Friday, June 10, 2011

Moving Out of Parents' Homes After Marriage

This applies more to people from Eastern cultures, but ...

When do you think a married couple should move out of their parents' homes?

The culture in the West is that kids move out of their parents' place when they go to university, and stay on their own from then on. With the increasing trend of later marriages, when the kids marry, they have their own place (either their own or rented) and this is where they stay post-marriage.

The trend in the East is of joint families (or extended families). The kids may go MUST GO away to university, but post-completion they stay with their parents as they work. If it's the son, when he gets a wife, the girl moves into her in-laws' place. The grand parents, the kids and the grand kids all stay at the same residence.

Which approach do you think is better? In both of these practices I find a lot of good.

1. Independence

In Canada, I see kids growing up with summer jobs (such as mall stores, or even yard work, or at the beach) earning their own money, and thus developing an independent streak develop early. In life, they are better able to think on their feet, have street smarts, think like an adult, and take on their own responsibilities a lot earlier (just not on Saturday nights).

In our Eastern culture, kids are NEVER independent. And this rule applies especially if you are the son - you are always a momma's boy. I have seen even grown men with their own properties call on their dad to fix every little thing in their place as they have no idea how to do it. Life is 'leaving it to parents' while you enjoy.

2. Family Values

In the Western culture (and especially North American culture), parents don't play much of a role in one's life post-adulthood. Sure, they are always there (especially during Christmas) or you visit them regularly (hopefully) but you are your own man (or woman, or er, both). People usually settle down once they reach thirty (with a string of boyfriends/girlfriends since then). Yes, I am generalizing a bit. But post-30, once they find "the one", they inform their parents, hold a wedding, and then again continue their own lives.

In our Eastern culture, a family is very important to us. Even if our parents don't choose our spouses, it is important that the new addition to the family "fit in" with everyone - so consequently people give a lot of thought about their families when choosing a spouse, and our parents have a lot of say in what we do (where we stay, our jobs, our marital life etc.). There is a bond of family that is stronger in many Asian cultures than in the West.

So again, when do you think a married couple should move out of their parents' homes?

I think ideally, a new couple should have their own place. It give them privacy and a space to grow on their own as a couple (free from other influences). If you are Muslim, it seems religiously, it is also the right of every wife to have a home of her own according to the standards of her own social group. In many instances it is encouraged for the new couple to be given privacy and be left alone. This of course doesn't happen when you have a joint family system where the morning after your marital night you are expected to get up and help make breakfast for 20 people.

On the other hand, from experience, I can say a new wife living with her in-laws helps get her and her new family closer. It helps develop strong ties between her and her husband's siblings, and respect and love towards his parents. Moreover, not everyone can afford to have their own place right away.

I think therefore, giving some time, if you have to live with your parents, you should put a time limit of two years, and strive to get your own place in the meanwhile.

And when you do, it should be close enough so you can still visit them often, and take care of their needs, because as a child one has obligations towards the parents, especially if they are old and vulnerable.

And your Lord has decreed that you worship none save Him, and that you be kind to (your) parents. Whether one or both of them attain old age in your life, say not to them a word of contempt, nor repel them, but address them in terms of honour. And, out of kindness, lower to them the wing of humility, and say, "My Lord! Bestow on them your Mercy even as they cherished me in (my) childhood." - (Quran, 17:23-24)


nadia said...

Great post, Mezba. I personally believe in living independently as a couple, that's the Islamic way, specially if the husband's brothers are also living in the same house. But there are exceptions too, like what if the parents are too old to look after themselves, or if only one parent is alive and there is no one else to look after them? Considering our culture and values, if a couple chooses to live independently, maybe it's better to live close to your parents/in-laws (same neighborhood/city, etc).

Tauqeer said...

That is something I usually wonder when they say women has a right to have a separate house, what about parents? what about taking care of them?

So in my opinion couple should never move out.

Anonymous said...

Tauqeer, its alla bout balance. You just cant generalize saying "couple should never move out".
Sometimes issues arise which only get worse if not corrected at the right time.
So every person's situation is different.

Organica said...

