Friday 29 September 2017

Ageing Parents, Self-Care and Acceptance of Where I am.

I have been yearning for a holiday, a break or an opportunity to travel for some time now but have not had the money or opportunity. Instead I have been coming to terms with where my life is right now.  I am no longer 21, although I have always felt about 17 in my head.  Recent troubles with my children, a difficult summer and being made redundant recently have taken their toll leaving me feeling exhausted and de-motivated.  I have aged ten years in one summer.  Hubby spent the summer in Pakistan doing dawah work and looking after his dad who has been unwell.  I fully support him, but at the same time I have been left with an underlying sense of unfairness that just won’t go away – when do I get to leave this little chunk of East London and see what is outside?  When do I get a day that isn’t about meeting the needs of everyone around me?

It’s unfair to blame him, because other things have changed too.  Both my mum and mum-in-law have been diagnosed with arthritis and have been recommended knee surgery, both are avoiding it.  I go with them to hospital and doctors appointments and try and support them where I can.  I spent one long evening with my mum-in-law in hospital due to her high blood pressure scaring her doctor and hubby spent another night there because she had a trapped nerve (sciatica) which has left her in agony and unable to do much.

This means I am entering another phase in my life, that of both our parents ageing, becoming more dependent and also more anxious about the future.  I fully intend to step up to my responsibilities.  I know that one day I will be in their place and my kids are watching how I treat them.

At the same time, it feels as if I am mourning my independence and shutting the door on many of my dreams to travel and explore the world.  This is something that has been incredibly hard for me to accept and to write about.  I wanted to show my children the world, to open their minds and horizons and to help them feel braver about going out into the world.  I wanted them to understand and respect people that were different to them and also to see the world through their eyes.

The promise of “maybe next year” has been there for so long that it has become meaningless and I am always loathe to leave something to a next year that no one is promised, and you need a break and some inspiration when you need it, not next year.

Of course I must be grateful for what I have, I thank Allah SWT every day for all that he has given me and that others only dream of.  But I don’t believe in lying to myself. I feel disappointed, sad and a little angry sometimes.  I believe that life must be a balance of worship, work and play:

It was narrated that 'Abdullah (RA) said: "The Messenger of Allah entered my apartment and said: "I have been told that you stand all night (in prayer) and fast all day.' I said: 'Yes (I do).' He said: 'Do not do that. Sleep and stand (in prayer); fast and break your fast. For your eyes have a right over you, your body has a right over you, your body has a right over you, your wife has a right over you, your guest has a right over you, and your friend has a right over you. I hope that you will have a long life and that it will be sufficient for you to fast three days of each month. That is fasting for a lifetime, because a good deed is equal to ten like it.' (Sunan an-Nasa'i 2391)

When there is no play, you start to feel like a beast of burden.  Instead of enjoying your achievements you start to feel a sense of relief as each one is ticked off – your child has a place in a good school, you somehow got a Dr’s appointment (like gold dust at our GP), you managed to get through another day.

This is why the need for self-care and rest feels more important than ever to me.  For those of us who cannot run off on a holiday to the beach, or mountains or mysterious cities (because of you know – kids and getting dinner on and stuff), I have always advocated finding small pockets of time for yourself.  Treating myself when I can, trying to set limits when no-one is allowed to bother me. Trying to find spontaneous opportunities with my children to enjoy our day or do something fun.

I will get past this, my happy nature always pushes its way back up to the top.  But I will give myself the chance to work through this, to mourn my old identity of a young women, a young mother and someone who had her whole life in front of them.  As I come close to my 40’s, I have to embrace my  new identity as a mature woman, a mother of teens as well as little ones, as a carer and as someone who has already left the strongest, healthiest years of her life behind her, spending them in caring for her family and working hard.  Each day feels more precious than ever and life so very short to achieve all that you hope for:

”It will be, on the Day they see it, as though they had not remained [in the world] except for an afternoon or a morning thereof.” ~ Quran (79:46)

Of course, the answer is to keep the long and most important goal in front of you.  For us as Muslims that is Jannah.  The promise of a life after this short one that will make us forget every disappointment, challenge and hardship we face in this one.  I see the beauty in this world and remind myself it is less than a shadow of what we have been promised.  For all the dreams in this world, I have to keep sight of the real, big goal.  At the same time I want to find pleasure and joy in each day so that when I am grateful to Allah (SWT), it is genuine and from my heart and soul.

