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Parent Trap Samah

Out of the blue one day, as we were walking to a meeting, my boss turned around and asked, “So, what are your plans for the near future?” When he saw the puzzled look on my face he continued “…you know, don’t you want to move out and live on your own? Don’t you want some independence?”

I smiled. Where do I begin?

What he was referring to was the fact that I am a 30-year-old woman who, despite having a job that provides comfortable financial independence, is still living with her parents.   It was incomprehensible to him.  It’s not the first time I get asked a question like this from my colleagues (most of whom are non-Muslim Europeans), although usually the questions are subtler.  Some of my colleagues have even assumed that my father must not be around, as that would be the only reason for me to be still living with my family!

So, where do I begin?

Let’s start with the word “independence”. Independence from what? My parents? My culture? Society? And independence of what? Thought? Action?

Sure, I’m all for one making up one’s own mind especially about the important issues in life, but why must one be physically separated from family in order to think for oneself? What does geographical separation have anything to do with it?  If anything, isn’t one who is able to listen to others and make up one’s own mind more independent than one who has to be in isolation in order to come up with a personal opinion and follow it through?

Of course, I did not always feel this way. There was a time in my early-mid twenties, when I did think that living alone would make my life less stressful and more enjoyable.  After all, I would not have to worry about giving a minute-by-minute account of my day, or having to explain and justify every action I wanted to do or person I wanted to see.  I would also be able to spend a lot more time with my friends and go to a lot more classes and events, especially the ones that run late. And I would finally be able to wear what I wanted.  It would also spare me having to listen to regular complaints about relatives or politics or whatever it is that is no longer as great as it used to be!

I would be happy to visit my parents often for I love them dearly; I just wanted some breathing space. And it would also help me feel that I’ve moved on with my life.  If only I could move out, or if only Mr. Right would come along – any time now would be perfect!

A few years on, there came a point where I just got tired of waiting for marriage or a miracle to magically solve the issues I had with my parents (like that was ever going to happen!). I realized that if I opened up to my parents, and explained what I really wanted and how and why that made me happy, that they might actually understand. I decided to give it a try.

It turned out that half the things I was not doing, because I did not want to ask permission from my parents to do, my parents did not really mind me doing!  More importantly, I slowly began to get over the fear and worry of sharing my plans and desires with them.  No matter what their opinion was, we could still talk things through.  After a few months of doing this, I realized that I had created my own problems in my head (or heart).

There were still a few things I wanted to do which they were not comfortable with.  Sometimes I could talk them into accepting my views. Other times I just had to accept their decision knowing that I am pleasing Allah and that He would reward me for it in this world and the next.

And what a lovely feeling it is to be able to come back home and see their faces light up when they see me, or be able to help them out, write an email or find a TV channel – priceless!

So, where do I begin?

“Of course not—why would I want to do that?” I responded with a huge smile.

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  • This is a great article!

    Being born and raised in the U.S.; I too have been asked the same question many times…and I’ve responded to those questions the EXACT same way you have.

    I must say that the angle at which you shed light on regarding “independence and independent-thinking”…is something I never realized until I read this article. You’re right that making decisions in an evironment with MANY variables present to have to sift through to come to a decision; as opposed to having to be in seclusion just to make one’s mind up…is TRULY independent-thinking.

    Independence doesn’t always have to be taken in the LITERAL sense of having to be physically independent in order for something to be TRUE independence! No!

  • I completely agree with you! In my humble opinion I think that it is very illogical, economically and for other reasons, for a young unmarried person to move out of their parents home!

  • Brilliant article. People think that me being a guy has double the pressure to move out before I turn a certain age… complete nonsense. I am proud to live my with my parents long as I can. (Honestly I never understood these silly rules, you have get a car, you must use social media, you have to move out, you have to go here, you have to try this, you have to eat three times a day…akhi who makes these rules and why do I have to follow them ?)

  • I’m glad you have a good relationship with your parents. Many of us don’t, but I’m glad you feel happy with them.

  • Salam brothers and sisters,

    I would respectfully disagree with the argument presented here.

    There are some things to be gained by moving out of a parents’ home, especially if you have established yourself financially.

    I’m a 30++ female living the capital city in Malaysia, and it is the norm for single people of both genders to make a living in the city away from their hometown. As such, I, like many others, searched high and low for cheap accommodation, and the most common choice would be to share rooms with other working singles. I live in a 3-bedroom flat with 6 other girls, and it has taught me the value of money and good companionship. You really have to share some common values if you’re living in one household, and be able to manage and accept differences, and most of us come from different states in Malaysia.