That's interesting! I can't imagine living with my in-laws, EVER. I can barely stand living with my family right now as an adult and have considered moving out but I am trying to keep my finances in check.

In Egypt, the family is heavily involved with the post-engagment period but not prior. Most people in Egypt date beforehand, like they'll meet at work or school and go from there.

The biggest obstacle is to find an affordable home for the couple to live. Rent is a new concept in Egypt as of recent, but prior, you would have to buy a property upfront in CASH. This obviously is challenging if your family aren't well off to help the groom make the purchase. Living with the in-laws is frowned upon in our culture and is a practice restricted to rural areas of Egypt.

When the couple do find the home (sometimes they are engaged for years until this happens), everything from plates to house appliances have to be in the apartment! I love visiting a newly married couple's home. IT WILL HAVE EVERYTHING brand new :)

I think it all depends on the culture you were raised and what your expectations are to be. I think family should be involved with selecting your mate, but the final decision should be up to the independent son/daughter.

I, too, dislike greatly the whole dependence phenomenon. Although I live with my family, I pay most of my expenses (including groceries!).

Organica said...

Tauqeer, you can take care of your parents without living with them (at least in the beginning). Later in life, they may move-in with you if need be!

mezba said...

@Nadia, I think if the wife believes in wearing the headscarf, there's pretty much no option but to live independently, as some of husband's relatives who may live in the joint house are not mahrams for her.

Everyone's situation is different, but I think living close enough so you can help out is good (during early years of marriage). Later of course things change.

@Tauqeer, the thing is the husband has to care for his parents, not the wife. Even in Islam, it is the husband's duty to care for his parents, and if the wife does it's recommended, but it's not obligatory on her.

I also wonder, who cares for the wife's parents. For some couple who only have daughters, who cares for them when they get old? I think it's because of this that Allah has decreed (in the verses I quoted) for every Muslim (regardless of gender) to take care of his or her own parents.

@Anon (5:55), yes it's true - I have seen family interference sometimes break couples apart even though they themselves are perfectly compatible - sadly this happens a lot in South Asian families. Everyone wants to ensure "control".

@Organica, that's interesting about Egyptian culture - I didn't know rent is frowned upon, or even the long engagement! In our culture, engagement is something that should be over quickly, so in Bangladesh the engagement might happen at most 5 months before the nikah date.

When we moved into our new apartment, all we had was a dinner set and a microwave! And of course, the bed! :-)

'liya said...

I think every couple needs their own space. It's difficult for a couple to grow on their own and become stable, contributing, and I suppose successful, when mom and dad pay the rent, groceries, etc. and take care of all problems. I think the best solution for anyone in this situation is to live closeby to the parents so that you can see them everyday, but go home to your own home at the end of the day.

Anonymous said...

Hi Mezba

My personal opinion on this is that a couple should move out and be alone the first few year, especially if they are south asian.
The reason is, the couple needs to form that bond first. The husband already has that family bond with his siblings and parents, he needs to have it with his wife... even if they dated. Dating and becoming family are very different.

I think many problems occur in south asian marriages because the nature of the in-laws is to be overly involved. I used to be more bitter about this but I have grown to accept that this is just how our culture is and our generation just has to accept it than fight it.

There is also the fact that the in-laws don't know the bride well enough and assume many things based on stereotypes and basic concept of their family structure changing. So living away saves the girl alot from the pressures of our culture and lets her concentrate on her husband, and same with the husband. Most new wife and in-law problems are often based on very small matters that get blown out of proportion simply because the bond is not there.

I do believe the couple should live close by and visit, and slowly form the bond. And finally I am a strong believer of taking care of the parents once they are old. When they are unable to fend for themselves, it should be the duty of the children to take care of them and make sure they never feel lonely or alone. When in 40's 50's and even 60's, I think parents are still capable and enjoy a very fullfilling life, but once they are very old, thats when kids should definitly live with them and return the favour parents did by raising them... (not that you can ever fully repay them, but I think this is the closest thing a child can do).
Just my 2 cents ^__^


Azra said...

