Raising a Traveling Tribe:: Giving A Girl Freedom & Why We Left the Muslim World

by Tina on October 14, 2013

in family, Morocco, Raising a Traveling Tribe

lake como italy traveling mama

I remember the day my husband was offered a job in Denmark.  We were living in the Muslim world, in Morocco, and had just spent over two years adjusting and learning to speak oral Moroccan Arabic.  After quickly double checking to see if we even knew where Denmark was, we went through a wild mix of emotions and long conversations in whispered tones for days on end.  We knew that our kids would be unhappy when they heard that we were thinking of leaving Morocco.  Despite the fact that living in the Muslim world was tough at times and offered a variety of challenges to us as American Westerners and as Christians, we loved it there and we loved the people.

One of the biggest issues I kept coming back to was the fact that our daughter was getting older.  We could see that our eight year old would soon be entering her tween years, followed quickly by her teens and high school.  I knew firsthand what it was like to be a female in the Muslim world, walking down the street with groups of young boys shouting lewd remarks at me and hoping to catch my eye.  And even though I had learned to be content where we were, there were times when I hated the fact that I could never go for a run alone or make eye contact with a man on the street.  On the really hot days I was covered from head to toe, sweating and suffocating from the heat, unable to show any skin without fear of shaming my husband and sometimes I would not leave my house for days on end because I was very limited by the places I could go as a Christian woman living in a small Muslim town.

I also knew what it was like to be ushered into the secret places where only women were allowed and to watch women who were once veiled come alive with hilarious jokes and large hand gestures as they retold wild stories.  I had seen the tender relationship between a mother and her daughter, solidified in a world that was still so segregated.  I had enjoyed near God-like treatment when I became pregnant with my third child, being put on a pedestal that I had never experienced in the Western World. I had also met so many strong, independent, and driven women in a male dominated world.  But best of all, I had become a daughter, a sister, and a friend to countless women whom I could hardly bear the thought of leaving and I knew that my daughter would feel the same way.

We understood what we would be giving up when we left Morocco and the Muslim world.  We could feel it and ached to stay and yet felt compelled to leave.  In the end, we chose freedom for our girl.  We wanted her to know what it was like to roam the streets without fear, wearing shorts on a hot day, not thinking twice about it.  We longed to see her take long bike rides, with the wind tussling her long, loose hair and a world of opportunity before her.

She cried when we told her that we were thinking about leaving Morocco and we talked about it together, letting her be a part of such a big decision.  We asked her to trust us for things that she could not begin to grasp, because even as a Christian girl in the Muslim world, she was completely happy in every way.  She did not long for things that she knew nothing about and loved the life she had, safe among her girl friends and family.

At times I realize that it would have been so much easier to raise a daughter in a place where girls could not roam or party or even drink without sever repercussions.  We traded a place of religion and propriety and gained a world where there is really no limit for what a girl can do.  Some days I feel so worried and scared over what she will do with all the freedom she has, but, in the end, I am glad that we chose to give it to her all the same.

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{ 34 comments… read them below or add one }

Khady October 14, 2013 at 12:27 pm

I love this post. You put into words some of the joys/concerns I’ve had a hard time articulating. Thank you for sharing your experiences so honestly and respectfully.


Tina October 14, 2013 at 2:09 pm

The truth is that it has taken me a long time to say these things because it has been so difficult for me to understand how and why we can love two worlds that can be so different, but I think it always comes back to the fact that there are wonderful and loving people in every place and pros and cons to every culture, too.


Hanne October 14, 2013 at 1:26 pm

Love this post Tina! Hope your girl love living in Denmark as much as in Marocco!


Tina October 14, 2013 at 2:10 pm

Thank you! Yes, she loves it dearly here in Denmark and is just as stubborn about never leaving here! :-) (Thankfully, we are not planning on moving any time soon!)


