20 and about to get married? Say goodbye to your dreams and careers

Published: October 13, 2014

What guarantee can you give your daughters that they will live happily in a marriage they did not have a say in? PHOTO: AFP

“I can’t wait to pursue my bachelor’s degree abroad,” I beamed with delight.

With disdain, as if I had said something extremely outrageous, I was asked,

 “Wait, are you not going to get married?”

Recently, my Facebook newsfeed was flooded with pictures of bridal and baby showers of girls whom I went to school with. I am 20-years-old and some of my friends are already married and have children. While I was taken aback by this at first, soon realisation began to hit me.

This was it. This was the end of these young girls’ carefree lives and that too at the ripe and young age of 20 – or even less, for some.

They will be expected to take on the roles of housewives and deal with household problems that they shouldn’t have to deal with at such an early age. At this age, they were supposed to be having fun, finding themselves and enjoying their lives but they find themselves in the clutches of social norms. This is, sadly, the end of their adventures and silly experiences.

The sad part about the entire thing is that these girls are conditioned from a very young age by overly-conservative mothers to think that the greatest thing that can ever happen to them is marriage. They spend their lives keeping themselves presentable and in shape, and go to all the right weddings where they can be scouted by beady-eyed rishta aunties.

Right now, all I can think of is my career and university life, whilst these girls face challenges that I do not even need to imagine for a good five to six years at least. At 20, you are young, inexperienced and are facing all these issues that you do not have any clue as to how to deal with them. I am sorry but they do not offer ‘marriage 101’ in schools.

Basically, an eligible bachelorette is someone who is pretty, skinny, pious, tall and fair. And in these competitive times, if the girl has a university degree then that is a cherry on top for the mothers-in-law. This means they can flaunt their daughters-in-law’s highly qualified degrees at their kitty parties and increase their own popularities.

So yes, you can have your degree honey – the one you worked for your entire life with your parents’ savings. But there’s just a tiny problem – you cannot use it.

Pakistani men cannot even imagine the worsening plight of women because they already have a rigid mind set on how a woman should think and behave. I am sorry boys, but unless you suddenly turned into a female, you do not understand anything. It is hilarious how men actually think they can comment on a woman’s life when they have absolutely no clue on what it’s like. Men always have options but women do not.

The average Pakistani man is so afraid of being emasculated that he dares not ask for a woman with a voice. However, I am not in any way saying that all men resort to such sexist attitudes. Do note how I use the word average and not all.

However, there are women who want to have a career and are promised so by their in-laws, that they can work or study after marriage. However, as soon as they agree to the marriage, is exactly when reality hits these girls hard in the face.

The husband frowns, the relatives talk and make all sorts of assumptions and unfortunately, she has no choice but to give up on her dreams and her career. Why so? Because of the following, horror-inducing phrase that has ruined many lives:

Log kya kahein ge?

(What will people say?)

My question is can a woman in Pakistan not pursue a career? Will it ruin her chances of getting hitched to some well-off doctor in the US with a nice family? What guarantee can parents give to their daughters that she is going to be happily married to a man she never agreed to marry in the first place?

For instance, I was at a friend’s wedding and I teased her about the possibility of her husband being extremely handsome. To this, she replied,

“I have not seen him yet”.

At that particular moment, I think I almost fell off my chair and uttered a silent prayer of gratitude to have such inspiring parents who encouraged me to always chase my dreams and not be tied down by the conservatism in our society.

To all the young girls out there, I encourage you to please stand up for what you deserve. No, I am in no way discouraging marriage but only making a point that women should get married on their own terms and only when they think they are ready for such a life-long commitment.

I know many girls out there do not have a choice but to listen to demanding parents, and that is why this culture needs to stop. Parents need to understand the importance of educating their girls so they can be financially independent and can contribute towards a happy marriage instead of believing that only early marriages would bring them honour.

A man who does not have to shoulder the entire financial burden of the house will be content and will respect his partner for sharing the burden with him. And if he is not the kind of person who is going to support you in your decisions to work after marriage and share the burden with him, then well, he is not the person for you no matter how much of a perfect doctor or engineer the rishta aunties make him out to be.

iftikhar.hera

Hera Iftikhar

A 20-year-old graduate from Nixor College who is currently studying Korean at Seoul National University. She is living the dream in Seoul whilst planning for the future.

