An open letter to moms with daughters looking to get married

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Dear Aunty,

The biggest mistake I have seen mothers make when it comes to their daughters who are looking to get married is that mothers unreasonably pressure their daughters to change essential parts of their identities just for the sake of a “husband,” who is entirely abstract and imaginary at this point.  One of the big changes that I am always seeing in my friends is their mothers telling them to take their hijabs off to appear “less religious,” or “more attractive,” or God knows what.

Firstly, your daughter is an individual and has a mind, body, and soul of her own.  She is ultimately the caretaker of her life and her hereafter.  I know you want to support her and see her happy, and it is only out of your love for her that you want to help her find the right man to marry.  But along this unquestionably frustrating, difficult, and confusing path towards finding her spouse, it is possible that you’ll lose sight of what’s really important–your daughter.  Her getting married isn’t the end-all-be-all of her life, it’s just a step along the way that many young women hope to take.  Some of us will never get married, as horrible as that sounds for those of us who are dying to get married, but that’s the simple truth.  Being married will not make your daughter happy, being married to the right man at the right time will.

Secondly, there’s an elephant in the room that we are really ignoring here.  How many times have we, as women, been told to do or avoid certain things for society’s perception of us?  And how many times have we, as women looking to get married, been told that there is something wrong with us?  If your daughter is not getting married, it’s more likely than not that she has not encountered the right guy for her yet and Allah is testing your patience.  Yes, I totally understand and admit that there are plenty of daughters out there who are completely unreasonable and reject proposals for no legitimate reason–that is another issue.  The issue I am addressing here is that after trying for a while unsuccessfully, asking your daughter to change something so essential to her, to her identity, to her faith, such as wearing the hijab, will not help her be successful in her marriage.

Sure, perhaps after taking the hijab off she’ll get a lot more proposals, and maybe she’ll even get married.  But the message you have instilled in your daughter with your repeated insistence is that, “You are not good enough the way you are.  You are not good enough to be a wife.  You are not adequate and you need to change yourself.”  I am not talking about small things, like asking her to get a new pair of glasses because her glasses look like a train wreck on her face, or that she reconsiders how tall a potential suitor needs to be.  I am talking about big things, things that make your daughter who she is–like the fact that she wants to work full time in a particular field or that she would rather not have kids.  I am not saying that being in a marriage does not require compromise–of course it does, it’s an active two-way street where two individuals work together as a team to support their family as a whole and each other as individuals.

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But when you’re asking her to change something major in her life or personality before she gets married, just for the sake of catching a man’s or his family’s attention, then you are depriving her of the self-confidence she needs to be an advocate for her own self in her marriage.  If she is not “good enough” the way she is and she has made so many changes to her essential being just to get married to a man, imagine how difficult it will be for her to be happy.  How can she be truly vulnerable with her spouse and how can they develop a deep and meaningful relationship if she is holding herself back constantly?  How can she be in a working relationship when you have convinced her that she is not worthy of being in one?  How will she navigate life’s and marriage’s challenges?  You are asking her to throw herself away to simply get married,  but you’re not allowing her the space to actually be successful once she is married.

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At the end of the day, your daughter becoming a totally different person just for the sake of marriage will not make her happy.  Your daughter being married to someone who wants someone other than who she actually is will not make either of them happy.  Your daughter never getting married does not mean a life of misery is in store for her.  Your daughter getting married does not guarantee her happiness or success in this life or the hereafter.  What you really want for your darling daughter, the little girl who you cradled in your arms and watched grow up, is success in this life and the hereafter.  Equip her with the self-confidence she needs to be the best person and insha’Allah the best wife, and support her in reaching her highest potential with your powerful motherly love.  She needs you now more than ever as her biggest cheerleader, especially if things are getting difficult on her journey towards marriage.

When I was looking to get married, people kept telling me I needed to change things about myself that were really important to me.  My mother never asked me to change a single thing.  When the world was telling me “you’re not good enough” and “you’ll never get married,” her quiet approval assured me that I was good enough, that I am good enough.  And now that I am married, I realize that if I had pretended to be anyone else just to catch my husband’s eye, I would have killed my chance at being truly happy and successful in my marriage, for both me and my husband.

Sincerely,

Your Daughter’s Friend

P.S. — Stop asking your daughter to lose ridiculous amounts of weight to look more attractive.  We need to embrace our bodies for what they are, and there are many things we cannot, and simply should not, change about them for a superficial, “skin-deep” purpose. She is beautiful the way she is, and as long as she is in good health, she needs your encouragement to believe that she is truly beautiful.

[Source: Muslim Matters]

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