Mother-in-Law Raised My Daughter, Now I Want Her Back

13 June, 2020
Q Salam dear counselor.

First of all, I seek forgiveness from Allah for all my sins and wrongdoing. I am here because I don`t know what I am supposed to do in response to what happens around me.

I have done so many great sins in my past that I feel what happens to me nowadays are punishments for all my wrongdoings.

I struggle within myself, crying for Allah`s forgiveness. I struggle to get myself do the tawbah prayer. I struggle getting khusu` in my prayers which, most of the time, I fail to do so.

I hate all of my sins, but it’s really hard for me to cry in my tawbah. I have stopped doing all the big sins and I am trying to not commit small sins, but my heart still finds it hard to really feel remorse every day and in my tawbah.

The genuine and sincere feelings of guilt, fear of Allah`s punishment, remorse of all my sins only comes once in a while in my dua or tawbah prayer.

I think my life has never been easy – especially since I got married. There are so many obstacles in my marriage.

Alhamdulillah, after 7 years my marriage has become more stable although our financial situation is still unstable. I know that I cannot expect Allah (s.w.t) to grant all my dua at once so I am still asking for the best.

Last year, my little family of 6 moved from our home to the city back to my husband’s hometown.

Before that, we used to live in a different country. We sold our house because we could not afford the installment anymore. We have been renting a house next to my mother in laws. My eldest daughter is raised by my mother in law since she was around 10 months old.

When she was 3 years old, our financial problems grew bad. We were unable to send money for her milk and diaper, so my MIL and sister in law helped us a lot (my MIL is a widow, so she lives in her house with her daughters).

Because of our financial problem, we could only afford to visit her once a year (during eid ). For several years, I have witnessed my MIL telling my daughter that I don’t love her enough and that I love my other children more than her.

Every time she said that, I would have a talk with my daughter so that she knows I love her as much as I love her siblings. Now things are getting worse since we finally moved next door to my MIL’s house. She and my sister in law scold my daughter and say bad things about me and say hurtful things to my daughter. Every time she wants to spend time with us.

Due to this ongoing anger my daughter is scared of going back to my MIL’s house and started living with us. My MIL and her children are very sensitive people.

After an incident, my husband`s family has been very cold towards me until now. So, coming back to my daughter`s issue: I cannot have an open-heart discussion with my MIL because she just can’t accept other people’s opinion.

My husband doesn’t want to say anything because he doesn’t want to hurt his mom. My daughter is distressed. To make things worse, my husband’s aunt is staying with us and she keeps creating tension among my kids, saying things that made my daughter feel insecure and not treated with fairness.

This aunt of my hubby keeps pointing out things that could lead to sibling rivalry and jealousy. I keep asking my children to be patient and to think wisely about what other people say even if they are adults. But, of course, children are children.

Is it a sin for me not forcing my daughter to go back to my MIL house as they are the ones who raised her?

I am her mother and I want to protect her from all negativity, but at the same time this will damage the relationship between my MIL & her daughter with our family even though if I try to be connected to them, they will push me away as they did before.

Secondly, due to their cold reaction towards me, I do not visit my MIL often, even though she stays next to our house. I only visit her when my husband goes there, which is seldom due to the nature of his work. Is it a sin for me for not visiting her often?

And my last question is: is it a sin for me to ask for my husband`s brother to take turn taking care of their aunt because I don’t know how much longer I can be patient with the things she does. Sometimes, I feel I just have to continue to be patient for this might be my punishments for all my previous sins.

But as what happens involves my children, do I need to ask them to be patient with the adults around them, or do I need to do something to provide them a safe and happy life?

Answer


In this counseling answer:

If we truly repent to Allah (swt) for our sins, we are to trust in Him, and let it go.

Do dhkir for healing and remembrance of Allah (swt).

I also kindly suggest, sister, that you attend classes at your local Masjid or Islamic center for sister’s seeking a closer relationship with Allah (swt).

Don’t force your daughter to go back to your mother-in-law’s home.

Whatever the reason, there must have been a need, and give thanks that your mother-in-law could help then.

I would kindly suggest trying to make her feel as much a part of the family as you can.

As far as your husband’s aunt, this is something that your husband needs to address as head of the home.

Sister, families all come with their own set of problems and joys.


As-Salamu ‘Alaikum sister,

Thank you for writing with your most concerning issues.

I am happy to hear that your marriage has gotten better, but I do wish you were happier with your financial situation. In sha’ Allah, it will be more stable one day.

