Monday 30 December 2019

2019 and Word of the Year in Review

Word of the Year 2019

My Word of the Year for 2019 was Acceptance.  As I approached my 40th birthday I made a conscious decision to accept, love and believe in myself. In past years I have used my Word of the Year as a motivator and reminder with varying degrees of success. With some (Salah, Health, Discipline), I feel like I have a lot of room for improvement. With others, I feel that I have had some success (Courage, Shukr, Service). With my Word of the Year for 2019: acceptance, I feel that this was a key theme throughout 2019 including in my relationships work and sense of self.

I came to accept that I'm getting older, that my body is aging, that the years of my youth are behind me. I came to accept that my legacy will not be as the "first" or "youngest" of anything, but rather whatever comes from the slow, long work of a lifetime. 

I came to accept I made mistakes in the raising of my children, in particular my beloved, fierce, sensitive, oldest child.  My intentions were good, and I am learning to do better every day. So rather than beat myself with the stick of "what if", I will try harder every day. I will forgive, accept and try again every time I make a mistake. I will be patient, loving and firm - the last, a form of love that perhaps I haven't always been as good at.

I came to accept some of the things that have hounded me painfully through the years - the fact that I work and that I don't wear niqab.  These two things have caused me so much anxiety over the years, holding me back and causing me to doubt myself.  I laid them to rest this year for the most part.  My intention is to work for the next ten years and then see where we are, even if I am not in paid employment, I will be doing something whether supporting my husband’s business, community work and most likely blogging and writing.  I have no plans to wear niqab and I have asked Allah (SWT) to guide me to it and make it easy for me if that is what he chooses for me.  I will leave it at that and move forward insh'Allah.

Looking Back at 2019

Faith: I don’t feel as if I ended the year as focused on my faith as I should be. I undertook a tajweed class at the beginning if the year that I loved and that was a good boost for my iman. I haven’t been able to attend the weekly sisters taleem (study classes) as they fall during working hours, so I feel slightly disconnected from the community of local sisters.  I think this is one area that I need to reflect on and leave myself open to opportunity for 2020. On the positive side, I have made dhikr a a greater part if my daily routine, especially of Allah’ names, and feel bolstered by it.

Self: 2019 felt like a big year for personal growth and development. I got to a point with my anxiety and self-doubt that was not sustainable.  Looking at my daughter’s wilfulness and stubbornness reminded me of my own young self.  It reminded me that I have been in a place like this before when I was emerging from my teens and fighting societies norms, what my parents and culture expected of me. I came out of that not caring what people think and being determined to live my life my way.

I decided to reclaim that feeling and that strength.  To take the best parts of my fierce, spirited, not-give-a-damn young self.  And I did.  It felt good. I will hold on to it and celebrate it. 

Marriage: My husband is my rock as always. My foundation and the place of safety and security for me alhamdulillah. But this was the year that I was able to grow out of my slight clinginess and understand that my happiness is not from him although he is a source of my happiness alhamdulillah. My happiness is from the choices and mindset I make or have, even though I hope always to be a source of happiness for him insh’Allah.

Parenting: 2019 was a turbulent year for me in terms of parenting. We had our oldest doing GCSE’s, various parents’ evenings, and working with the school to manage some anger from my older son. I had a complete meltdown at my in-laws at one point because I couldn’t deal with their judgement and stories about kids back home.  I veered from crying on my prayer mat to feeling proud and relieved.  I learned that we have to work on ourselves as much as on our children and that sometimes the big dreams and plans for our children are not meant to be, that Allah (SWT) has something else planned for them.  I also reminded myself to be firm, fair, kind and firm again, otherwise as there are five of them they will run rings around me.

Work: 2019 was an amazing year for work, I learned and experienced so much.  Youth empowerment, children’s rights, social action, community development, equality and inclusion.  All things I am passionate about. By the end of the year I was starting to feel overwhelmed and unable to keep up, so I had to make a conscious decision to slow down, focus and prioritise those things that have the most impact.

Community: I wanted to be involved more in my local community for a long time, but had no idea where to start. This was the year some opportunities presented themselves.  Hubby and I got more involved in the new local resident’s association, we were involved with community events and litter picks and fund raising for our local green spaces. We are currently looking at starting a community football league for free for primary aged children with some partners and I want to see if we can get some new play equipment for the local park. I am trying to get my children to help out and get involved.

