x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Rise in Emiratis waiting to have children

Education and careers are delaying marriage for many local women.

Changing social trends have led to Emirati women getting married and having children at a later age.

Eman Amer, 31, from Abu Dhabi, a mother of four who married her first cousin when she was 20, said a number of her Emirati friends have put their education and career ahead of having a family.

Having more choices could mean women were unable to juggle work and family life, she said. "Maybe it is because more women are working now, and they feel guilty maybe that they don't spend more time with their kids," Mrs Amer added.

Career-driven women will wait until they are more settled before having children, she said.

Her four daughters will have arranged marriages when they are about the same age as she was.

"I didn't have a problem and most of the people I know didn't have problems with that," she said.

Shayma Al Suwaidi, 26, also from Abu Dhabi, runs her own business and said education has allowed women a voice, which has led to later marriages and births.

"It depends on the demographics. In some areas, people are still getting married at 16, 17 or 18, and have lots of kids. The more urbanised areas, like the cities, are showing this trend of lower birth rates and higher ages for marriage, but in places like Sir Bani Yas, where women are not educated, it still happens."

Mrs Al Suwaidi got married when she was 22 and is now pregnant with her second child. Most of her friends have yet to marry.

A more relaxed attitude towards arranged marriages is one factor.

"Women are getting more picky about who they marry. They are still very common, but they are not arranged like they used to be," said Mrs Al Suwaidi. "It is arranged and then the woman can choose to go ahead or not, so it is not like it is her parents' decision or anything."

The trend for Emirati women to marry later worries the older generations, who want their daughters to have children right after they wed.

Mrs Al Suwaidi's mother got married at 16 and she has six children. Mrs Amer's mother had 11 children, the first when she was a teenager.

"They want their daughters to be married like they were and have lots of kids. They start getting worried by the age of 25," Mrs Al Suwaidi said.

But marriage is not as important as it used to be, said Zabna Amer, 27, from Abu Dhabi. "Before, women were dependent on men for everything. Now, most work," said the finance worker. "They don't have to depend on men any more."

zalhassani@thenational.ae