Mother-in-law returned to Pakistan today, taking my youngest brother-in-law with her. She has been here for the last five months or so and helping us take care of the children and home. It can be challenging to have two strong-minded women in the same house, but over the course of the last few years we have managed to learn to live together and to retain some level of affection and compassion for each other.
It can be difficult having extended family with you, I managed with the privacy issue by going into my room and shutting the door when I needed and alhamdulillah, my in-laws were quite good at respecting my need for some quiet time.
On hearing my occasional whinging people might think I am relieved to have her go, but actually this isn’t the case. The kids miss her like crazy, she helped so much with managing a busy household and she was good company when things didn't get her down too much. She really did make a place for herself as the lady of the house with her constant ibadah (prayer) and concern for everyone. I know hubby will miss her immensely – both her care and her yummy paratha’s (buttery unleavened bread) for breakfast.
My other brother-in-law will be joining her in a week or two, and it will be the first time in four years or so that I will not have anyone beside hubby and the kid staying with us. Both the brother-in-laws are going back to Pakistan to get married mash’Allah and everyone is a little disappointed we cannot attend the weddings (although knowing my hubby I am not completely ruling out a sudden announcement to get packing).
In any case after finally sending them off at midday (after finishing packing at 11am and finishing shopping at 11.30am – pretty much the norm with my in-laws), everyone who had come along to say goodbye went home and it went rather quiet. It gave me time to take stock and think about the manic last few months. There were three things that stuck in my mind.
The first was our diets. We have all been eating badly and everyone seems to have gained weight. The latest trip to the dentist also unearthed some problems with Little Man’s teeth which I felt incredibly guilty about. I often make a detour on a Saturday whilst I am doing my chores, to the Saturday for treats such as donuts and lots of chocolate. So this Saturday I made the detour and came out with lots of fruit and vegetables. We spoke about this over dinner and hubby was agreeable. I got the kids to agree that we would all help each other to eat only food that is good for us and have been trying to offer alternatives when they ask for something that I am trying to cut down on instead of saying no outright.
The second thing I was thinking about was the way I spend money. I have realised I spend more than I need to and don’t put enough thought into what I spend on. This is something I need to manage better, especially considering the fact I want to work less hours. It helped today trying to be thoughtful about whether I really need something, but shopping online is a whole different thing – it just does not feel like real money does it?
The third thing I have been thinking about is the way I have been spending my time. I found in Ramadan that to really engage in my worship with concentration, I gave up a lot of the different things I liked to do so that my concentration was not being affected by too many things to think about: work, family, writing, crafting, managing our home. Slowly I have gone back to being very involved with all of those things and I am finding myself distracted in my salah again and spending less time in nawafil (non-obligatory) worship.
So I have come to the conclusion that it is all about thoughtfulness – taking a minute before I make a choices about what I eat or spend, or what I choose to spend my time doing. This is difficult for a person like me who reacts to things very quickly without much thought. It certainly does not come naturally. I think this is common in modern life where events tend to move so quickly that deep thought and reflection are rare.
I have decided to show myself some kindness and mercy, so that I can leave some space in my life for the mercy of Allah (SWT) by thinking about what He wants from me? Does eating this food, spending this money or using my time for this activity really benefit me in the greater scheme of things, or am I just making myself unwell/poor/distracted? I don’t know how long I can maintain this, but I will try insh’Allah.