The only thing that I am wary of is being careful of how much I can take on. I hope to encourage enough other people to join in so that it’s a little bi of work for lots of people, rather than too much for a few. 

I like to be productive even during rest and leisure time. In the past this has included things like children’s activities, creative crafts like jewellery and card making and even throwing themed parties. In recent times it has been a bit too much time watching rubbish online and socialising over junk food so something I need to think carefully about going forward.

On the positive side, I have rekindled my passion for books and reading and once again find myself reading everything I can get my hands on.

How was 2019 for you? A challenge or a pleasure? What did you learn from the last year?

Thursday 26 December 2019

40 at 40: Things I have Learned

I turned 40 this year alhamdulillah, a number that in my earlier years would have felt very old and unimaginably distant.  But now having arrived at it, I still feel myself – human, flawed, youthful, enthusiastic about life, perhaps comfortable in myself and my body, if a little battered by life. 

This feels like a good time to stop and reflect on what I have learned so far, including the wisdom imparted by others and taken on with some grace and those lessons that were learned the hard way.

1.     Fear Allah (SWT) in all you do – this one criteria has steered me away from bad decisions, helped me to hold my tongue or stop me from acting in anger many times.  It also pushed me back on course when I felt lazy or was being careless in my deeds or the things that are an obligation on me.
2.     If it looks too good to be true, it probably is - get rich schemes, amazing bargains, big promises.  Most good things don't have short cuts but come from sacrifices and hard work.
3.     If in doubt, be silent.  I don’t think there has ever been a time when I held my tongue and regretted it later, but oh so many times when I spoke and made things worse than they might have been otherwise.
4.     Silence can be power - if like for me, silence is a void that makes you uncomfortable and needs to be filled with chatter, try holding back for once. It’s not your job to keep everyone entertained. The world won’t suddenly end because there were a few moments when no-one said anything. Better still if you are annoyed then play nice but stay very quiet and watch everyone else squirm and try to fill the void.
5.     Be kind - I learned this one time my uncle was visiting and I had just come back from work. I was busy complaining I was tired and hungry and didn't want the dinner my mum had made.  My uncle gently asked me if he could go and get me something from the shops.  I was so ashamed at my behaviour that it knocked the wind out of my grumpiness.  In hindsight, it made me think about how kindness can change the mood, environment, discussion or relationship you are in so quickly and effectively. We never know what small kindness can change a person’s day or even their life.
6.     Be kind to yourself - if others deserve your kindness, so do you. Rest when you need, eat nutritious food, spend time with friends or doing things you enjoy, or doing nothing if you need to.
7.     Our children don't belong to us and we are not responsible for their ultimate destiny and outcome, so let go of the guilt.  We are a means to their nurture and growth as they move through this temporary world and they are a test for us, but also a massive source of growth and comfort for us. I know this I the truth, but find it so hard to hold on to this one.
8.     Pray on time – we are here to worship Allah (SWT), it is both a means and an end in itself.  A purpose and a way to eek Allah’s help.  Pray at the beginning time of your prayers and the rest of your day, and activities will fall into place themselves.
9.     Never be afraid to speak the truth, we spend so much time trying to spare other people's feelings or trying to avoid conflict that we end up burying our voices. Sometimes, some things need to be said. Our feelings and voices have as much value as anyone's.  Some people need to be pulled up on bad behaviour and challenged on their nasty words.  Stick up for yourself.
10. Take care of yourself. You can't take care of anyone else if your own tank is empty.  Taking care of your health, mental health, wellbeing and financial health are all an investment in being able to help and care for those around you.
11. Ask for your worth - ask for money, for training, for opportunities to do more interesting work. Outside of work ask for discounts, for special treatment for help.  No ask, no get. Even if you ask and don't get, it's out there and people will remember and come back to you later with an opportunity or raise.
12. Take action - if you are an over-thinker like me and start doubting yourself, or if you feel stuck and not sure where to start, make a list and start doing something. Getting moving and taking some action will help you feel like you are doing something and will make you feel motivated.
13. Start with the hardest thing.  What are you resisting?  Start with this, get it done and everything feels easier after this. Just get started.
14. Take time to reflect every day.  Whether it's how you did at work, what you could have done differently in parenting your children or how productively you spent your time. You will find that nothing helps your personal or professional growth like reviewing your day and seeing where you could do a little better or understanding where you made a mistake you could avoid in future.  I do not believe that you can have continuous improvement, whether in work, life, learning a skill or improving your own character, without self-reflection.  So much so, that I included a section in the daily pages of my annual life planner called “Review of the day” – this section asks “What was amazing about today? What could have been better? What will I do differently next time?”  “Account yourself before you are brought to account and measure your actions before they are measured.” ~ Umar Al Farooq (radiallahu anhu).
15. Be kind and loving to your parents - I am convinced this is the secret to success in life. Treat your parents well and earn Allah (SWT)'s favour.
16. Don't be quick to judge - when you find yourself looking on others harshly, take a deep breath, step back and let go of the judgement. Remind yourself that
that others are in a different place in their journey. Tomorrow they may be better people than you.
17. Make time to do nothing now and again - doing nothing is a condition for creativity and innovation.  The best ideas come when you are distracted or doing something completely unrelated - like playing with your children or enjoying nature.
18. Sit with your feelings - if you feel sad, angry or hurt, rather than burying these feeling and trying to force yourself to be positive, allow yourself to feel how you do. Acknowledge those feelings, you'll be surprised at how much more quickly they pass compared to when you ignore or resist them.
19. Make time for play - women are not good at this.  Men have their sports, their gadgets and their cars and take play very seriously.  Women either don't have time to play or treat their pastimes as something frivolous. Play helps us to unwind, learn skills, take ourselves less seriously (sometimes) and nurture ourselves.
20. Build your allies and advocates around you - those that look out for you, give good advice, share useful information, will help you raise your game and do better and be better. For me this includes my sisters and best friend at home, a big group of women at work, the sisters from my masjid and friends in the local community.
