I am a 38 year old desi woman going through a divorce. I was born in Pakistan and my family moved to Saudi Arabia when I was five. I have lived in Saudi Arabia, UK and USA over the years and have been labeled an ABCD by desis, a desi aunty by the ABCD’s, British by the Americans and American by the British! Over 14 years of marriage, we had 4 kids and many ups and downs. Granted, there were more downs than ups, but who was counting?
I am on a journey of self-discovery, so I can’t say where I stand as far as my own cultural and religious beliefs are concerned. I welcome you to take a peek into my world as I discover who I am and what I stand for. Be prepared for a bumpy ride.
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For today’s post, I would like to share a conversation I had recently. My son had gone to his friend’s house for the evening, and I went to pick him up when I had this conversation with the friend’s mother. I will call her “Reema” and skip over to the interesting part. The whole conversation took place at their door and didn’t last for more than 10 minutes, but here’s the part that blew me away:
Reema: I haven’t seen you in a long time! You don’t come to any parties. Where have you been?
Me: I’m here. It’s just the parties are too superficial for me, and I didn’t like the reaction I got from everybody when I decided to leave my husband. I’d rather stay home than meet people knowing that they’re backbiting about me.
Reema: I agree, the people here are so fake. They’re only your friends at a party. No one is there for you when you need them. You’re doing the right thing. I’m so tired of these parties too.
You know it’s nice to have the boys hang out together like this, it would be much nicer if you sent your kids to “Private School for Rich Kids”. You know there are six boys in my son’s class from our community. It’s so good, they go to PSRK all week, then they meet at parties over the weekend, it’s just so great! They don’t have to make friends or meet anyone else!”
Me: Well, PSRK is a great school but I can’t send the kids to private school with the divorce and all.
Me: Because I can’t afford to send four kids to private school.
Reema: Then ask their father to send them!
Me: Hah! I wish it were that easy! Forget about private school, their father has cut me off financially and has not been giving me enough money to pay my bills for the past three months. Just to feed the kids, I’m borrowing money from my family. He doesn’t care whether I am able to feed his children or not!
Reema: So what the does the judge say?
Me: Well, we have to wait weeks, sometimes months before a hearing. The financial stuff will be decided when the divorce is finalized.
Reema: You’re not divorced yet?
Reema: Then why don’t you go back to him?
Reema: Well, he’s not giving you any money, the kids aren’t in private school, you don’t come to parties… isn’t it just better that you go back to him?
Me: No! Why would I go back to him? Because he’s choking me financially?
Reema: Because then you’ll have money and you’ll be able to socialize and your children will go to private school. Everything will be back to normal.
Me: Umm. No. I gave him 14 years of my life. I used a lot of patience in those 14 years. I have no regrets, there are no “what ifs”. For 14 years, I had no doubt about my patience, but I had no self-esteem. Now I have my self-esteem back. I am at peace with my decision.
Reema (looking confused and concerned): Are you sure?
Me: Yes! My kids don’t need a private school, we don’t need a lakefront mansion. We just need peace. I don’t worry about how my husband’s mood is going to be when he comes home in the evening. Will he talk to me, or will he break something again today? I am at peace. The children are at peace. We are having financial problems, but God will take care of us. I will get what is in my luck, I don’t need a man to call a husband when the truth is that we spent weeks without speaking to each other. I am very happy and peaceful with my decision and I am not going back.
Reema: But you’ve cut yourself off from the community. You don’t meet anyone. Are you sure you’re happy with your decision?
Me: What did the community give me? Are they paying my bills? Would they even care if my water or electricity got cut off? I don’t need parties. Never liked them to begin with. I have God with me, and my family’s support. I know I gave the marriage every bit of effort I could. I have no regrets and I am at peace. That is all that matters.
Reema: Okay, if you believe that is the case, I hope you’re right.
It’s been a month since this conversation, and I am still speechless. Is our system messed up or am I the crazy woman here? What compels a woman to give advice like this to another woman? I am telling her that the father of my children doesn’t care whether the children have food, water and electricity and she tells me to go back to him?!?! She tells me that she agrees the social life is messed up, and then she tells me that I should compromise my self-esteem just so that I can attend parties?
Sure, I want the best education for my children, but is private school more important than self-esteem? If they attend private schools and ivy league colleges, will it help compensate for when the girls marry men who don’t respect them and the boys don’t respect their wives because that is what they saw at home?
For all the women who think like Reema, you are welcome to the lavish lifestyle of a physician’s wife where the only thing missing is happiness – because money can’t buy that. Please do take your multimillion dollar homes, designer clothes with matching shoes and purses… and not to mention diamonds… and shove them up your uptight asses. I’ve been on both sides of the fence and I am not going back!