Saturday 21 May 2011

Lessons from Motherhood – For Those Not Listening.

I recently overheard a conversation (no I wasn’t listening, it’s an open plan office) between two of my colleagues about motherhood. They were two of a number of recently married, hip young women, in their mid-30’s, a little older than me and mostly a few grades senior to me.

They were discussing motherhood and thoughts about trying to conceive and options around leaving work. I thought to myself, I have been through all of this numerous times and learnt so much, yet I didn’t feel like I was part of that conversation. Perhaps because I felt like they couldn’t see my past my hijab and brown skin to imagine I had something worth saying. Perhaps I was unfairly assuming these things about them. Also partly, because I didn’t feel I could butt into their conversation uninvited – there should be a book about the etiquettes of the open plan office.

Anyway, it got me thinking about what I had learned through this journey of motherhood, so even though those ladies are not listening, I’m going to carry on and share my thoughts on this anyway.

1. If you are ambitious and want to do well in your career, know that having children will set you back in your career path. Unless you are a professional with a well-defined career path. I felt like six months of maternity leave put me back two year in my career for each child. At the same time, you cannot pursue what you want in your career path blindly – I gave up long hours, overtime and turned down many opportunities for interesting projects or jobs because I didn’t want to steal time and energy I currently give to my children. I was recently encouraged to go for an Olympic-related post dealing with local authority operations during the two weeks of the Olympics, when I didn’t, a lot of people asked me why. In the end I had to be honest and say I was not willing to work long hours as family was priority. But honestly, it doesn’t matter so much anymore – a small loss for a massive gain alhamdulillah.

2. Your priorities change, sometimes radically. My ambition to get to the top and prove myself has been replaced by a desire to do things that I enjoy and that are meaningful to me. I care less what others think and more about the effect of what I do on my children, the legacy that I will leave behind and the importance of my actions in the long scheme of things (a whole life and an afterlife).

3. You are stretched enormously as a person. Your temper, temperament and behaviour all come under your own scrutiny as you find that muttering a bad word under your breath suddenly means an unwanted addition to your child’s vocabulary, or your habit of flying of the handle soon starts to be exhibited in your little one. As your child’s first teacher and life-long guide, you have to strive so much harder to be a better person and find better ways of responding to the world.

4. If you are to have any chance of happiness as a mother, you have to tear up the rulebook and write your own rules. According to “them” the undefined world in general, whether you work, stay at home, home-school, do nothing with your kids and let them run wild, or do everything under the sun – you are still somehow doing it wrong. It helped me to think through and write my own definition of motherhood. So far the list of what works for me is:

- Love unconditionally
- Allow yourself to be loved
- Have fun, sing, laugh, play
- Let your children guide and lead you
- Come down to your children’s level
- Stop saying NO all the time
- Be honest
- Value and honour yourself as a mother
- Allow yourself to make mistakes and when you do to start again.

“Know that the cockeyed definition of motherhood to which most of us are trying to measure up, makes it very hard to love being a mom. Only when you begin to write your own definition of great mothering, embracing the contradictions within, will you truly feel at home in your new life” - Mary Stark.


  1. Salaam sis. Your points are very valid and I agree wholeheartedly with your list.

    It's so worth it to miss out on promotions, raises, etc. to raise our children. After all, your co-workers and bosses only "love" you as long as you are producing. Your family insha'Allah will love you forever.

  2. Hi I just found you among the list of blogs for the Top 25 Faith based. (I gave you a vote) :-)
    I was browsing through them because of another article called 'Because Christianity Doesn't Own "Faith"'. My first thought, being an open minded non-christian, was 'wow, that is true'. Why, as soon as someone mentions 'faith' they automatically jump to Christianity? There are so many religions on this planet, having faith in a Higher Power (no mater what you call Him) is still faith...and this world needs more of it.
    I hope my post doesnt offend anyone, I just wanted to let you know I was so happy to see a Muslim blogger.
    Many Blessing to you and your family. :-)

  3. Anonymous27 May, 2011

    Soo true. I am not into reading manuals or books on how I should raise my children as all children are different and respond differently to various situations. You work with your family that suits you best and always seek guidance and help from Allah as without Him we are going to find ourselves in confusion. I respect the manner and ways my mother raised me and try to follow her example after the Quran and Sunnah.

  4. Hello! I found your blog on the Top 25 list-and voted for ya:) I absolutely love your blog. I am a pagan mother and I agree with your list. Regardless of anyone's religion a mother is a mother and our children are cherished. I am so happy I found your blog and look forward to future posts! Have a great week!

  5. Salaam. Love this post! Especially points 3 and 4! You hit the nail right on the head. Something I try to do but fail at miserably. Hope you and the kids are well and enjoying half term. I have reports to write now!

  6. Hello! I found your blog on the Top 25 and I voted for you! I am a Pagan mommy, and I have always admired Muslim women for the strength and devotion and I feel for the persecution and misunderstanding that you receive. I agree completely with this post. In today's society, it seems like a hard choice between career and children. I had my first child at age 20. Now both of my children are going to school full-time, giving me a change to find my career path. I have not regretted raising my children without help. It has been a huge blessing from the Divine to see every moment of my children's infancy. Blessings on you!