    Living in my parents’ place, I would never have gained more insight on other people’s lifestyle choices, and what makes our society more diverse. This, on top of negotiating mundane stuff like taking turns to do the laundry (having only one machine and two balconies to dry clothes), taking out the trash, as well as dealing with unexpected problems like water shortage or having to fix the toilet door.

    Observing some of my friends (male and female) who chose to stay with their parents, I have seen some of them fall into a comfort zone where their mothers still wash their laundry for them. Why move out indeed? The cable TV is there, as is good wifi, good quality furniture and a well-stocked fridge.

    Sidestepping the economical argument of saving money by not renting, isn’t there more to be gained by testing your ability to survive in today’s world on your own two feet?
    Regardless whether you are male and female, isn’t this to be encouraged, even for a short time, like during your studies in a different city?

    I would really like to hear if there are specific examples of staying with parents as being encouraged in Islam, as opposed to the subtle hint in the article that it is the more “Western” thing to do?

    I thought the Companions of the Prophet travelled far and wide in search of knowledge and to trade with other communities. How would they do this while staying with their parents indeed?

    • Dear Shuhada…you are making many WRONG assumptions about individuals who live AT home and those who live AWAY from home.

      You don’t have to live away from home to accept and deal with differences amongst people, to value budgeting/personal finances/resoinsibilities and to be able to survive on one’s own two feet.

      It also depends on the society and country one lives amongst…here in the states for example; one doesn’t have to live away from home to be a part of and deal with differences amongst people. Simply walking out one’s front door and going to work, school, stores, coffee shops, etc….you’ll be amongst people of all different races, ethnicities, national original, sexual orientations, religious affiliation, etc…moreso than what exists in other countries.

      • Salam Br. Yaqub,

        Thank you for your comments. I am sharing my personal observations and experiences as I have stated, it wasn’t meant to be a blanket statement for everyone living at home or away from their families.

        That is why I ended my statement with a request to find specific examples of what IS encouraged in Islam. If living with parents or moving away is more of a cultural construct than a religious injunction, then people should not make it into a religious argument that one choice is better than the other.

  • I think that this idea of ‘moving out’ is very much a Western cultural one, because the relationship between parents and children is so different from what it should be Islamically. (This is a broad generalization of what i’ve observed in my college mates). Children and parents do not have ties that are as close as in Islam. The day that kids move out is celebrated sometimes by both the parents and children! One big factor that this leads to is the fact that they often do not hold common values – children can have completely different views from parents (for example a liberal son with very Republican parents often resents their presence) and do not have a value of respecting/holding onto family no matter what.

  • Assalamualaikum,

    Thanks for the great article. I totally agree with the author.

    I am a 34yo female, still single, having professional career, running own professional practice, independent and established financially but I still choose to stay with my parents at home. Many asked me why do I choose not to move-out away from parents when I can do so. My answer is simple. How many days left for you to cherish your old age parents and be with them when they need you? Staying away from parents doesnt mean you are independent, but staying on with family doesnt mean you are dependent. It is how you take up the responsibility as a child to oblige and serve your parents while they are still alive. How many people out there who are away from parents really crave for “I should come home more often” or “How I wish I can do this and that..” and really show their love and appreciation towards their parents when you are around them?

    I saw many examples from those who choose to stay away from their parents – their relationship as compared to those who are day-in day-out with their parents, these people are mostly attention seeker. I believe that if you can handle your parents and be good to them, the world will be good to you too despite how “dependent” one may think this independent person is. That love and affection that you gained from outsiders rather than your parents, obviously different. So my point is, why choose to stay away when you can still live under one roof?

    I do not want wake up one day and regretting my action staying away from parents just to be ‘independent’ and be of insight of other people lifestyle, cultures, etc. For me, it is what you choose to think and how you perceive your lifestyle, your culture, your belief.

    Hence, I choose to disagree with the commenter sister Shuhada up above, thank God it is your personal opinion.

    Oh, and I live in Malaysia. It is not that hard to mingle around with different cultures and lifestyle because if you can have independent thinking, you are independent despite where you are. You obviously need not to move-out from your parents just to experience those.

    My parents are never a burden, never a hindrance and never a thing of trade just to seek and please others. Alhamdulillah, despite some indifferences in opinions, political views, decisions, still we can live under one roof, having breakfast and dinner together and enjoy every time spent together while it lasts.

    • Salam sister Zara,

      Thank you for your comment. I do feel that I have failed to clarify my point earlier. I feel that I have hit a raw nerve somewhere and I certainly apologise if readers have felt that I was attacking their personal choice by implying they were less independent by staying at home.

