The family was very important to the ancient Egyptians. Paintings in tombs often show the different generations enjoying each other’s company. The Old Kingdom sage Hardjedef advised his readers: “If you would be a worthy man, set up home and marry a sensible woman, so that a son will be born to you.”
People did not expect to live to an old age, so they usually married quite young compared to today and tried to have plenty of children to live after them.
When a boy reached adulthood he left his parents’ house and set up his own home. Girls usually lived with their parents until they married. Marriages were usually arranged for political reasons, especially in the highest levels of society but the more ordinary people generally chose their partners.
In the early times, a couple often moved in together as no religious or legal ceremony was required but in later periods it was usual to have a marraige contract drawn up in case of arguments about children or property.
It was no unusual for people to remarry, either because their partner died or because the couple split up. Divorce was quite common and the marriage contracts would specify how much a man would pay his wife if he divorced her.
An ancient Egyptian household could be quite large. As well as the head of the family, his wife and their children, it was not uncommon for grandparens, unmarried aunts and sisters to live in the family home. The whole family shared one living and sleeping space yet the family members lead quite separate lives.
Boys went to school or work as soon as they were old enough, but girls helped their mothers around the house, learning the skills they would use in their own homes.