In the Shadows of Men: My Journey with My Children


My journey with my children shaped this challenge.

Society possesses a certain overwhelming power to pull you in, into a culture that is not necessarily an actual culture. Towards customs that are not worship. Towards traditions that are almost cult-like. You perform a blind imitation of everyone else, without thinking or paying attention or reflecting on your actions. In exactly the same way, the husband takes you for granted—though I don’t exclude the wives here, in many cases. It is a strictly human affair. It is not ruled entirely by manhood or womanhood. The fault for this male control and domination does not lie entirely with men. It is part of a patriarchal society to which women and men contribute evenly.

There was that pivotal, difficult moment of separation between me and my children. I wanted to raise them on solid principles and values that were not connected directly to religious teachings. I was fully aware of their need for society. Or maybe it was just a decision: From the beginning, I decided not to escape. I could have chosen to escape with them to a faraway place and live within a society more open to divorce. Societies where life is not so entwined with religion, or governed by traditions. But I fully believed that what I did was the right thing. It was halal, even if it was hated. Halalaccording to the definition that most people hold strongly to; I tried to live my life through religion entirely.

I still don’t know whether this was a kind of escape or a defeat. But I am well aware that this is part of my inner identity. Inside me lives a woman who has faith that God exists, that there is a power bigger than man and nature. I may differ from others in how I describe it, value it, and communicate with it, but I sincerely believe it exists. I believe faith is important in order to find balance. It can provide answers to life’s dilemmas. Within it one can find shelter, security, comfort. It provides a certain peace that is more substantial than any other.

Perhaps I wanted my children to have a choice as well. I didn’t want them to face the same destiny I faced. Not out of obsession or fright; I wanted them to grow up with enough power that they could be the shapers of their own destinies. I didn’t want their lives to become like mine. I wanted them to find their own paths. I tried everything I could to separate them from my decision to divorce, despite the realization that it might have been too late. In every sense, divorce was decisive. What I wanted from it was the freedom that would come after. It would have been impossible to become anything else, due to the limitations forced by marriage. If I had remained a married woman, it would have ensured the continuation of that portrait I had carefully sketched, with defined roles for each one of us. What I tried to do as a divorced mother was to give each child a brush and allow him to paint whatever he wanted into our life’s portrait.



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