There was a muslim woman in the US, when she married she had a clause in her nikah-contract saying that if her husband were to choose to be polygamous, which she was ok with, she would be the one to decide on living arrangements for the family within the financial frame her husband set and provided she was fair.
So when her husband announced he was getting married again, the first wife was told how much money she could spend and set about arranging housing for them all.
The day before her husband’s second nikah, the first wife met up with her husband and the wife to be. She took them to a big, beautiful house and told them this was the family home. The husband would live there, together with the children, and the wives would take turns in the house, each having a master bedroom of her own to share with the husband. The wives got a small flat each to live in on their days alone. The first wife let the second wife have first pick from two small flats.
The husband couldn’t find fault with the arrangement since it was all fair, and done according to the clause in the nikah-contract.
The first wife explained that her intent was to make sure all her husband’s children would grow up as brothers and sisters in a family, and with full access to two parental figures – half the time mom and dad, half the time dad and tia. She didn’t want the children to grow up without their half-siblings and she didn’t want the children to spend half their childhood with a de facto single parent.
This arrangement also meant that the husband could never escape from his responsibilities as a father. He had to take full responsibility every day, all day, for all his children. The mothers got to know and love each other’s children.
The husband was somewhat taken aback by it all. In stead of going off on honeymoon with his new wife, the newlyweds got to move into a house full of children while the first wife went to a spa. And the husband never gets time off, while each wife can spend every three days doing what she wants, studying, resting, going to museums or to the cinema…
I think this is a good example of how we must learn to think differently, to question old ideas about gender and how things are done. Muslim men might claim a right to polygyny, but they have no right whatsoever to be absent, half time dads.