I agree that everyone's situation is different, but I think in most cases, it would be more important for the husband and wife to bond first - before they bond with each other's families. And as such I would say that it's important that they live alone - visiting each other's families on a weekly basis... but it would depend on what suits them. I know some men that aren't close to their families and don't want their wives to get too close to them either.

mezba said...

@'Liya, I think regardless of when a couple moves out, they MUST pay their own expenses, even paying "rent" to their folks if needed.

I know two couples who were dependent on their parents for complete support (they married as students). For whatever reason, since the guys' or the girls' parents decided they are paying the bills they have a say - and this ruined the marriages.

I think the best solution for anyone in this situation is to live closeby to the parents so that you can see them everyday, but go home to your own home at the end of the day.


@Nazia, thanks for giving a very different and unique perspective to this debate.

My personal opinion on this is that a couple should move out and be alone the first few year, especially if they are south asian.
The reason is, the couple needs to form that bond first. The husband already has that family bond with his siblings and parents, he needs to have it with his wife... even if they dated. Dating and becoming family are very different.

I think this is very, very true, especially if you are South Asian. We are complicated people!

@Azra, what we are seeing is that more and more young families in Canada are choosing to stay apart after marriage, with the parents not making a big fuss. Often one of the younger generation decides to move out, and suddenly everyone also follows suit.

Things done the way they are done 'back home' are no longer practical here!

I know some men that aren't close to their families and don't want their wives to get too close to them either.


Misha said...

So glad you brought this topic up, and EVEN more glad you brought up this fact in response to Tauqeer's statement:

"the husband has to care for his parents, not the wife."

The thing most guys don't realize is that if they treat their wife lovingly and give her the privacy she needs via her own place (or at least privacy to a certain extent), wouldn't she WANT to take care of his parents in order to please her husband and make him happy? It's common sense, but unfortunately many men just try to enforce that the wife must do everything to please the in-laws, and that just creates a lot of tension.

Also agree about w/ what you said about taking care of the girl's parents, especially since my parents have 3 girls and no sons. Need to be equal in giving care to both in cases such as these.

mezba said...

Thank you Misha for a very interesting perspective. It's true that we guys often forget we men should treat out wives well, and then they will respect and love us.

I met one guy who was adamantly telling his wife when they pick up his mother, the mother gets to sit in the front seat. What he didn't realize was that if he loved and respected his wife's mother (i.e. mother-in-law), the wife would have reciprocated it anyways.

Sharjil said...

I am ashamed at seeing Muslims in the west who give up all your religious practices. We Muslims live in Islamic lands value our culture and caring our parents.

Why should we not care our parents? Only westerners move out of parents house not Muslims. We care our parents. Mother is more than wife, always! Jannah is our Mother's feet! Only western muslims who lose their Islam think their girl friend is worth more than parents!

mezba said...

Hi Sharjil and welcome to my blog.

"Do not care for your parents" is not being preached or debated here. That is a moot point, the Quran says (as the blog post points out) to care for our parents, and that is that.

Why are you equating "moving out of parents' homes" as not caring for one's parents?

Why should we not care our parents? Only westerners move out of parents house not Muslims. We care our parents.

That is a generalized stereotype.

Perhaps this debate is more for Muslims who live in the West.

Anonymous said...

i think Sharjill is just trying to be a troll :)

One statement that i hear among desis and absolutely detest is "a marriage is not between a boy and girl, it is between 2 families", so in effect all members of both families must gel and bond, otherwise its not an "ideal" marriage.

mezba said...

True, it is said in South Asia that a marriage is between two families.

Ah, you know you hit it big time when you start getting trolls :-D

youngMuslimah said...

I think living away is best. it maintains respect between the MIL and DIL. i have seen *religious* people fight because of in laws issues.
if you are a guy, pls move out. man up and get your own place. Islamically, you are supposed to provide for your wife anyway..contrary to the desi culture.

live close by..not together. when parents get older, move them in. i dont mind in laws moving in their old age. but it should be MY house. trust me, i have seen lots of territorial issues with the mil and dil..

i dont agree with homes at all. i mean your parents never threw you out when you were sick, cranky..

I will gladly help my (future) husband's parents, look after them..but that's out of my own kindness..not something im obligated to. and i would also hope that my husband helps me look after my parents. respect goes both ways

Lat said...

