As a working woman and Muslimah mother one of the things that you will experience occasionally is absolute exhaustion. It doesn’t have to be like this all of the time, but now and again, no matter how well-organised you are, the demands of children, work, husbands, travel, worship, extended family, community and life in genermal will catch up with you. I am feeling this way a little for the last two weeks and I can’t put my finger on why. Work has been busy, but it often is. At home, the children keep me busy, but no more than usual and my better half does more than his share to help me with the children and housework alhamdulillah.
One of the hardest things is to own up and accept that you are trying to do too much – that necessitates cutting back some of what you do and if you feel that everything you do is necessary, then where do you start? Some of the things that have helped me in such situations in the past have been:
1. Venting. I do this via journaling and blogging and occasionally by whinging to my husband. Better out than in I say, though you have to be careful of the medium. I use this blog to talk about these things, but am careful not to moan-and-run as that would not be useful to anyone. My journal is for those things that I would not like to say to anyone and often helps me to get to the core of what is bothering me. When I am done I usually shred the pages and put them in the recycling box. The things that are important and maybe need to change I share with my husband and he is usually able to re-assure me. This is also important because any problems I am facing are not really mine, but ours. If all fails, sometimes a good cry helps (you look really, really good afterwards too, no honestly)
2. Taking a break. Ideally this would mean a holiday – but that’s not happening soon (I last went to Pakistan in 2003 and intend to visit again this December inshallah). This being the case, any little break will do. For me that can mean an hour after work in the park, a Saturday at my mums being lazy, an evening meal out (to save me cooking),a Sunday in the Essex or Kent countryside or a weekend away somewhere we can take the children with us. None of these are really big things, but they still contribute towards keeping us sane for the simple reason they are easy and fun – laughter is a magical stress-disperser.
3. Simplifying life. The less clothes you own, the less you have to iron. The less objects you own, the less tidying you have to do. I started wearing abaya when I was expecting Little Man and since then I have not had to worry about waist lines, ironing, wearing the same thing twice or if my backside looks big in something. Even if you don’t wear abaya, the principle can apply if you create your own version of the basic capsule wardrobe. Buy less, re-use more, grow and make more. Its so satisfying and also a good example for your children.
4. Looking at your expectations and standards. I have a great magnet on my fridge that says “Only one of us can look great, me or the house” – which doesn’t explain the times when both of us look a mess. Its worth looking back at the expectations we have of our own roles, sometimes these are higher than anyone else would set for us. We often feel that we can never be good enough as mothers because we are trying to turn our children into a cross between a Sahabah, a Saladin, an Ibn-Rushd and a Nobel-prize winning rocket scientist, and that’s never going to happen (If it makes anyone feel better, Little Man can swear in three languages – I bet all of your kids haven’t picked that up). We criticise ourselves because our houses aren’t immaculate, we got left behind on the career rung because we were having babies (alhamdulillah) and because we think we aren’t good enough wives, sisters, daughters, neighbours or members of the community. This is when we should give ourselves, our children and our husbands a break and accept our imperfections. Look at yourself through your children’s eyes and you will see what a queen they see you as. Something that particularly helped me was taking stock of what I perceived motherhood to be and then creating my own definition that I could live with.
5. Pray. Whether a quick dua when you need it, the fard salah at its time, or two rakah of nawafil to help you with your troubles, prayer reconnects us and calms us down.