On learning about a young Saudi boy not seeing his father for about ten months due to his dad’s busy international business schedule, I was rather saddened. However, I was surprised to learn from his mother’s comments that the poor lad was unlikely to have seen his father even if he were at home because he would have been busy with business commitments there. This rather suggests that there is no room for fathers to develop strong emotional links with their children – or even their spouses.
I believe much of this goes back to the segregation of the sexes and the very conservative nature of Saudi families. Women and children of the family and extended family live together in a closed community. Children are unlikely to see their Saudi mother and father hugging, kissing or even holding hands. These are actions which typically take place in private with the husband and wife behind closed doors. This is very much unlike Western countries where affection is widely and broadly shown and demonstrated. A real cultural difference! The showing of affection is very much a part of our Western life and, nowaday, is seen as an important part of our emotional upbringing and well-being. But my husband was brought up in an England where demonstrative affection between father and son was ‘not cricket’ – and that is not so many years ago. I’m glad our society has changed enough so that my husband feels able to show and tell his sons that he loves and cares for them. But I say that from the context of having a Dad who loved to be hugged and cuddled, as do I.
I know from a friend of mine, who worked as a governess for one of the Royal families in Saudi, that the male children of the household live with the women until almost puberty. This engenders a stronger bond between mothers and children than between fathers and their offspring. And, probably expalins why most of the Saudi gentlemen of my acquaintaince always claim that their wives rule the roost! It would be unfair to say that this segregation leads mothers to be more emotionally attached to their children than their husbands, but as an armchair psychologist one might think so. However, I refer back to my friend who said that the Prince and Princess were deeply in love and would spend as much time together as his busy scheduled and her household commitments allowed.
There’s no right or wrong – just difference. C’est la vie!