow you will have kids too. When your kids are growing up, you expect them to look after you when you are old don’t you? Or will just let them go and live on their own?”
      You do not raise kids for the purpose of looking after you. You raise them to be good Muslims and good citizens which give back to society. Islam also does not promote having children for the purpose of serving you in old age.
      “Every parent has this expectation that their kids will look after them in their old age. Yes women move out and they are not expected to take care of the parents. But men are expected to.”
      We should always pray that we are not dependent on anyone in old age. That is the worst ordeal for a human being. Secondly, what if some parents have only daughters or some couples unfortunately by Allah’s wanting have no children, what do these people do in old age? Islam is a universal religion and does not discriminate. Therefore, how can we expect that some parents get additional privileges simply for giving birth to sons. This is one of the massive flaws in our Pakistani society. Islam taught that having daughters is not a burden, they are a blessing. Therefore, this principle on it’s own would promote that sons are not equal to the status of daughters.
      “Jannah lies beneath the feet of the mother and the father is the key to that Jannah and a woman is luckier than a man in this regards as she has to pairs of each guaranteeing her place in Jannah if she only looks after them. ”
      Jannah is not simply given to mothers, it is given to “good mothers”. It is earned by the mother.

      1. Your reply was a lot more comprehensive than mine was ‘Insightful’ so thank you for leaving it. xx

    2. Your poor wife having such a burden on her that she’s expected to be the one catering and taking care of your parents. I really feel for her. The mentality of our culture is contained within your comment – that women are expected to leave their parents but sons expected to take care of them. I, as a woman, view it my role as well as all my other siblings’ role to pull together to take care of our family. You don’t have children for them to be your pension plan or carers. You have them as you want them to love. Moving out isn’t about abandoning our parents, it’s about growing up in my opinion and in this case shedding a culture that places a suffocating responsibility on a wife.

  2. Another thoughtful post. I’m a divorcee living alone, granted, there wasn’t really family to go back to. I also have children so I’m not sure if that changes things one way or the other. With so much judgement coming our way as single women, I feel like living alone is just one of many things. When you were living with your parents, I’m sure they fixated on other aspects of your situation to disapprove of. But in reality, living with parents in desi families is also agreeing to be put into a situation where they still treat you as a child. As a grown woman with a career and a determination to do things my way the next time around, I just never considered it. Although it can be lonely sometimes. It’s a “kuch toh log kahenge…” situation. But there’s a personal growth that comes with having to be self-sufficient and in becoming comfortable alone with your own thoughts. It gives you the confidence to know, I can do it alone, so you’re never in a position to be beholden to your next love. I think you’re doing exactly the right thing!

    1. Thanks for your comments MeerasMom. I agree with much of what you say, I suppose it’s natural in any situation or culture that when we go back to being with our parents, we become childlike in our behaviours often when around them. I hold my hands up to being a sulky teenager around my mum a lot lol. I notice a difference in myself having moved out, as you say, not beholden but also doing things my way; the basics of cooking, tidying, what to do with my day isn’t around anybody elses schedule – only mine. xx

  3. non issue.live at home.no bills.easy life.don’t need to prove anything to move out

    1. Thanks for your comment which is fair enough! xx

  4. 40s———————-brown———————still with parents———————I’m happy enough in life but yeh same thing, assumed to be parents carers as everyone else married…..wasn’t ever asked about it

    1. Sorry to hear the expectation that’s placed on you Anon. How would it feel to be vocal about it with the siblings if it’s something you’re unhappy about (if you are that is?) xx

  5. Defo a desi issue but not sure if it’s also a Muslim issue…..I’m asian and had to get a job in London to be able to move out. I knew it would be out the question to live in the same city but was deseprate to get out so took a job elsewhere just so I could live like an ADULT. Seems bit far fetched to have gone to those lengths but I doubt I’m the first and doubt I’ll be the last

    1. I can totally understand this and although it seems extreme, I know of quite a few people who’ve done it this way. It’s just so bizarre why it is questionable to live alone as an adult but I suppose like most things, it’s the breaking down of cultural barriers which as always takes time.

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