A video dialogue program for young women in the USA and Muslim countries
November 10th, 2006 at 10:50 am
Posted by Zia in Sessions

Our third session focused on family life:
Children. In the US, the participants talked about the ideal of the white picket fence, a couple of pets and “2.5 kids”. The Tunisian participants joked pets weren’t quite so important to them, but kids certainly were. For them, the ideal is 4 children: 2 boys and 2 girls. They also mentioned that in the past, families often had 10 children, but that wasn’t true any more (previously, if you didn’t have a boy, you keep trying until you did which often resulted in large families). One participant said she wanted just 1 or 2 children; another said she wanted 4 (especially girls!). Participants in both New York and Gabes mentioned the number of children a couple decides to have depends on their financial situation.
Family living. Our participants in Gabes said they live with their parents until they’re married (and in the south of the country, they used to live with their parents after they’re married, as well, but now prefer to have their own homes).  They usually share a room with same-sex siblings growing up. There was some shock that at least one participant in the US shared a room with two brothers growing up; they said that situation wouldn’t occur in Tunisia. They were also surprised by the fact that Americans generally leave their parents’ home at age 18 and never move back after that. For them, living with your parents is not a choice, but rather what is expected. Only if you went to study in another area of the country would you ever consider moving out of your family’s home.
Roommates. We talked about roommate situations here in the US and the fact that people who don’t know each other, and in some cases even men and women, live together as roommates. We specified that this didn’t mean the men and women were romantically involved (the response from a participant in Gabes: “If a man and a woman were to live together here, they would certainly end up boyfriend and girlfriend even if they didn’t start out that way!”). They said male-female living situations were rare there, were more likely to occur in the north, and such arrangements were not made public since it would be very much discouraged.
Relationship with family. We finished by talking a bit about our relationship with our family. One US participant said it was very hard for parents, especially mothers, when their first child moved out of the home – we talked about how we might not see our parents often after age 18, but it was common to talk to them on the phone regularly. A couple of the Tunisian participants said they had very tight bonds with their sisters, and could not imagine living without them. One of our participants in Gabes is planning a wedding in 8 months – she said her sister is extremely sad that their time together is coming to an end.

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