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Deciding Between Motherhood and Marriage



Reply Date

Jan 10, 2017


Salam, I’m originally from England but moved to Canada when I got married as my husband is settled here. Our marriage was difficult to begin with as I was between both countries due to study commitments. Having completed my training, things over the last year have finally felt settled. My husband has never been keen on children but we've never really had a sit down discussion about it. When I brought up the issue about starting a family and the fact that I was 32 however, he told me straight out that he doesn't want children under any circumstances. The reasons mainly revolve around issues within his family and also feeling that in this day and age and the society we live in are just not compatible with bringing up children. I have tried everything from offering to move to a Muslim country to promising to be a full time mother to try and ease his concerns but to no avail. I have also explained that his family issues have no bearing on us as potential parents, but he insists he wants a simple uncomplicated life. At times the whole situation has made me quite upset and I feel like I've given up my family and the country I was born and brought up in for him, and yet he is so inflexible. I realize this is a massive decision and I have no right to force him to change his mind against his wishes but I feel so desperate at times. He has told me on several occasions that he doesn't want to lose me but that I should find someone else if I want to live out my wish to be a mother. Now my husband is 40, has been married before and is a very practicing Muslim so I know this isn't said out of immaturity or anger. I've discussed the issue with family and we've spoken to the local imam but to no conclusion. I’m at a total loss as to what to do and deciding between motherhood and my marriage is heartbreaking.. All advice would be much appreciated.



Deciding Between Motherhood and Marriage


As-Salam `Alaikum dear sister,

Indeed, this must be an extremely emotional situation for you. I fully understand how intense the instinct to bear children can be. We have an equally intense need to be with a man who loves us and will protect us. And, we are living in a post tech age where there are so many uncertainties.

Indeed, if you remain with your husband, you will probably not be experiencing the “traditional motherhood” experience. That certainly does not mean that you cannot channel that “mother” energy toward other nurturing projects that make an equally valuable contribution to society. But only you know if that will satisfy you. There may be no “father” for your project – but you might be inspired.

Every married couple, every family is different and there is no right or wrong here that I can see (although I am not a scholar of Islam). Your husband sounds like a rational and kind hearted man who truly wants what is best for you. It makes sense to me that he does not want to be blamed for your unhappiness and that you have the choice for yourself. It is unfortunate that you did not ask him prior to marriage if he wanted to have children as you might have made a more informed decision.

With that said, one thing that might help you sort out what is best for you is to try to remember back when he was courting you for marriage. If you had asked him, and he told you then what he is telling you now; what choice would you have made? Would you have mourned the loss of the idea of giving birth and rearing children and moved on to marry your husband? Or, would you have chosen to take your chances and hope to marry a man who wants children before age 40? (The chances for a baby being born with Down’s Syndrome increases around age 40 and later, and carrying the baby is often more difficult after age 40 if it is first child. “D” Day is the term used for the final stages of a woman’s pregnancy).

It would make sense to me that you are feeling that “biological clock” ticking and that can give you a panic feeling. But do remember that even if you consciously choose not to have children (and I realize you wanted children) once that “D” day hits you, and you know that it would be unwise to become pregnant, you will still have a very powerful and intense feeling of loss.

There is an instinctual mechanism inside women that is a very emotional/physical urge. Our hormones are involved and they can really make us feel every emotion. (Some theorists consider this a hormonal imbalance, but then that means almost all the women ever born on to this Earth have hormonal imbalances). What this really is that our female hormones are behaving naturally. But, our hormones may not be in sync with the societal and environmental changes that have occurred over the past 100 years at an exponential rate.

Given a more natural and balanced environment, we women and our hormonal influences would be considered (normal). Thus, some women do choose not to have children and do so consciously and work through these issues as they come. Much like a man who delays marriage so that he will make enough money to provide—he has to resist his natural hormonal influences if he marries after his twenties. The urge to have a baby is reported to be strongest in most women when she is in her 30’s.

By imagining what decision you would have made when you first agreed to marriage if you had known his wishes, would you have remained the woman who wants to remain unmarried until she meets the man who wants to have children with her? Or would you have married the man you are with now?

Once you have that sorted out, if the latter choice is the one for you before you had developed the history you have now, you might pay attention to that. This will take some contemplation for you. Try to only understand how your decision will affect you right now. You have to do that first, and then you will be authentic with your husband. In addition, now that you have a history, ask yourself: how does tit change things? How do you feel and what do you want?

Give this some mindful prayer. Don’t worry about why your husband feels the way he does. Many people make this choice; some because of fear of parenting, but others because of how complicated and uncertain the world is nowadays, the population has been growing, etc. So, whatever are his reasons, I wouldn’t try to change him. That won’t set you up for the probability of future happiness. Trying to change another person usually backfires and causes more unhappiness and strains the relationship.

I imagine that if you choose to leave, you will want to leave harmoniously. In this case, consider a non-confrontational approach while really looking at your own life 2, 4, 10, 20 years from now. You can ask your husband if he would consider having mutual goals and doing something together. If he is not interested in that, again picture yourself in future scenarios with him- and then without him. Try to tune into your inner intuition and hear that whispers in your heart.

These are finalities in life. We always lose something at these crossroads, but we always gain something. That is how we grow and unfold through life.

Allah (swt) is with you, so draw near to that awareness. If you do, you will be guided as to what decision to make.

I pray you felt some comfort from my words. You will know the right way to go soon, in sha’ Allah.



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About Nasira S. Abdul-Aleem

Nasira S. Abdul-Aleem, an American, has a BA in English from UC Berkeley and is about to receive an MS degree in counseling psychology (Marriage and Family Therapy - MFT) from the Western Institute for Social Research. For over ten years, Nasira worked as a psychotherapist with the general public and in addiction recovery. For the last few years, she has been a life coach specializing in interpersonal relations. Nasira also consults with her many family members who studied Islam overseas and returned to America to be Imams and teachers of Islam. Muslims often ask Nasira what psychology has to do with Islam. To this, she replies that Islam is the manifestation of a correct understanding of our psychology. Therapists and life coaches help clients figure out how to traverse the path of life as a Believer, i.e., "from darkness into light", based on Islam and given that that path is an obstacle course, according to Allah.

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