Interesting topic! Missed reading your blogs lately and I'm glad I found my way back :)

I agree with your points about staying close to parents after marriage,and not just dump all responsibilities to one son/daughter of caring for one's parents.That's really stressful but that is what I see nowadays.

Prents who gave birth to 5 to 8 kids hardly have one to look after them when they grow old.sometimes it's the parent fault for not preparing their children the way it should be in our age.Sticking to old ways do not always yield the desired results.Time have changed and so our methods should also change.

mezba said...

@Young Muslimah, I think interference from in-laws is a big evil in desi societies. And it doesn't even have to be the son's parents; I have seen cases where the girl's parents, despite living apart from the couple, exert unwanted influence into the marital unit. The daughters of course never accepted this.


Sticking to old ways do not always yield the desired results.Time have changed and so our methods should also change.

well said. Word!

youngMuslimah said...

yes but from what I see, at least in my family and friends..its usually the girl who is expected to slave after the in laws..and the son in law is treated like a guest at his wife's parents.

I have been *warned* not to ask for my own place before marriage..I will get called a selfish, corrupted feminist cow trying to take away the baby from his momma.
..people should decide living arrangements before tying the knot. i find that desis focus more on the wedding and less on the marriage.

youngMuslimah said...

regarding the independence thing.. it's so hard to find a desi guy who is really an adult (sorry but this is what i see around). parents need to encourage their kids to develop their own individual suppressing that, you are just raising a dysfunctional human being.

desi society is obsessed with controlling and it doesnt end with marriage like you pointed out.

mezba said...

@YoungMuslimah, I always find that asking clearly for what one wants post-marriage is better in the long run. Sure you may scare away some potential grooms, but you get what you want!

youngMuslimah said...

post marriage? you mean pre right? yeah i always thought it would only make it easier for filter out the cultural ones from the lot.

mezba said...

Yes, I meant pre-marriage.

Although post works too lol.

youngMuslimah said...

post might work, depends on the people involved..but why take the risk? the way i see it, compromise goes both ways. im willing to compromise, but not on certain things..and living with the in laws is one of them (unless they are old and need care).. I would want my own home though. housing is expensive and i dont mind contributing to the income.

era said...

WOW Mezba, what a great show of family bond in eastern culture? One thing I am confused about is, WHERE THE H** IS THE GIRLS FAMILY BOND?

you end your post saying "if they move, move close to parents so you can take care of them"..........which set of parents. I am assuming it is with the desi "mommy's boy image" of only considering his family need and not her.

After all girls are just tools in eastern culture there to produce babies.

I see the flaws in western culture when it comes to family but atleast they are fair unlike the 2 face eastern culture family value.

mezba said...

@Era, obviously in your haste to be indignant, you have missed the carefully kept gender neutral tone of the article, as well as my following reply

"I also wonder, who cares for the wife's parents. For some couple who only have daughters, who cares for them when they get old? I think it's because of this that Allah has decreed (in the verses I quoted) for every Muslim (regardless of gender) to take care of his or her own parents."

PurpleMariam said...

Salams Mezba. I just stumbled upon your blog today and am thoroughly enjoying reading your thoughtful posts! I agree with this article in most ways. I truly believe that marriage is difficult enough in the first few years so why add the potential extra stress of living with in-laws on top of it?

I am concerned about the generalization you made when you said, "There is a bond of family that is stronger in many Asian cultures than in the West." I am a western convert and alhumdulilah, I believe I have the best family bond a person could ever hope for. 95% of my friends are South Asian, as is my fiance. I have had the privilege of spending lots of time with them and their families, allowing me to see the good and the bad.. Only about 1/3 of my friends are married so the remainder of them are living at home with their parents. What I have witnessed is this: some people truly have a positive family bond equivalent to my family bond, but the others, who make up approx. 50% of the people I know, have very poor working family relationships (from my perspective). Yes, the children will do anything for their parents but this is out of a guilt ridden sense of duty, not choice, love or true respect. They cannot trust their parents so communication is broken. Their parents force things upon them which they disagree with like marriage to unsuitable partners. Their parents are expert manipulators and incite guilt and emotional abuse upon their children. In public, they appear as happy, smiling, perfect family units, but behind closed doors, they're living completely different lives. There is no honesty in their relationships.

