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)


  1. Asalam alaikum dear sister Umm Salihah,

    I wish I could give you a warm cup of tea and a big hug! I pray Allah will give you guidance and strength during these difficult times.
    Wa salaam and love, Maryam Umm Abd-Arrahmen

  2. I really loved this post. That quote you had about everyone having a hold over you was so beautiful and relevant. Wishing you all the best. I hope you feel stronger and happier soon.

  3. Beautiful sister- I'm glad I came across this blog.
    I can relate to you in wats that are more than one- maybe you'd find some comfort in reading my thoughts at

    You aren't alone - and I hear you. This post speaks to me very strongly. And know that just now as I finished reading this, I've sent prayers for you .. may Allah bless you with so much barakah and peace and love and the opportunity to make the most of your life dearest.. you are doing a wonderful job already ❤️🌸

  4. Dear sister I pray that Allah will grant all your dreams and wishes one fine day in shaa Allah.

  5. How beautifully put! After returning from KSA we moved to a small town in India as we had our own house there. It's been over a decade and our "next year" hasn't come yet. Of all the places we're in a small town with less opportunities to learn Deen or work. It has become tough to meet basic necessities. We're a family of five girls too.

    I yearn to see my family happy, to see progress, to be able to go on a family trip to Umrah.

    Sigh. Love this post.