Lone October 14, 2013 at 1:42 pm

Thank you for a fantastic blog! Well written, relevant, respectfull and interesting :) love it!!


Lone October 14, 2013 at 1:44 pm

Oh – I forgot your photos :) so so beautiful!


Tina October 14, 2013 at 2:11 pm

Thank you! :-)


Nancy G. October 14, 2013 at 1:52 pm

Life offers us choices. You made one for your family and your daughter that only time will show you the outcome. With your’s and her dad’s guidance, I agree that freedom was a positive choice for your daughter but also your sons as well.


Tina October 14, 2013 at 2:12 pm

So true… I will have a little more about the boys another day. :-)


Papou October 14, 2013 at 2:54 pm

One of your best!


Tina October 14, 2013 at 7:41 pm

Thanks. xo


Amy ~ from Acworth October 14, 2013 at 3:36 pm

So sweet! You gave her the gift of seeing another side of life and embraced it with an open heart and now your giving her the opportunity to choose her own path in life. She can look at, talk to and dress however she chooses knowing this isn’t a freedom that everyone has. This is a gift that most of us take for granted on a daily basis.


Tina October 14, 2013 at 7:43 pm

It is one that I always took for granted, but I have a new appreciation for the freedom we girls have in the western world and am ever thankful for it!


Gail October 14, 2013 at 5:49 pm

Thank you for sharing such an intimate view and also the positive aspects of life in a Muslim community.


Tina October 14, 2013 at 7:44 pm

I think a lot of people would be quite surprised by just how wonderful it can be to live within the Muslim world! Well, I know it amazed me!


knolin2013 October 14, 2013 at 8:43 pm

Truly beautiful. Thank you for the respectful insight into traveling such rich and diverse cultures.


Rowena October 14, 2013 at 10:20 pm

Great post! I am glad that you chose freedom for your children — both female AND male. The rigid gender roles in Muslim society also constrain men. We don’t think of that because they enjoy so many more freedoms than the women but their lives are circumscribed in some ways, too.

I have nothing but contempt and revulsion for Muslim culture because of its extreme sexism so it was very interesting to hear you describing things you liked. After saying that you couldn’t go out for a run, couldn’t even leave your house, and had to be covered up when you did, I had a hard time imagining why the decision to leave was difficult.


Tina October 14, 2013 at 10:27 pm

I will talk more later on the boys because it is true that it would have affected them as well, but like I said above, it really took me by surprise how many things were nice. My Muslim friends did not care that I was Christian. They saw me as a person and took me in as one of their own. The hospitality they showed us was unlike anything we have ever experienced anywhere else and their care for us was deep and genuine. Other foreign women wore whatever they wanted, but I chose, out of respect for the culture I was a guest in, to dress more appropriately. And perhaps that is one of the reasons I was taken in. Learning a local oral dialect probably helped, too. It always surprised and delighted my friends that I could communicate about everything from diapers to exchange rates! :-)


Rowena October 14, 2013 at 10:23 pm

It also strikes me that you have gone from one extreme to the other — from one of the most sexist to one of the most egalitarian societies in the world. If you’d moved somewhere in between the two extremes, the transition might not have been as dramatic & thought-provoking. I think it’s great that your family got to experience both cultures intimately.


Tina October 14, 2013 at 10:29 pm

Yes. Life is a bit ironic like that, isn’t it? I marvel at it constantly! It really has given me so much to think about as I observe two cultures that are polar opposites and yet I love both so dearly!


Jennifer Rice October 14, 2013 at 10:25 pm

Beautifully written! So glad that in your move…I had her for 6 months! Such a beautiful young woman she is becoming. Please give her a hello and hug from me! Well wishes to all of the Traveling Tribe!


Tina October 14, 2013 at 10:34 pm

She absolutely adored her time in your classroom. I know you observed her go through a pretty big transition and were a huge part of helping us get her from one world to the next. We will always be in debt to you, Mrs. Rice! Love and big hugs from Copenhagen!