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • Khansaab

    You over excited, there is more yet to come. – a post graduate from an Australian uniRecommend

  • Sadaf

    Thanks for speaking up for an issue that is frequently ignored in our society. Only if we Pakistanis realize, women are humans too.Recommend

  • Abuzar Jamil

    So this article starts from “pursue your career girls, even if you don’t want to” and ends at “how your husband should be”.You don’t have the slightest idea of what you are saying or trying to say.But keep practicing you’ll get there.Recommend

  • Ali88

    life is more than sitting behind a corporate desk and chasing after cars and houses. U judge me for my priorities and ill judge u for urs. Recommend

  • https://www.blogger.com/blogger.g?blogID=8559594100366660134#allposts Supriya Arcot

    Huge , big, long, well elucidated , unfortunately totally negative , energy / confidence /esteem sapping article on marriage . The only positive thing about this article is the author has good command over the English language .Recommend

  • Imran Rajjad

    dear blogger, men dont want an earning wife, they want a good wife who can take charge of the house. I have seen independent women with big careers, ending up alone at old age because they tried to copy men to some extent. Its ok if you have a passion for something, then you should go for it by also planning your family life, but if you want to work just for financial independence, then you are making a mistake that is realized at old age.Recommend

  • Awaam

    A very one sided view, i am sorry but very biased. Was the author not able to find any example around her where women had career even after getting married and having children? ET, at least be a serious newspaper.

    @ Author: visit PU sometimes, yes the same institution where JI is supposedly reigning, and you will see how many female instructors (from lab assistants to Deans) are employed. At least you’ll get some examples of women who had career after getting hitched.

    Now, this does not mean all is rosy. More than 70% post high school new entree are women but only 10% of them ever go for a job. But please write a balanced article.Recommend

  • Woman of the world

    @Imran: I’ve seen men also divorce wives who stayed at home for them…at least the career women you are talking about have the means to take care of themselves when their husbands leave them; other women don’t. Instead of having their own monthly income those women have to beg relatives or their children for money. So think about it: financial independence is never a bad thing for women, since a man can leave anytime he wants anyway…Recommend

  • Urwah

    *narrow minded and backward Pakistani men…men in MY FAMILY or who I’ve come across consider their wives equal, yes family is priority, but they also don’t treat them as servants with no life outside the home and both put in effort towards house and children responsibilities. Many work and manage their families and I am a product of working parents and ALHAMDULILLAH I loved my childhood and am glad my father treated my mother right and let her fulfil her dreams. My brothers have a real man to look up to. I will do the same, I’m not letting no one tell me I can’t be a lawyer because I’m a woman! But to the writer of this article of a woman wants to marry early and not work and be educated that’s her choice. Choices should be respected. But she’ll regret it. Just like women in my family that were suppressed and regret not getting educated or working or having some independence.Recommend

  • Habib

    What do you mean copy men and have careers? Having a 9-5 job to support your kids and home is different to having a career. My wife works and has a ‘career’. We have four children, youngest is nine. She stopped working throughout her adult life to focus on her responsibilities as a mother and wife but once she had fully done that she returned to work and I fully support her working. She’s not ‘alone’ now and her being independent should make me worried? Sir I don’t quiet get your point. And your point about not wanting an earning wife is completely offensive. Why? Because when I married my wife I fell in love with her as a person, not a robot who has to follow my demands and live an altruistic life just for me. She is her own person. I grew up with a father who thought like you. My mother couldn’t become educated and didn’t work, when she saw my sisters working, she felt like she missed out to have that opportunity to experience the world. Of course in those days it was completely un thought of, nowadays it has become sort of important for both husband and wife to work to give your child the best upbringing and run a house. I knew how much my father suffered in raising us up and if my mother had worked even within the limits of her own bedroom I’m sure we would have been able to have an easier life but I’m not complaining. In the end a man should respect a woman’s hopes and desires and a woman should vice versa and find a common ground. But don’t speak on behalf of all men, you certainly are not speaking on behalf of me.Recommend