21. Accept sadness as a part of life - it is bound to come at some point, and if we accept this, it will hurt when it comes, but we get through it easier. We are patient knowing that Allah (SWT) tests those he loves, and we are hopeful knowing that this will pass and that Allah (SWT) promises ease after every hardship. “Whoever persists in being patient, God will make him patient. Nobody can be given a blessing better and greater than patience.” (Al-Bukhari)
22. Keep learning - whether through reading, podcasts, courses, taking on new projects or travelling. It will make the world stay interesting to you and you interesting to the world.
23. Don't be scared of tech - whether smart phones, blogs, websites or social media. Don't let it intimidate you. There is a step-by-step process for everything available on the internet.  It feels good to be able to navigate the different types of tech that run our lives and use the to our benefit rather than having to ask others to do things for us.  And what's the worst that could happen…well there was the time I accidentally took down the whole of my office's SharePoint site disconnecting all of the levels and losing all of the permissions. It was for a simple task I had asked IT to help with and they told me to do myself. Instead of 10 minutes to help me, it took them a week to fix :)
24. Be proud of who you are - I learned this from my best friend who has always been proud of and celebrated her Moroccan heritage.  I think of
being the child of immigrants and trying to fit in. Or being a religious Muslim at home and perhaps feeling like you have to play your faith down outside at work or school.  Be proud of your faith, your heritage, your family and your history. We are no better or less than others.
25. Remember to focus - the world is endless distraction. Time goes by in a blur.  Keep reminding yourself to let go of the things that waste time and have no value and to keep coming back to those that will put you in a better place in the next moment or the next life.  If at any moment you are not sure what this is, then engage in dhikr, remembrance of Allah, because this is why we are here, to glorify and praise Him.
26. Everything is worship - done with the right intention. From waking up to the moment we sleep, our lives can be purposeless, aimless and pointless, or every moment can be sacred - caring for our families, serving our communities, doing an honest day’s work, resting, even play and having fun. Keep going back to the intention to do good or lay the foundations to do good - e.g. sleeping or resting so that you have the strength to care for others.
27. Believe in yourself - sounds like something from a self-help book, but more and more in my life, I see that no one held me back as much as my lack of belief in myself did.  Even when others believed in me.  There came a point when I had to deal with this and promise myself that I would hold onto my achievements and stop doubting myself.
28. Akhlak, or good character, is everything.  Good intentions, kind words, good deeds, gentle behaviour.  Be pleasant to be around, be someone who is easy to get along with, no because you are a compliant woman but because you are a beautiful, loving soul. 
29. Be honest with yourself - Have the courage to face yourself and your mistakes and see things for what they are.  There may be times when I don’t have the courage to speak up or bite my tongue instead of telling the truth, but I have always been adamant that I will tell the truth to myself.  No matter how unsavoury, or how painful the consequences.
30.  Be grateful for the ordinary - we look for the big exciting experiences of life, but sometimes the same joy can be found in the everyday - nature, our friends and family, the weather, the events of our day.  There is joy and beauty to be found in every moment if we attune ourselves to it.
31. Understand money - Be the boss of your money: how much you earn, how much more you could earn, where it goes and where it should be going.
32. Plan your time, but not all of it - I make a point of making sure there is unscheduled time during the week with no plans. This is with the intention that you never know what is coming and want to leave space in your life for spontaneity and opportunities to do fun and interesting things.
33. Don't be taken in by the man or woman in the suit - at some point I realised that so many of our authority figures are blagging it. They often know as little as or less than us.  Stand up as an equal, don't be scared to questions and assume you are as competent as the suits. Or at least don’t assume their competence, wait for them to prove it.
34. Take responsibility for your health - I have seen my mum and mum-in-law blaming the doctor for not fixing various problems they have, when the root causes are linked to their choices and behaviours to some extent - diet, stress, anxiety, lack of exercise.  Acknowledge your health starts with you, not the doctor and invest in your health with the right nutrition, rest, mental health support an exercise.
35. Treat every day like a new day - set aside the arguments and gripes from the day before and start again.  Sounds unrealistic? I practiced this with my children. Children start every day having forgotten the squabbles and sulks from the day before. I love this reset option and try to apply it in my life as much as possible.
36. Listen to your mum - she has been there, done it and learned the lesson, better still your grandmother too.
37. Listen with patience - Youth by its very nature is impatient. When you are 18 or 21, you think everything has to happen now because time is running out and soon it will be too late (for what I never thought through). The think that used to annoy me the most was people who not only speak very slowly, but refuse to get to the point – just say what needs to be said right? Wrong. I once attended a course where one of the participants spoke very slowly and took ages to get his point across. Every time he opened his mouth I started feeling impatient. Eventually he made a point that blew my mind (so much so, that I can’t remember what he said). I realised that the roundabout path he had taken to get to this answer was necessary for us to understand the full importance of what he was saying. I promised myself after that, to taken the time to listen carefully to what people are saying and this has benefited me immensely – you connect to people properly, you understand things more fully and people feel more that you are taking them seriously and treating them with respect.
38. Do what you want - Listen to everyone, smile, agree they are right, then do whatever the hell you want.  You are a grown woman. You know what you want. My mum-in-law complains about this one to my mum - how I listen and agree and then do what I want.  I do so with absolute glee and conviction about my right to do so.
39. Be a source of love – everyone is yearning to be loved and accepted, be that source of love and acceptance – for your spouse, your children and those around you.  Do it through your words your touch, your kind deeds and your smile.
40. Accept yourself - wrinkles, extra weight, grey hairs and all.  Stop being so self-conscious about it all. No one will notice because they are busy dealing with those thing about themselves too.  Accept you have the right to be here, taking up space and being good enough as you are.