Deepa October 14, 2013 at 11:01 pm

What an inspiring post. My daughter is only seven months old, but compared to her newborn days, I already feel that the decisions my husband and I are having to make for her are becoming increasingly complicated. I hope we will handle the big things with this much wisdom and grace when the time comes.


Tina October 15, 2013 at 9:22 am

You are already giving your daughter so many opportunities to explore and experience the world! Thankfully, we grow with our kids so when we get to the bigger decisions we have had time to think things through and our decisions just make sense because we know our kids.


Cathryn October 15, 2013 at 7:11 am

what kind of car do you guys drive when your traveling to different countries? im about to buy one that I can travel in and need something reliable. thanks!


Tina October 15, 2013 at 9:35 am

Since we have three kids, we opted for a a three row Mazda 5. It is used, but it reliable and I think that is very important if you are going to be hitting the road! We also love the Toyota Versa and the VW Touran!


Camilla Jørvad October 16, 2013 at 3:01 pm

Thankyou so much for sharing this. I am raising a daughter of my own (only 4 now, but that will change soon enough:) so I understand your thoughts/worries. I hear wonderful things about Morrocco, but I am also very excited to follow your experiences here in Denmark. I have always found it very interesting to see one’s own world/country/characteristics/environment with the eyes of a newcomer/”outsider”. to get some fresh perspective :)
hope you are enjoying copenhagen. autumn is my favourite time of year :)


Leah S. October 24, 2013 at 5:21 pm

Thanks for sharing this insight. I’m sure your daughter is thankful for the freedom she has is Denmark.


Thais October 24, 2013 at 9:49 pm

Great post! My husband and I are both from Latin America and looks like we are going to be raising our kids in realities that are not close at all to the one we grew up with. Offering the right set of values to your children is always challenging in parenthood but for us as expat parents, the additional mission is to figure out how to integrate as well those principles that we brought with us from our home country (which, by the way, not always make sense in the local culture!) Thanks Tina!


Jack Fussell October 25, 2013 at 3:23 am

Very well written and thought out Tina.


Lindsay December 11, 2013 at 3:39 pm

In a word: Wow. I get so caught up in the day-to-day of my “normal” life in the U.S. that I rarely think of what it might be like to live within a completely different culture. The American in me reacted to what I read, about women being required to cover up and being segregated from men. There are times within my own social circle I encounter chauvinism toward women, however subtle. I enjoy the freedom of being able to speak up if I feel it necessary. I don’t know you or your family but I think it’s a beautiful thing that you chose to give your daughter the freedom to choose what she wants in life.


Tina December 11, 2013 at 10:06 pm

It was definitely a humbling experience for us and we are so grateful for it. It is still hard at times for me to make sense of all of it!


JulieAnne January 29, 2014 at 1:14 am

I just recently found your blog. I’m curious. Where did you live in Morocco?


Jude W. March 14, 2014 at 9:22 pm

Thank you for writing about different cultures with empathy and understanding. The fact you met the Muslim culture half-way and that you were so readily accepted into the lives of the women enabled you to see the good in the people. Myself, I wouldn’t wish to live in such a culture but if I had to, I hope I’d approach it with the same sensitivity you showed.

Unfortunately, living in a western Christian culture doesn’t mean life is completely safe and free of problems either. We only have to listen to the news on our local TV stations. It doesn’t matter where we live – each place has some negative aspects to it. It would be a wonderful world if all the positive aspects of a culture could be blended together – not completely melded but allowing individuals to show the good that’s in each. I’d compare it to foods and cooking from around the world – different cuisines but all enjoyable and we can switch around as we wish. A world where everyone is unique but all acceptable.

This was one of the most thoughtful posts about cultures I’ve read in a long time. You sound like a wonderful person, Tina! I’m glad your daughter loves living in Denmark. Her years in Morocco and your influence will continue to shape her into an empathetic person like you are.


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