  • Bilal Hassan

    Nods!
    You’ll find social norms in every society across the globe. You have highlighted the one aspect of the picture..!!Recommend

  • siesmann

    iT WILL BE A great achievement if no woman is married before age 15,preferably before 18 in Pakistan.First achieve this goal before thinking what the privileged and moneyed girls can do now.Recommend

  • Maximus Decimus Meridius

    Well said. I am getting pretty tired of this newfangled trend where the woman wants the man to hire some one to look after her kids while she waltzes off to “work”. This is having a seriously detrimental effect on your young children. And by young children I mean kindergarten age. An NGO is conducting a survey in Parts of Karachi and Lahore which has so far shown that children whose mothers leave their upbringing in the hands of Ayas and maids suffer greatly in terms of emotional contact with parents and develop emotional problems when they reach puberty.
    The place of a mother is at home, she should take care of her children instead of handing them over to someone else. If you cannot take care of children then don’t get married. harsh but simple. We have enough troubled youngsters in the world , please do not create new ones.
    Off topic but allow me to respond to the people who will most likely come to argue against my view
    1) You say that you know many women who have worked and raised good kids (Perhaps even your near relatives or even your own mom). I say just go out there and see the ratio. the ratio of good working mothers will be very very very low.
    2) You say that a husband has no right to demand from his wife that she stays at home. I totally agree with you, but marriage is a mutual thing where everything is done with mutual consent. Which means that the wife too HAS NO RIGHT to demand that her husband takes care of their children by hiring maids or burdening his own mother.
    3)You say that there are usually financial difficulties. To which I say that the wife and husband are both facing the difficulties so they should both make the decision together how they will come out of them. It is not right that the wife makes a decision and then enforces it on her husband.Recommend

  • Ayyubi

    @ Blogger!

    Your thinking is just the representation of immature mindset.

    Let me tell you very clearly being an MBA Student and Engineering degree holder from reputed uni of Pak, I myself along with many of class fellows believe to have wife who can take care for my family and myself rather than engaging her into outer world and face the unnecessary hardship of this cruel world.

    Can you please review the lifestyle of women just 30-50 years back, at what age couple got engage. This is only corporate culture which prevails and spread in our life just within 2 or 3 decades and spoiled whole world.

    Have not you seen the loneliness and sadness of old ladies in western countries who have broken the nature rule and living their lives alone.

    Its better for lady and man to get marry which is exactly inline with our religion and of course with natureRecommend

  • Asad

    A little too early for you to write this article. Just one thing, getting marries at 20 does not stop you to chase your dreams, it all depends on your will.Recommend

  • N.

    Just because you are studying Korean at a university in Seoul, you suddenly get to pass judgements on the culture of our entire nation? Dear child, you are not even the start of ’empowered’. Wait till you’re 24 and near but all of your friends are married including you. What good will your rant be if you can’t hold off marriage for more than 4 years yourself? You want to hear empowered? My mom raised three children while pursuing a PhD at the age of 40 which meant that she was away for a better half of 5 years. She came back to do very well in her career and earned the respect of her peers and her family. That is woman empowerment and a crisp example of why women should actually make better decisions in picking their partners than what age they marry. Your article’s biggest flaw is in assuming that people who don’t marry are somehow liberated, free and adventurous. My friend’s parents regularly do extreme sports like sky diving (which I can bet my fortune you have never done being a free bird). So before you go on deciding that someone’s life is ‘ruined’ because they married earlier than you, please allow others to live their lives and stop judging them from some imaginary podium. Not everyone wants to go abroad and waste their parent’s money on studying a useless language which will not further their career in any way. This blog would go great with someone who has actually accomplished something by putting off marriage. Putting off marriage at 20 isn’t really a big deal nowadays.Recommend

  • sadia

    what i chose ? husband or a career ? my answer is whatever will be more dependable and reliable ,who will give me more stability.if my marriage is just a ditch for my energy and time and nothing fruitful is produced form it i will rely on my career .but if i get a man ( and 98% chances are i will ,because i have hope in male specie )then i will invest myself in my family .but it all depends …….upon my husband .Recommend