These are some of the things I have learned in the last forty years, I hope there is something in there that you found useful. What has been your biggest life lesson? 

Sunday 15 December 2019

Book Review: The Ninety Nine Names of Allah by Muhammad Iqbal Siddiqi

The Ninety Nine Names of Allah by Muhammad Iqbal Siddiqi is a book I have had for many years and have often picked up in times of need or worry. My version is covered in post-its flagging names I want to come back to or have found have helped me. Over the last few days, I have picked it up and found myself hooked on trying to benefit from the treasures in it.

The book is structured to give each of Allah’s (SWT) names in Arabic and English, give it’s meaning and where it is found in the Quran.  This is followed by a commentary on what the name means and what it tells us about Allah. Then finally, in most cases, it offers the benefits of doing dhikr of that name: e.g. repeating the name Al Quddus (The Holy) 100 times daily, frees the reciter from anxiety.

In the end, I listed all of the names, how to recite them and the benefits as an easy quick reference source (feel free to save the pictures below if these are useful). The ones I am focused on at the moment are around children and internal contentment and growth.

I feel like in the short time I have been using this book as a daily source, I have greatly benefited already (my son who won’t touch house work in recent years, hoovered the house and cleaned and unblocked the bathroom sink today, I’ll gladly have more of that).  Most of all I feel content and  also more sure of myself   (Ar Rehman – 100 times after each fard salah for good memory, keen awareness and freedom from a heavy heart).