We have many tests and trials in this life. In the Qur’an, it is stated,

“Your riches and your children may be a trial: whereas Allah, with Him is the highest reward. So fear Allah as much as ye can; listen and obey; and spend in charity for the benefit of your own souls. And those saved from the covetousness of their own souls, – they are the ones that achieve prosperity”.  (64: 15-16)

Repentance

As we can see, sister, our relationship with Allah (swt) is of utmost importance as our highest reward is in Him. Allah (swt) states that he loves to forgive. If we truly repent to Allah (swt) for our sins, we are to trust in Him, and let it go.

Not cling on to our sins wondering about them. If Allah (swt) covers our sins, who are we to keep digging them up in thought? Sure, we worry, but there comes a time we must realize the power in His word.

“Truly, Allah loves those who turn unto Him in repentance and loves those who purify themselves.” (Quran 2:222)   

Thus, if you have repented, sister, please let go of the worry. Trust in Allah (swt), and know He (swt) loves you and He (swt) loves to forgive. As far having to struggle performing tawbah prayer and other struggles related to worship. Even your failure to feel remorse, can often be rooted in preoccupation with worldly concerns and stress (which you have been experiencing).

These can be things that take us away from really connecting our hearts to our worship and to Allah (swt). It can make us feel “emotionally numb” towards our spirituality as we put these obstacles in life as a predominant factor.

Mother-in-Law Raised My Daughter, Now I Want Her Back - About Islam

Clear your mind

I would kindly suggest, dear sister, that you find quiet time daily to just clear your mind, do some deep breathing exercises, and try to focus on your relationship with Allah (swt).  Use this time to read Qur’an, pray, make du’aa’ for His help.

Do dhkir for healing and remembrance of Allah (swt). In time, in sha’ Allah, you will find your heart softening, your eyes wetting up, and your desire to please Allah (swt) overwhelming your life. You will begin to look at your problems in life as not so huge and overwhelming.

Attend classes

I also kindly suggest, sister, that you attend classes at your local Masjid or Islamic center for sister’s seeking a closer relationship with Allah (swt).

This may be Qur’an reading classes, specialty subject classes or other opportunities to learn and connect your heart more spirituality. It will be like a clean, cold glass of fresh water for your soul!

Your daughter

Regarding your daughter and your mother-in-law and your husband’s family, firstly, I am not sure why your first child was given to your mother-in-law at 10 or 11 months old. At that age, she should have been still breastfeeding and not much of a cost.

Additionally, I am not sure why you and your husband and child just did not move in with her then if you were having financial problems. However, you stated the problems with finances started when she was 3 years old.

Thus, I do not understand how the mother-in-law started raising her from an infant, but that is in the past now. Whatever the reason, there must have been a need, and give thanks that your mother-in-law could help then.


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Reasons

Perhaps, as the years went by, she grew tired of raising her grandchild. That does not mean she did not love her, but it just means often people can get tired. Possibly in her tiredness she said some bad things, may Allah (swt) forgive her. In these bad times of hurtful talk from your mother-in-law, and when you talked to your daughter to assure her of your love, did your daughter ever ask to “come home”?

As she is with you now, alhumdulilah, I would kindly suggest trying to make her feel as much a part of the family as you can. A lot of years seem lost and while one cannot make up that time, you can provide an environment which is conducive to her healing as well. 

That is your daughter, and if she does not want to go back to your mother-in-law’s home, I would not force her. She may feel rejected if you do and that would only validate in her mind what was said about you not loving her as much as your other children.

His family

If your husband’s family is upset about this, they have a right to be as they have raised her as their “own” for about 10 years. They feel her absence, they miss her as they love her and raised her for so long.

This is a hard situation, sister, but please be patient with your in-laws while also welcoming your eldest daughter back into the family. It seems she needs to be with you, her father and siblings.

I would take great care though, not to make her into the care taker of your other two children, nor the “maid”. At her age, she may question your intent on having her come home. While all children should help out and do chores and watch over younger ones.

In sha’ Allah, please don’t put an extra burden on her now. In sha’ Allah, take this time to get to know her better, spend quality time with her, and make her feel wanted and loved.

Husband should speak

While your husband should be the one to speak to his mom and family about this household change as well as family anger and other issues. If he doesn’t, you may want to take your mother-in-law out for lunch one day and express to her your love and appreciation for all she did for you, your husband and your daughter.

I would not go into further details of who said what or why the family compares or argues, but I would just leave it at that. If she desires to argue, do not engage her rather just listen (forgive if needed) and apologize for any wrong you may have unknowingly done.

State you and your husband love your daughter and desire her to be in the home. Express to her that you love her and your husband’s other family members and that you want to have good relations and be close as Allah (swt) commands families to be.

Cutting off family

No, it is not a sin to not visit her all the time, but it is a sin to cut off family; however, you may find it beneficial to visit her more frequently. Try to do nice things for her from time to time. Bring her over a freshly baked cake, or do a household chore for her occasionally.