  • kiran khan

    If this blog was written some few years back, it would have had more validity. Times are changing & there are many a people now who not only accept working women wholeheartedly but also support her in her decision. I work and we also have a daughter & i have been a very confident outspoken woman all my life & my in laws & husband knew me before marriage but never has my husband feared that i will not take care of our chilw or prefer my work iverw my children. Recommend

  • Sara Barcha

    well, i pretty agree with your blog because the current Senior of everyone’s life is insecure.No one knows,about their life’s. what turn come to their life?every time, girls safer when unlucky, after her marriage she become widow without education,what she can do? So its my advise to everyone who care and love their Princes, at least they allow to her for completing their Bachelors Degree to face unconditional situation in future.no doubt marriage is part of life. specially in Pakistan the girls are married before completing of there higher education.So this is wrong thing and it should be change.but change cant be immediately occurs it required liter bit time.last but not least, “THINK PRACTICAL…….DON’T BE EMOTIONAL”Recommend

  • نائلہ

    So she is inhuman the minute she says “qubool hai”?! Recommend

  • Ahmed

    Dear Hera

    I think you should pursue your dream and become whatever you want to. If a man who is supposed to marry you does not understand your point of view and what you want in life then sister kick that person out of your life you will get another one. Remember marriage is a bond of love and understanding which unfortunately in our society no one seems to understand it. If a man really loves then he would always understand you and will accept you just the way you think and you areRecommend

  • Abda Khalid

    dear Imran how swiftly u said men want good wife not earning?. have you ever thought what does a women want?. she is also a human being with all the rights to be autonomous. there’s no harm in pursuing the carrier and become financially viable. Making marriage work is not a sole responsibility of a woman. men has a work to do as well. and I don’t understand when u say ” woman try to copy men?” a female is as much a human being as a man. so there’s
    no point of copying. and planning a good life is a responsibility rested on both. marriage is a partnership where both the sexes are partners of 50 percent. and yeah strong women do end up alone because weak men don’t know what to do with strong women.:) its not their fault but otherwise!Recommend

  • Ahsan

    My wife is continuing her studies and it was only possible because she got married and I chose to finance her studies. She is a mother now and completing her thesis. Ok I get it you have good command over English but there is more to a good read than good linguistic skills.Recommend

  • Syeda KAzmi

    Its all about priorities in life at the moment..being career oriented is absolutely fine but what you need to realize is that at some point in time you have to compromise things for the sake of family.. If you have toddlers to look after as a mother, and you are not a type to bid adieu to your career.. you can take a break for some years till your child grow up to an age of school going kid.. many mothers do that.. plus many organizations allow married women to reschedule their timings or days like in consultancy firms.. and as far as maids are concern, you can afford to pay to the maid so why put additional burden on husband who is already managing all the expenses?? … in the end it’s all about the mutual understanding..Recommend

  • Aftab Riaz

    This is not an issue. Get married and fulfill your dreams…go for your goals. You can continue studies after getting married as well…but remember, getting married on the right time saves you from so much mental torture and psychological pain. Its about your age that you are dreaming big. OR, ok dont get married…go for your dreams..achieve your goals…do what ever you want and at the end of the day, you will realize that you really missed something in life and that fatigue will kill you from inside and you will regret.

    Mind it! its not the matter of being a Pakistani girl or an Indian girl, its the human nature. Go anywhere in the world and observe the experiences. Read biographies…meet psychiatrists to expand your scope… Research girlRecommend

  • Legion

    Sure, non-working mothers do a better job with children than working women. But if a woman wants to work-she should not be stopped- that will lead to an unhappy lady,unhappy marriage & kids who see an unfulfilled mum & a dad who’s a bully.
    If a highly educated woman decides to stay at home,for children-it should be an individual & voluntary decision with no manipulation from the husband- now thats a happy,empowered housewife (like my mum was )
    Recommend