      (I do stand by my point that some adult children I know would have been booted out of the house had their parents had the heart).

      Living arrangements are exactly that, a personal choice, despite poor, or in spite of improving circumstances.

      What I dislike in the article was a subtle insinuation that moving out of the household is a “Western” thing (as queried by “non-Muslim Europeans”), as if staying with parents is the more Eastern(?)/Islamic or better thing to do. Perhaps this was not intended by the writer, but it came across to me that way, and echoed by an earlier comment claiming family ties are weaker in “Western” families(!).

      My observation is limited, but this I’m willing to vouch for; a person can be dutiful and a relief to their parents, whether living together or remotely from each other. In the same vein, a person can also be disobedient and a burden to their parents, whether living together or remotely from each other.

      As such, my question remains, whether such living preferences are just cultural constructs (not the broad brush of East vs West, but ‘Urf or local traditions) or are they specific religious injunctions that encourage us to choose one over the other?

      (From our diametrically opposite preferences, I would say there’s no such ‘Urf in Malaysia. This may be different in Saudi Arabia, or Bangladesh or Guangzhou.)


  • I think it depends on the parents. I love my mother to death, she is the best human I’ve personally come into contact with in all my years (and I’m not just saying this because she is my mom) but my father on the other hand is the most difficult person I’ve ever dealt with in my life, he is not very religious but can be conservative in a pakistani cultural sort of way. Because my father is “the man” he bosses everyone around the house like a prison. If someone (my mom, brother, or me) is smiling for absolutely no reason he’ll make sure to start a fight just to wipe out whatever happiness we may have experienced that day. Point being is he is the reason why I want to move out of my house, but also I want to leave as a means of growing up and seeing new places. I can’t just drag my parents wherever I want to move. If a person needs a change in scenery they need to go somewhere else. I’ve been living in my hometown my whole life, went to high school and college here. All the friends I’ve made have moved away for college and then subsequently other places because of opportunity or in the case of my college friends went back home. I have too many memories here, it makes me feel like I’m living in a ghost town of my past. I’m not saying I’m trying to get married, or live a life of sin, or do whatever I want. I’m just trying to find a way to exist in this world without dealing with my father and his extended family drama and progress as a human being. Everybody has to go on a journey and sometimes that means flying away from the nest for a little while. If your parents are nice and accommodating and living at home is what you want, MashAllah you’re lucky.

    • I concur with the mom/pop issue. I can get aina big fight with my moms, but it usually fizzles away in a day or two and I actually find it almost funny. But with pops…tsk, tsk…I feel uncomfortable sometimes even when he is even the room. Just a very authoritative and condescending aura around him. I mean, sure I love him too, but have difficulty sometimes liking him.

      But is moving away gonna solve the problemo ?

    • Yes, I agree it depends on the parents, the individual, and the parental household. I agree with Shuhada from a Malaysian perspective (do note that I personally, however, live with my parents still and I am financially very stable and in my 30s). I feel that my countrymen are not nearly as independent and self-confident than youths in many other countries, even within this region. And the reason is parental coddling and low exposure to individual participation with others in an extra-home setting. You can see it in the timidity of young people even when they are in jobs that interface with the general public, e.g. as waiters and receptionists. Also, in a large part of the country, there is no real opportunity to interact with people of minority races and religions. It is palpably apparent what this lack of experience results in, when such young people eventually do get out – say for a university degree or a city job – and suddenly face the culture shock of encountering people who challenge their ideas for how things should be. From personal observation, it takes about a couple years at least until they ease up.

      In this cultural context, unless one is individually inquisitive and independent, or one’s parents is culturally atypical and actually raise you to become independent, it is better for the child to move out and learn how to carry himself in the wider society, manage finances, and a household. In our traditional culture, it is in fact encouraged (more for men than women) for youths to travel outside the village (“berkelana”) to acquire outside world experience. Recent affluence and stability among our people has eroded this positive view of “berkelana”.

      Obviously though, if one’s parental household has prepared you for independence, diversity etc. as might be expected in the West where Muslims are the minority and the cultural tendency is to raise children to independence, then it is not necessary to physically move out to grow these skills.

      • As a more specific example of some of the more critical benefits of outside experience: I actually have friends who, if not because they had gone away to university and obtained their own independent jobs and knew they could manage on their own and was actually not in the house of their parents to be directly pressured, would have succumbed to parental pressure to marry people they did not want to (soft pressure and emotional blackmail is a powerful thing) – i mean like, their father’s friend.