“Other faces that day will be happy; pleased on account of the effort they had put in earlier (in the dunya)”. ~ Quran (88: 8-9)

“O you who believe, do not let your wealth or children divert you away from the remembrance of Allah, And whoever does that are indeed the losers” ~ Quran (63:9)

Monday 25 September 2017

Internet Free Parenting in the Holidays and Beyond

At the beginning of the children’s school holidays I came to the conclusion that the internet was having a negative affect on my children.  I could see it in the Kardashian culture seeping into my daughters thinking.  I could hear it in the language they were using.  It was becoming visible through their behaviour when I did not allow them on the internet and their behaviour when I asked them to get off of the computer. 

I think that your childhood, particularly your free time as a child, helps you to explore what you like and enjoy, informing the paths you want to take as adults.  If you spend lots of time on the computer, you are spending less time trying out sports, books, games and creative endeavours.  You are spending more time sitting down, being a passive recipient of whatever you are looking at.  I found that my boys drifted towards YouTube and watching silly challenges and pranks.  Little Lady kept trying to get onto Snapchat and Instagram using my phone or her friends phones and was being exposed to a very materialistic lifestyle.  I could see her picking up a very negative attitude and lots of ungratefulness seeping into the things she said and did.

Around this time I read an article from a mother who had given her son free access to the internet and found that over time he lost interest and spent more time doing other things, like playing outside.  I did discuss with Little Man, who seems to be most addicted to the internet, how he would react to something like that.  He agreed that he would be online all day and would not want to stop at all.

So the day their dad travelled to Pakistan, I instigated an internet ban.  It didn’t go down very well.  There were a few days of crying and moaning about boredom.  Once again I was reminded that it “wasn’t fair”, Gorgeous tried all sorts of flattery and cajoling to get me to take the password off.  Little Man on the other hand spent a good few days angry and complaining he had nothing to do, hated the holidays and would have been better off at school.  I let him vent, reminding him I didn’t care and that it was not my job to entertain him.

I actually think it is good to let them be bored. On the one hand I don’t think it is a parents job to entertain their child for every single minute of the day.  On the other, I think they need to rise to the challenge and find themselves things to do.  And did they just.  The levels of fighting, mischief and mess went up in the house.  It was exhausting and infuriating at times.  But the level of creativity also went up. 

Little Man has been baking cupcakes and sending them to the neighbours.  Little Lady has been pouring through my cook books for pasta recipes and smoothies and giving me shopping lists of ingredients.  Gorgeous has gotten as far as experimenting with lemonade as an excuse to taste his grandmothers cans of Seven-Up (with a LOT of fresh lemon and lime added).

They have been building all manners of dens.  They started by hanging a blanket from the front of the boys bunk bed and getting inside with their toys.

Then they moved to fixing a blanket between the top of the bunk bed and the top of their wardrobe, turning the whole room into a kind of tent.  They laid their blankets on the floor underneath and threw in all of their pillows and soft toys.  My younger four spent the day reading and eating in their tent-room.  Little Lady was just happy they left her alone for a while.  They then graduated to building hammocks.  They made a complete mess of their room, they woke their grandmother up in the middle of the night sneaking downstairs to get cellotape to tape a blanket to the bed and create a hammock.  I would never have thought it would stay up except I found Little Man fast asleep in it the next morning.

They have spent hours on the trampoline, when not jumping on it, they take a picnic outside and sit on it to eat.  Once the boys manage to convince me to get on and then proceeded to jump so hard that I got thrown around and couldn’t get off. 

They have been making things with craft materials – I left Gorgeous in tears at home one day because I refused to leave the internet on.  He was upset because he would be bored and have nothing to do.  I felt guilty, but came home to a big map on a piece cardboard with 3D trees, buildings and beaches.  He had forgotten about the internet.

I caught Little Man drawing cartoons, something he has never liked or had the patience for.  I praised his drawings and he ended up drawing a different figure for each of us – both of my little girls loved the cats he drew them, I have my panda stuck inside my wardrobe.