  • Mo

    I don’t think all men are like that. The urban males, such as myself are zealous promoters. Not only are the women wasting whatever degrees they have earned but also snatching opportunities from a lot of people who could have used that “seat” in college or university to make a good career. For all those women who go to a medical or an engineering or any professional college for that matter and not spend a day working in the field, shame on you.Recommend

  • mady

    Well miss hira unlike others I do not totally oppse ur points as u have the same thinking as I had when I was 20 but beleive me it would be u who will think after 5 to 6 years from now on after acheiving ur dreams that now what I want a oartner to share my life I want someone to take care of me now I can no longer pursue this bz schedule and u would be the one craving for a family
    and my advice look for a man who does support ur wishes and ur dreams rather than look out for u to help financially
    Recommend

  • Supriya Arcot

    Err.. Gentle logical correction not inclined towards any country or religion. The correct word you should have used is “sub human” and not “inhuman”.Recommend

  • Maximus Decimus Meridius

    You should read my comment . There is a small print “read more” click on it and you will find that I have anticipated this and written a reply to what you had in mind.Recommend

  • NB

    OK. Everything is all about what men want!! Just like some working mothers, some stay at home mothers can be good or bad. Ending alone at old age!! Maybe they do want to be alone as Ghalib said, ‘rehyay ab chal kar jahan koi na ho”. Stay at home mothers don’t live till old age!Recommend

  • Parvez

    I thought that you argued that well……..gently giving advice but leaving the choice to the individual because that’s the right thing to do.Recommend

  • Areeba Mohsen

    exactly!
    Women have the right to do what they want. Some choose to be housewives and some choose to be working women. Some pull-off both. I think these chauvinists need to understand that women have the right to equality.
    Why can’t they just understand women for once? Women also have difficulties. It’s not like men are the only hard working creatures in this world!Recommend

  • Areeba Mohsen

    No they are not. Just like you defended men by saying “I don’t think all men are like that.” I’ll defend women by saying, Not all women waste seats. They do apply their degrees one way or the other. They not only do jobs but teach their children as well. EDUCATED MOTHERS ARE NECESSARY.
    How can you be so selfish? How can you tell women to have shame? Shame on you for your sick mentality. You want women to be illiterate?Recommend

  • Afaq Ayub

    Dear Blogger, to some extend you are right but not at all.. Man likes a women who can take care of his family and house more than only share the financial burden..Recommend

  • Gaganpati

    For me Life is potato. From morning till evening the family thinks about potato. When potato is harvested I feel sad in my heart and mind that I will never see this potato again. You are like potato.Recommend

  • Gp65

    Maybe that is what you want. Maybe that is also what many Pakistani men want but o impy hat that is what all men want is flawed.

    You also assumed that irls with succesful careers will end up old and simgle and that moreover they would regret their choice. How many old and single and financially succesful women do you know to have reached such a conclusion?Recommend

  • http://www.hblcelebrities.com/ Sunny Leone

    Not completely agree with you, because women life just starts from marriage as per Islamic values and traditions.Recommend

  • Fahad

    Why blame men at large? End of the day its your own parents who decides your future and what you eventually become. I know girls who know swimming, diving, horse riding, driving, have become chartered accountants, lawyers, surgeons and are successful in every walk of life because their father ensured they are raised strong. Therefore any girl feeling vulnerable or worried about her career or future should speak to her father instead of blaming all “Pakistani Men”. Feminist bandwagon won’t take you anywhere and will only make you frustrated.Recommend

  • A.

    I read the entire article, thought of a comment to post at the end, only to see that the author has just completed her a’levels!