While, at first, there might be coldness and anger, and like you said, they may push you away, keep trying. In sha’ Allah, their hearts will soften if you keep showing love for the sake of Allah (swt) as well as the well-being of your family.

This may be a time wherein you have to ignore and let go of the mean things said and done by others, but there will be big blessings in this sacrifice, in sha’ Allah.

Extended family

As far as your husband’s aunt, this is something that your husband needs to address as head of the home. There should be a certain etiquette in the way family members speak to each other and treat each other. She should be informed of what the boundaries are, what conduct and words are hurtful and, therefore, not permitted. Her role in dealing with the children should be clearly outlined.

Please, ask your husband to speak with her, sister. At the same time, try to show her love and tolerance. I know this can be hard, but again, you will get much further with kindness and following Islamic guidelines for treating others kindly (even if they do hurt or anger you). You may even find that your aunt-in-law has some hurt and issues herself that causes her to act this way.

Additionally, when your husband’s family took your child in their home and raised her from 10 months old on, it was not always easy! They had to sacrifice as well as you are doing now.

Sister, families all come with their own set of problems and joys. While you cannot control others actions and thoughts, you can control, modify yours.  The Qur’an states,

“But if someone is steadfast and forgives, that is the most resolute course to follow.” (42:43)

Therefore, we are instructed to forgive, sister, and remain steadfast. While what your aunt is doing is surely upsetting, as we can see in this verse we must forgive, remain strong, take correct actions to rectify wrongs, and make du’aa’ for Allah’s (swt) help. In this, there is blessings and joy.

While yes, your husband’s brother is also responsible for his aunt, (we are all responsible for each other in families), again, your husband should be the one to rectify the situation if he cannot stop your aunt from disrupting the children.

Other activities

You can try to spend more time taking the children on outings, keeping them busy in positive activities, and trying to create more harmony at home by focusing on positive actions and ignoring negative ones.

Oftentimes, people act negatively to get attention. When there is no attention given to a negative action or verbal assault, it typically decreases as it is not being re-enforced by a response. However, sister, I ask you to please try to make harmonious relations prior to asking your husband to have his brother care for her.

It could be his aunt is angry or hurt. Perhaps she feels unwanted. Perhaps she has been shuffled from a relative and feels unwanted, thus, taking it out on your family. I don’t know, but in sha’ Allah you can find out by slowly winning her affection. Just be kind.

Those actions of being kind to your husband’s aunt and hopefully making her feel secure and wanted, combined with your husband setting boundaries and home rules should lessen the negativity until it stops completely. Surprisingly, you may one day soon find she is a loving, wonderful asset to your family.

Life tests

Sister, this is not a punishment for your sins. This is life. This is what a lot of combined families go through, and some worse! Our test is about how we handle it.  While your children deserve a happy and healthy upbringing, they must also realize no family is perfect.

So as long as the aunt is not abusing them physically or emotionally, I am sure they will be okay, in sha’ Allah. Just explain to them that when some people are sad or hurt, they say or do mean things. Try not to participate in her drama, rather try to lessen it. Continually try to create peaceful relations. Teach them mercy and forgiveness as well.

However, if it is to the point wherein the children are being harmed, please do speak with your husband immediately about making other arrangements.

I am confident though, sister, that you can get through this, and come out a stronger Muslimah. Go to Allah (swt) with your needs, sister, for Allah (swt) is most merciful. He (swt) listens to our cries and answers our righteous prayers and guides us.

You are in our prayers. We wish you the best.

Salam,

***

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Read more:

https://aboutislam.net/counseling/ask-about-parenting/family-ties/protecting-daughter-laws-bad-influence/

https://aboutislam.net/reading-islam/living-islam/4-ways-honor-laws-make-marriage-work/

https://aboutislam.net/reading-islam/about-muhammad/5-prophetic-ways-protect-children/

About Aisha Mohammad
Aisha received her PhD in psychology in 2000 and an MS in public health in 2009. Aisha worked as a Counselor/Psychologist for 12 years for Geneva B. Scruggs Community Health Care Center in New York. Aisha specializes in trauma, depression, anxiety, substance abuse, marriage/relationships issues, as well as community-cultural dynamics. She is certified in Restorative Justice/ Healing Circles, Conflict Resolution, Mediation, and is also a certified Life Coach.
Aisha works at a Family Resource Center, and has a part-time practice in which she integrates healing and spirituality using a holistic approach. Aisha plans to open a holistic care counseling center for Muslims and others in the New York area in the future, in sha' Allah. Aisha is also a part of several organizations that advocate for social & food justice. In her spare time she enjoys her family, martial arts classes, Islamic studies as well as working on her book and spoken word projects.