I got them to help out with the gardening, digging holes so that we could finally plant the trees we have had in pots and planning where things should go.

And they have been reading.  They read everything they could get their hands on.  Little Lady and Gorgeous have always been big readers, but Little Man’s English teacher had asked him to try slightly more challenging books which he had been avoiding.  Currently they are spending  whole days reading, with Little Lady raiding my book pile and telling me about the books I have been looking forward to read.  Even Little Man has been trying the type of books his teacher recommended.

Another positive side affect was that they suddenly all seemed to get their hearing back.  The internet seemed to make them deaf and mute, so engrossed in what they were doing that they wouldn’t hear me until I had my finger on the off button and they were having apoplectic fits at the computer being turned off.

It has not been effortless and there are draw backs.  Little Man tried to do a back flip on the trampoline despite me asking him not to and managed to knee himself in the nose, we spent one morning at a walk-in centre and another morning at the doctors to make sure it wasn’t broken.  In between finding things to do they fight like crazy.  I spend way too much time for my liking acting as judge, mediator and coach in disputes over the most ridiculous things (“he laughed at me”, “he farted”, “he touched my food, I’m not eating it now”).  The house is never silent as it is when the computer is on.  Silence is like a magic, special thing that is just not meant for me. 

They need internet access now they are back at school to help with school assignments and homework, but I am so glad I shut down internet use for the holidays.  They got to try some of the things we did as children, they were pushed into being creative and use their imagination and they had a break from exposure to some of the toxic effects of the internet, pop culture and gadgets. 

If you want to know more about the effects of these things you can read Toxic Childhood by Sue Palmer (my review here).

Coming Home and Touching Base

I had a hectic day today: Little Lady's secondary school appeal, Baby’s first morning at nursery, Darling’s first full day at reception and a meeting with Gorgeous’ teacher to discuss the process of applying for secondary schools and Year 6 SAT tests, all before 10am.  Hubby and I split the meetings and drop-offs between us then met up again for him to take me to work.  Work was varied, interesting and full-on: a new mobile working project, a request for some analysis, information requests, meeting invites and a lunch date with friends.

So of course coming home means some rest at last: taking off your shoes and hijab, sitting down for a bit before you have to make dinner, perhaps even a nap.  Or not.  When you are the lady of a busy household, you don’t belong to yourself.  You are the centre of everyone.  You are their solace, their refuge, their therapy.  You are a welcoming pair of arms, a warm lap and sometimes even a punch bag for grumpy little people that need to vent.  You are the answer to everyone’s problems: “I’m hungry”, “I’m tired”, “I hate x”, “I need help with my homework”, “I can’t find my swimming kit”.

You have had a long day and they have had a long day too, you make theirs so much better.  I usually find a scrum as I get through the door:

Darling: “Mama I’m soooo tired”
Little Man: “Guess what, I’m going to audition for the school play, it’s Aladdin.  I want to be the monkey and I get to miss two days of classes”
Mum-in-Law: “You’re mum and dad were here, you just missed them, they brought me lunch”
Baby: “Mamaaaaa” – arm’s outstretched
Husband: “Can you kids take the noise in the other room, we can’t hear each other”
Guest: “There you are, good to see you.”
Little Lady: “I feel sick mum, I’m going to bed, wake me up in a little while, I have homework”
Gorgeous: “I’m starving mum, did you get us anything?”

Pretty much all at the same time.  It takes about 20 minutes for everyone to get heard and acknowledged and for me to get to hear a little about how their day has been.

But this is one of the most important parts of my day.  It sets the tone for the evening.  I can make sure the babies get lots of hugs and cuddles, which brings me comfort too.  I check what everyone has had for lunch, or as often is the case with hubby and mum-in-law if they even got round to having lunch.  I check who has prayed and who still needs to and we work out who gets to use the computer for homework first.

Then I get to take my hijab and abaya off, freshen up, take stock of the state of the house and start dinner, with everyone knowing what they have to do next.

