Dogs Are the Answer... Egypt’s Alternative to Motherhood

Tuesday 30 March 202112:16 pm
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In a society governed by harsh male-dominated laws and customs, there is little room for breaking away from the herd or for realizing any dreams that are outside the box that society thinks in. In short, this creates an iron wall between every girl who hates marriage and her dream of becoming a mother.

In recent years, divorce rates have increased – the latest census carried out by the Central Agency for Public Mobilization and Statistics (CAPMAS) in 2019 indicates that one divorce takes place in Egypt every 2.11 minutes – marital disputes have increased, and various social media platforms have become filled with stories of failed marriages as well as the suffering of divorced women in family courtrooms.

Amid this atmosphere, women alienated themselves from relationships with men, but they could not get rid of the feelings of motherhood that still grip them.

A Mother as an Auntie

For many years, Hanaa Abdel-Raouf, 40, from Cairo did not imagine herself subject to the command of a man who controls her, her movements, her relationships, and her feelings, as what usually happens with many women around her, forced to give up their independence, dreams, and personal ambitions.

Hanaa refused to commit herself to a man who would insult her and harm her physically and psychologically without any real social, moral, or legal deterrent to protect her, or restore her lost dignity – no deterrent whatsoever due to nothing else other than bearing the title of “her husband”, as she puts it to Raseef22, saying, “I have been preoccupied for many years in order to achieve my dreams. I excelled in my work as a tour guide and achieved good financial security.”

She adds, “I traveled to most countries around the world, and despite all of this, I did not fulfill my most important dream of all. I did not become the mother of a beautiful boy or an innocent girl as I had wished, so despite being distinguished from my sisters with my independence and my freedom, I am envious of them for their children.” Hanaa tries to give their children all the feelings of motherhood that she possesses, and their justified love for their mothers hurts. She asks one of them playfully, “Do you prefer staying with me or with your mama?” The child favors her mother, and her mind rings an echo of her mother’s words: “O you who raises who is not your son, O you who builds in a place other than your land.”

“She Gave Birth to a Child and Filed for Divorce”

Safaa Tawfiq, a teacher at a private university in Cairo, bears the same feelings about men and marriage, but unlike Hanaa, she succumbed to the pressures of reality and her emotional needs to be a mother, so she got married. Speaking of her feelings about motherhood, she puts it eloquently and poetically, “Maternal feelings are instinctive within every female, amplifying or diminishing according to her surroundings, and what they reflect on her. My mother’s words and her constant pressure on me to get married in order to see my children was the incentive that ignited this instinct within me. It crystallized the dream of motherhood before my eyes despite my complete rejection of the idea of ​​marriage, because of the family problems that I experienced – my mother suffered a great deal with my father and it only ended with his death – as well as my rejection of the extent of suffering, violence, and coercion my only sister experienced at the hands of her husband.”

Safaa couldn’t accept marital life, due to her mother’s suffering at the hands of her father and her sister’s suffering from her husband’s cruelty. Even their intimate meetings burdened her – they were her means to get the child she dreams of before divorcing

All of these reasons pushed Safaa to resist falling in love and refuse engagements and commitments in their every form, leaving her preoccupied with her studies and her work in university and academia, but in the end, she accepted a marriage proposal from a colleague. She says, “Suddenly, in a moment of weakness, I found myself accepting a marriage proposal from a colleague, and I told myself I would agree to what I had previously refused.”

Safaa couldn’t accept marital life, despite her husband’s love for her. Even their intimate meetings came to be a burden for her – they were merely a means for her to get the child she dreams of. She adds, “As soon as the pregnancy took place, I left my marital home, and started using the pregnancy and its hardships as an excuse until I gave birth to my only child. Only then did I tell my husband of my desire to separate.”

Safaa promised her husband to take responsibility for the child, and to not deprive him of the child, stressing the importance of his presence as a father in his life. She also told him that she won't be able to force herself to have intercourse with him. The husband initially refused to separate, accusing her of deception, and that she used him as a means to fulfill the dream of motherhood. Safaa goes on to say, “He was right. Society did not leave me any other way, but over time he began to accept the issue and realized that this was the best for our child, and he eventually married another woman. Now I live with my child and I give him all my care and attention.”

“I Will Not Deceive Men”

Hiba Fathy Yassin is an employee in her forties working at a private company. She lives in Cairo and refuses the idea of women resorting to marriage only to fulfill their dream of motherhood. She says, “Motherhood is a great responsibility. Its first and foremost task is choosing the right man who will become the father of the child, because fatherhood is an eternal relationship. It will never end with the separation of the father from the mother, and such a man has not encountered me yet, so I will not submit to the urges of the maternal instinct inside me. I will not allow it to push me to commit to any man just to become a mother.”

She believes that submission to the feelings of motherhood only without any other considerations, is “a blind desire that drives many women to commit to semi-men, and the result is bad for women who end up spending years in family courts and in endless torment.”

Hiba adds, “I will not resort to twisted methods, or commit myself to anyone only until I get a child, and then end my relationship with him immediately by either deception or by prior agreement. I reject this concept in either case, because it is not in the child’s interest.”

For Hiba, the presence of a father and mother in one house is important for the child’s growth and development. As she put it, “being in the arms of the father will not be replaced by being in the arms of the mother no matter what. A mother who chooses to separate from the father completely without any real reasons is a mother that is no less selfish than the father who escapes from facing the responsibility of his children.”

Motherhood is a Special Project

Iman Sadek, 34, graduated from the Faculty of Education from Damietta Governorate, did not find a “suitable partner”, and found herself overwhelmed by feelings of motherhood. But she decided not to respond to any pressures from the family and the community, or accept “things that her mind rejects in order to fulfill desires driven by her feelings,” as she put it.

Iman faces her family and society with a defiant spirit, declaring to everyone that she is not afraid of the title “spinster”, will willingly endure it with all its faults, and will suppress her feelings of motherhood as well.

“Motherhood is a blind desire that drives many women to commit themselves to ‘semi-men’ in Egypt, and the result is endless torment.”

Iman decided to “invest” in those feelings of motherhood, and set up her own project, with a sum of money that she had inherited from her father. She runs a nursery for children, taking care of them when their parents are busy or traveling. This way, she was able to give her motherhood to dozens of children, “instead of one child,” she says.

Speaking of her experience, she says to Raseef22, “I have not come to regret this. I am exercising my independence that I have lived all my life believing in. I have taken from motherhood its bright side and aspects – fun, games and good times – without any of its troubles. The time I spend with my children is great, and the love they give me is enough for me and pleases me.”

Cats and Dogs

Shahira Rushdi (pseudonym), who is from Alexandria but has lived in Cairo for years, is looking for an opportunity to break into the art world as an author and screenwriter. She told Raseef22 that she is not against marriage as a social system, as it is the only way to start a family and build a community. She tried to commit herself on more than one occasion, but she used to end those relationships before reaching the point of official marriage, after discovering that “the second party would not make a proper partner for her.”

She adds, “They were all men who only wanted me to be a body without a mind, carrying out my marital duties of intercourse, service and childbearing without receiving anything in return. I have no right to express my personality or pursue my dreams. All of them rejected the idea of me working in art, even after pretending to accept it at the beginning, so separation was the solution.”

Shahira has maternal instincts, but she decided to deal with them in a different manner. She says, “I filled my house with cats and dogs, which, with time, became my children. I give them all my attention and care, far away from the restrictions of a husband and the prison of marriage.”

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