I do not wish this comment to sound insulting to South Asians as it isn't intended to be. There are many known issues within western culture which I am not denying. All cultures for that matter have their fair share of problems. It's just that I have on many, many an occasion, witnessed, South Asians making smug comments about the superiority of their culture’s particular family bond vs the western one and it always frustrates me. To paint all Western families with the same brush is simply ignorant and hurtful. Basically, people in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones.

An example that many non-Westerners use is that Western parents kick their kids out of their homes after high school. This is false on so many accounts. A mother is a mother, and mine is truly saddened by the fact that I live away from home due to my career and my brother lives away from home due to university. I know for a fact she would like nothing more than to have us under her loving wings every single day but she knows that to fulfill that desire, would be selfish and stunt her children’s development. She never makes me feel guilty for having to leave home but I know that I always have a home that I can come home to if I ever needed to.

PurpleMariam said...

Also, the argument that Westerners don’t take care of their aging parents is another blanket statement that is not always true. Sometimes the children are completely in the wrong and do desert their parents in their time of need but other times, the aging parents really do not want to be a burden on their children and/or want to maintain some semblance of independence. My mother spent 4 months as a daytime care taker for a 90 year old lady while her daughter was at work. (note, that this a western woman who has her very aging mother living with her, under her care). After this experience, my mother told me that she never wanted to be that kind of burden on myself or my brother when she was that old. I explained to her that I didn’t think of it as a burden, would always want her with my family and would be saddened for her to be living away from me, especially near the end of her life. On top of it all, I told her, my new (at that time) religion tells me to take care of her no matter what. We got in a debate about it. Honestly, this conversation just gave me MORE respect for my mother. She has selflessly devoted herself to the care of her family and expects nothing in return. This attitude just made me doubly certain that I will care for her, not only out of Islamic duty but out of a sheer love and desire to care for her. My parents both give without expecting anything in return. This is the case in many Western families that I know of.

Please tell me how this is inferior to the bond shared in of my South Asian friends’ families.

PS. Please don't take this as an attack. I just really wanted to give you another perspective on it.

mezba said...


Thanks for bring your perspective into this. You offer a very unique take, a Westerner, reared in traditional Western culture, and yet a convert, so someone now familiar with Muslim culture as well. And as someone engaged to a South Asian, you get many of the points made in this post as well.

I did say in the post "Yes, I am generalizing a bit." I can only speak from my experience.

All of my friends who are "white" or "Western" and not South Asian, are not Muslim. And I have seen in most cases that they lead a very independent life, as do their parents. They meet time to time at a coffee shop or lunch date to update each other on their lives. Choices of significant others are not made by the parents.

Older friends who have quite old parents live apart from them, the old folk live in a home. And yes, I did meet an older gent who was quite adamant who would NOT live with his son and make himself a burden to the son.

As I said, I only speak from my own experiences.

Anonymous said...

Hmm...a very interesting article..if only all men could think that way..
there are so many problems with desis..the minute you finish dealing with one..something else props up in the family..of all the struggles as a young muslimah..dealing with desi parents is the biggest trial I feel!

mezba said...

@Nasmira, not to mention there is always the "perfect" kid your parents hold up as an example to you! :-) If only they knew just how 'perfect' that kid was behind the scenes!

Anonymous said...

ughhh.. I know..tell me about it!! why.. why...why do parents do that, especially when they know how deep "jealousy" runs in a girl's mind..
these are lessons for future desi parents probably !! :D

mezba said...


Anonymous said...

It's a whole load of craziness. I don't believe in that shit it's too dumb to go by. Families knowing the families is all good but marriage is when two families bond nah. That's just too overly done man

Anonymous said...

Preach and I'm bengali living in the United kingdom. I have a massive thumbs down on the eastern culture. It's so bad that they don't even realise it themselves. Way too up there arses and the ones that aren't about it end up having to accept it due to the manipulative. I left that matrix I know what I am I know what I'm doing now