Saturday 23 September 2017

Sister Spotlight: Deaf Not Stupid

My youngest sister wrote recently about the hearing impairment she has had since birth and the way it has impacted her life.  I loved the article:

I learned from an early age that if you don’t make a fuss about something, neither will other people. Because I didn’t make a big deal about my deafness or draw much attention to it, other people didn’t either, and assumed it wasn’t a big thing, nor did they treat me differently. In hindsight, this had its blessings but also its drawbacks too. It meant that I didn’t feel too much of an outsider or felt too different, but it also meant that I wasn’t always able to talk about my disability with some people when I needed to. In one way, I normalised the issue, but in other ways I blended in a little too much, so people couldn’t see that sometimes I had to try harder, or I would struggle to make up for my deafness.

One of the reasons I wrote this post was because I wanted to articulate how important it is for me – as a woman of colour, as a Muslim woman,  as a deaf woman – that these things do not limit us or stop us from being like everyone else, or doing our best. As a child I was very conscious of my disability because I was surrounded by it – fellow deaf students, support teachers who shadowed me, speech therapists, and even the equipments we had to use to aid our hearings, and it made it harder for me to make friends quickly, nor did I have a lot of confidence. But I will also say that this didn’t stop me in my achievements either – I continuously got the highest grades and awards for my years through most of high school, and left with the highest GCSEs and A Levels in my year because I was determined to not be held back.

The thing is, I have never seen her as disabled in any way.  In fact she made me understand very clearly that having a disability does not mean you have to be dis-abled in your life.  There are those who don’t have an impairment, but disable themselves through their laziness, lack of confidence or procrastination – having avenues to do so much, but never really getting anywhere in life.  Then there are people like my youngest sister who is bright, competent and sociable and has achieved and continues to achieve so much mash'Allah.  This article illustrates just that to me.

Friday 8 September 2017

Good Deed Friday: Our Rohingya Brothers and Sisters

We have been hearing about the frightening situation of the Rohingya people of Myanmar over the last two years or more, over 146,000 children, women and men have been forced to flee to Bangladesh to escape violence since August 2017, but until recently it has seemed that the ethnic cleansing of these people has been ignored by most of the world.  In more recent days we have seen the President of Turkey speak out about the need for action to stop the genocide and bring aid and relief to the Rohingya.

With others also speaking out including Malala Yousufzai and Desmond Tutu, awareness of the situation is increasing and pressure is being placed on the UN to intervene.

What can we do?

Learn More:


Raise Awareness and Taking Action:
Restless Beings is an international human rights organisation that has been championing the human rights of the Rohingya, including through lobbying for international media and political attention, petitionsprotests and through sharing footage and witness statements of the situation in Myanmar.

Thursday 7 September 2017

Picture of the Day 07.09.17 - Missing You

This week my children started to go back to school, staggered throughout the week.  Today Darling started full time for the first time.  She was so excited she could barely sleep the night before and was up with a smile this morning.

When I went with Baby to pick her up, she bounded out of her classroom and grabbed her little sister in a hug telling her “I missed you so much!”

It made me smile all day.

Eid-ul-Adha 2017/1438 - Day 3: Laid Back Fashion, Biryani and Barbeques

The good thing about hosting everyone for Eid on the first day is that all of the hard work is over and we spent the next two days enjoying invitations to relatives.  Day three was hosted by my favourite Uncle who doesn’t miss a chance to get a barbeque going. 

My outfit for day three was from Fariha London whose good quality, practical separates I am a fan of.  This was on clearance for £10 and light, very soft and comfortable:

I accessorised with pearl jewellery and a scarf with pastel stripes.

Little Lady picked this up for £10 too.  I really like the print and the silver and pearl detail on the front.

In the end she wore a tunic top we found on sale for £10 at Aisha's Boutique (who I bought my day 2 outfit from):

The babies were also in salwar kameez:

The barbecue was in full flow and 
my uncle kept passing back bits of chicken and lamb to me whilst we waited for dinner.

I liked that everyone helped out with Dinner.  My cousin made the biryani from scratch and it tasted better than her mums, her brother made the salad.  My uncle barbequed cubes of chicken and lamb and also lamb kebabs and chicken legs.  My aunty made the curries.  The dessert was homemade cupcakes.

Just as we were finishing up, my uncle went back into the now dark garden and brought in some very well done corn on the cob much to everyone’s delight.

We finished the evening with good conversation and trying to stop the babies from dropping ice lolly juice everywhere.