        I mean, some of us who are lucky enough to have good parents or educated parents, or live in places where there are minorities, have language skills to access different viewpoints, or whose parents are fine with giving us reasonable autonomy despite living with them, should not take only our own situation into consideration when commenting on matters like this, nor should we be touchy and defensive when others share their views for why – for *their* situation – moving out enabled them options and knowledge they could not access had they remained in their parental household. Other people have limitations that we should be grateful we never had to face.

  • AlhamdulilAllah, great to see the article sparked an interesting discussion – thank you for your comments 🙂

    Sister Shuhada, I think that’s an excellent question, and one to which I don’t have a full answer.

    My understanding is that living/travelling without company is generally discouraged in Islam. Of course, there are also all the commands about kinship, particularly one’s relationship with one’s parents. As such, I think the preference to living with parents/family is more than just a cultural one.

  • I suppose that many take physical limitations as equal to lack of freedom for everything else (thoughts, emotions) while they are entirely different.
    The same way that many think hijab is “oppressive” while it does not limit any forms of thinking at all. We’re still free to learn, to think independently..nobody’s going to stop us from our thoughts or emotions, apart from our faith and taqwa.

  • I’m glad I came across this forum. I’m 23 right now, female and living in London. I live with my parents who are of Bengali origin. A lot of what they believe is both cultural as well as religious. They’ve been living here since they were young children themselves but are a lot more conservative than I am. I really really want to move out and experience what living alone is like. I want to be able to relax and watch a film on tv without my mum telling me to change the channel if a scene in a pub comes on. Or i want to be able to wear my pjs around the house without being told off. Or trying out a new recipe without being mocked. What i quantify as debating my dad considers as arguing and being disrespectful. I have the utmost respect and love for my parents. But lately I find myself holding back on my opinions as my dad interprets having a difference in opinion as disrespecting him. I feel suffocated at home. And feeling hugely liberated when outside at work or university just because there I can speak my mind or voice an opinion without being reprimanded like I am a child. Therefore sometimes I find myself hoping my parents would find me someone to marry soon or that I find a job far enough where I’d have to move out.

    I know Islamically girls should not move out until they are married. But I feel so suffocated and find myself resenting my dad more and more. Because I have to repress my opinions I feel that my parents don’t really know the real me but a ‘watered down’ me instead. And this also scares me because ultimately they need to find me a husband and they will match him to me by what sort of a person they think I am.

    I guess what I’m trying to get at here is that, in our household everyone (siblings etc) have all grown up and there are arguments, conflicting interests etc and surely moving out will ultimately bring us closer together (I have n observed this from experience) There would be less fights and everyone could live happily on their own terms.

    I am looking for some advice on this. I am not generalising but saying in my experience, living with parents is ruining the close relationship we had. We are all growing up and developing and discovering our own tastes but if it happens to be one which goes against my dad’s/mum’s belief it causes fights.

    I would like to also add we are all fairly religious but my parents are the most practising.

  • Tam, thank you so much for sharing your experience – may Allah help you to continue respecting and pleasing your parents.

    One suggestion: turn your focus to what you can do to help your parents ( not vice versa) and remind yourself of how grateful you are for having them and for being able to spend time with them.

  • This is absolutely beautiful. May Allah (swt) reward you in every way, in this life and the next.

  • Hi Samah , you know that kind of thoughts and fear happens with every women raised in the Arabic traditions wherever she is , for example , but it’s not bad at all to live with ur parents as long as u have a space and a time for ur self … i still have the same fears u mentioned .. but im sure im on the way to get over it , i know i don’t have to worry as long as im with Allah 🙂 … but we have only tow parents and one chance to be with them … because some day we r going to miss these days with them …so it have to be good days ,at least they will remember it with good thoughts until the end of there lives .. so why not ??

  • Interesting comments on here on an interesting topic but I’ve seen a few people making the blanket statement that for a woman staying at her parents is the Islamic thing to do.

    With all due respect this is completely inaccurate and has no basis. Rather a woman is allowed to live alone if she’s living somewhere safe and she’s a woman of good character. Its a little unfair to make comments that living alone is somehow less Islamic and means your relationship with your parents is not that good. I’m an example that that’s an incorrect assumption. I had to move from home because I couldn’t get a training job near to home and yet I talk to my parents many times a day and visit a few times a month. And I come from a very close knit family.

    I’m sure the people who previously made comments probably did not mean to make assumptions about religiosity but that’s how it came across.

    I have not ruled out moving back in with my parents should I find a job closer to home but I also have not ruled out moving to another place to live alone. I think the issue some people seem to have been thinking of when discussing this is the travelling without a mahram thing which is completely different to living without one and subsequently is covered by completely different rules.

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