    Just one more thing you wrote “It is hilarious how men actually think they can comment on a woman’s life when they have absolutely no clue on what it’s like.” and then you conveniently went on to do the exact same thing in the very next line by concluding that “Men always have options but women do not.” Trust me most men do not have a lot of options! the responsibility to earn and support a family is as big as any other! (and i am referring to most men here)Recommend

  • Moiz Omar

    Why would anybody want to or voluntarily agree to marry at such a young age is beyond me.Recommend

  • Legion

    I disagree with your second point,last sentence.
    Anyway-maybe the parent who makes more money can work while the other who makes less,looks after the kids till they are 3 or 5- so,dads can also be homemakers.
    I had a stay-at-home mum,who herself decided,she didn’t trust maids or nannies.That was her individual decision ( & Im truly grateful for it ).But had my father forced her to give up work & stay home-making her unhappy- I would be angry that he clipped her wings & didn’t let her be her own person.Recommend

  • Legion

    If a man does NOT want an independant wife-he should marry someone who has NO college education/advanced degrees/ professional degrees.
    If she is educated-she should voluntarily agree,BEFORE the wedding itself-that she wont work but happily be a homemaker.
    Once married to a girl with college degrees,who aspires to work- no man has the right to stop her.Recommend

  • done with bachelors at 20

    you are starting ur bachelors at 20? really?Recommend

  • Muhammad Mehroze

    Agreed..!

    Women should be encouraged to get education and use their knowledge for best of their families and country. One thing that needs to be considered is culture drive by people and it start from people why not one start to change it from his/her family culture. we choose best for us but not for other daughter mean when we have female member in our family we say a lot about her and create hurdles ,things like that create bad culture .. hope may things be settled if understood in supportive environment.Recommend

  • Maximus Decimus Meridius

    I stand by what I wrote. studies have shown that toddlers require their mother to raise them, or at least a female.
    There has been a lot of work done in this regard to prove this. you can read it here http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Attachment_in_children

    Just follow the links in the article to read about attachment theory etc.Recommend

  • A

    Really inspired!
    My brother is going to America for his Mbbs (which costs a fortune) but my parents refused to let me go and persue a degree in law at Queen Mary just by saying they have to save money for my weding. Why can’t I have a small wedding instead? What if they don’t give me a house in dowry and let me go instead? I do not want to depend on a man for the rest of my life. What if he ill treats me! I’m only 18 and my parents have already started to look for the perfect match. They could’ve waited for 3 years. We need to change our mindsets. Recommend

  • Legion

    Sir,I’ve already agreed 100% that I too believe that children benefit a lot more with stay at home parents (mother or father ) Not contesting that at all. Just am,against mothers being bullied by fathers. Nothing else.Recommend

  • max!

    with lots of paki women and men these days having multiple pre matrimonial affairs during student life, and an expected increase in divorce rate because of these previous affairs, its safe to assume women will want more financial independence and more space in workplace.. to support themselves in case the husband finds out about previous affair and opts for divorce, and vice versaRecommend

  • Meera

    Well Hera , I agree with your topic as it has started again to get the girl married without asking about her dreams, and the men who are saying it as our culture , this is written nowhere to kill the girls dreams, if you have that same old concept that a girl should sit at home and take responsibiilty of a maid them its very sad to still see men who are so narrow minded , girls and boys are equal in every field , if you just want a a maid then don’t even bother to marry, just sit back home and watch your maids clean your home, simple as that,why ruining another life due to your narrow mindedness, Hera well you kind of stole my topic as my next blog is on Log Kia Kaheingay but it will be a different concept,but yes its annoying to see your dreams to get shattered just to make an idiot happy who cant tolerate watching his wife earn money , financial responsibility is a big responsibiilty too and specially in this country which robs your money. Its your benefit only if both the partners work and earn as it just avoids any financial crisis and even your future becomes secure, Then dont even cry when you lose your job and you never let her work outside. Even we our humans , we also have wishes and dreams so if you want a maid then don’t marry.Recommend

  • Imran Rajjad

    education is not about getting job or career, education is about being a better person. your argument is only valid for women who want to work as doctors and teachers, because these fields could really use some good women.Recommend

  • Imran Rajjad

    I know one , who has a good career but nobody wants to be with her because she is ugly and egoistic.Recommend

  • Imran Rajjad

    there is no thing as a strong women, there is woman and there is a feminist who tries to copy men.Recommend

  • Imran Rajjad

    shame on you for relying on your woman`s money, what makes you any different than a pimp?Recommend

  • Imran Rajjad

    well then chose wisely, chose the nice guy instead of the jerk in ferariRecommend