I expected Eid to be a bit boring and not the same without my other half in Pakistan.  My heart was not in having fun.  But alhamdulilah my parents, siblings, the kids and my neighbours between them turned this into a happy, enjoyable and gentle eid full of good food, lovely babies, pretty outfits and interesting conversation.

*Additional pictures courtsey of my sisters Shutterbug Sister and Harlequin Sister
**Please note that none of the brands mentioned in this post have compensated me for mentioning thier products, these are simply my view.

Eid-ul-Adha 2017/1438 - Day 2: Mums Cooking, Pretty Outfits and Games

For the second day of Eid, my mum hosted dinner, so we spent a lazy day tidying, eating Eid leftovers and reading before we headed over mid-afternoon to my mums.

For the second day I wore this long tunic that I bought from a local vendor in east London called Aisha's Boutique, she is a friend who does online orders, and gets outfits made in Pakistan.  This one cost me £15 and I ended up buying another for Little Lady for £10 which she wore on day 3.  I love the cotton fabric and was surprised to find it had a slight stretch to it.  It looks like a church stained glass window, so I had to ask Little Lady to check if there were any crosses on it as it would mean I couldn’t pray whilst wearing it.  She cheekily reassured me there was no crosses, no saints, no last suppers anywhere.

I accessorised with the deep green scarf below, some sparkly green earrings that I have been wearing ever since, a sparkly bracelet my lovely sister-in-law gave me and  this big blingy cocktail ring that my cousin gave me for Eid.

Dinner at mum’s was a treat.  She always makes lamb pilau which I wait for Eid for, very fragrant and flavoursome, I would happily eat it with my fingers without any accompaniment.  There was also tandoori chicken, chicken karahi, meatball curry and lamb kebabs. The cake from the day before was dessert, along with my mum's rice pudding.

After dinner we spent a happy few hours playing a guessing game called Taboo, playing with the babies and posing for our annual Eid photoshoot.

Harelquin Sister's outfit was so elegant:

My mother-in-law had to drag us away or we would have been sitting talking late into the night.  I enjoyed the day so much, but most of all I enjoyed how the babies fell asleep as soon as we got them home.

*Additional pictures courtsey of my sisters Shutterbug Sister and Harlequin Sister

**Please note that none of the brands mentioned in this post have compensated me for mentioning thier products, these are simply my view.

Eid-ul-Adha 2017/1438 - Day 1: Hosting the Feast, Babies and Sweet Treats

I hosted Eid the first day and decided to invite as many close and extended family as I could muster and get everyone fed in one go.  I am a big believer that where two eat, three can share and where 20 can eat, another 10 can squeeze in insh’Allah.

I planned the food a few days before and started cooking the day before.  The kids helped with the cleaning and decorating and everything was ready for noon as the men had to pray jummah that afternoon and wanted to eat and get to the masjid on time.

My outfit for the day was one that I already had, but which was comfortable and easy to dress up:

You can forget the lovely red heels though, I spent most of the time in the kitchen in my slippers.

Little Lady wore a long jacket she had been pestering me for, this denim coloured kimono with lace panels from Haiqa, which seems to be turning into her go to place for eid clothes (she wore this outfit from them this last Eid).

We had the decorations up and the sweets and drinks laid out well before guests arrived.  Everyone brought cakes, sweets and donuts and flowers.  

Little Man made a lemon mocktail drink: fizzy lemonade, slices of lemon and lime, fresh mint, castor sugar and lots of ice.

Lunch was pilau rice with peas, lamb curry, chicken and potato curry, tandoori chicken, mint chutney, salad and channa chaat.

After lunch and midday prayers we spent a few hours eating cake and sweets and playing with the babies (or as Little Lady calls them collectively the Baby Squad).  We really enjoyed the mischief, pretty outfits and general mini-diva-like behaviour.

Once all of the guests had gone home, my neighbour came by to share Eid sweets and keep us company.  My neighbour is really good at henna and even better at keeping the babies still for long enough to apply it, so we managed to fit a henna session in.

We ended the day with a quiet dinner, the babies falling asleep early and hanging out with my older kids eating chocolates.

*Additional pictures courtsey of my sisters Shutterbug Sister and Harlequin Sister

**Please note that none of the brands mentioned in this post have compensated me for mentioning thier products, these are simply my view.