Definitely a book worth keeping at home and referring back to.

Reclaiming my Fearless Heart

I have not been writing or on social media much in recent days.  I have been in a reflective mood. Thinking about life, my children, writing and why I have not been inclined to do or write much recently.  Most of all about my relationship with those around me, but especially myself.

I was anxious that I was getting lazy or losing interest in life and the excitement I have about the parts of life I enjoys most: faith, family, arts and crafts, celebration, writing, books and so on.  But after the first few weeks I started to see the value of doing nothing – the way it leaves space for reflection and also for unexpected and unplanned things to come into your life.

I think way too much, I take on guilt, I questions my decisions, I take on blame for all sorts of things. I am quick to feel sorry for people and to trust. I am cowardly sometimes in standing up for myself and I have always been scared of hurting others, to the point that I will apologise to resolve a matter even if I think it is only partially my fault. I hate conflict.  All of these things make me a kind and helpful person. To everyone but myself.

I got a bit of a jolt when I was catching up with some university friends and they were teasing me about how fierce and wild I used to be.  I would argue with a lecturer in front of the whole auditorium. I barely recognise that wilful, self-confident girl.  Then my sisters reminded me how mean and vicious I could be when they were growing up, I think my whole family were a little wary of me.  Of course I don’t want to be that person again, but there is certainly something of her that is worth revisiting and reclaiming (I think hubby has made me too soft 😊 ).

Certainly in the last few years I have tied myself up in knots over a few things: not wearing niqab, being a Muslim woman and working and a being a working mother (and holding myself back in my career for years because of this).  Also, not being a good enough mother, my kids not being genius A* high achievers and Islamic scholars in the making at the same time. Reading novels instead of religious or at least factual books. Watching rubbish online. Oh and the house could be cleaner.

I came to a point, when I couldn’t do that to myself anymore.  I had to harden my heart a little.  I had to tell myself to do what I need to do, to stop feeling guilty, to leave it to Allah (SWT) and trust he will guide me to what he wants for me, if I leave my heart open to it. Having made that decision, then to just got on with things and allow myself to do well. Imagine working hard to support your family and the feeling guilty and ashamed at doing so.  When I write it like that - it seems so silly.

It’s helped me in so many ways.  I don’t care anymore about what people think – not others, not my family, not the masjid community.  I can’t eat their opinion or approval, or wear it, or bank it. So it’s no use to me.  I had to get quite angry with myself to get to this point.  But it felt so, very, liberating!  I feel free and fearless. My salah is so much better because it’ not full or remorse or guilt, but just my best effort in each moment, sometimes not very good, but when I am distracted and lose focus, I always bring myself back to trying my best in the moment rather than feeling ashamed. I have to make a point of refusing to feel bad and just carrying on.

It’s funny, I used to see bitter, rude middle-aged women and think I hope I never get like that. But, as I hit 40, I kind of see why they get like that.  You just don’t care, you have less patience for foolishness and you are less naïve, so you see through people’s nonsense and insincerity.  I pray I am never unkind, bitter or rude. But I am enjoying owning my fearlessness.

Most of all these weeks have been a reminder to always be honest with myself  - no matter how harsh or painful – whether about the upbringing of my children, my eating habits, or my anxieties.  To hold a mirror up, face what I see and deal with it.

More than reflection, I feel that this growth in myself has come from dhikr.  I have been doing a lot of dhikr recently, particularly of Allah’s sacred names, some for my children to be good people (Ash-Shaheed, Rabb, Al Kafil), but some others for contentment and peace (Ar-Rahman, Al-Qaddus, An Nur).  I feel like these have given my heart enough rest to think clearly and be brave.

Sunday 10 November 2019

Turning to Allah

There are times when you have tried your best and it still does not seem enough.  
There are times when you have tried to do the right thing by your faith to hold fast to your Islamic principles and are judged, mocked, excluded or ignored for it.
There are times when you don’t feel strong enough and hold your tongue or relax a little thinking you can’t force your religion on others, but still it is not enough.
You cannot please this world: not your family, office, community or school. Not all of the time, often need even some of the time.
Not if you hold your tongue on indecency, not if you style your hijab to look less modest, not if you forego your prayers for convenience, not if you don’t talk about your faith in front of people to avoid discomfort,
But you can try to please Allah (SWT), a little effort for Whom, goes such a long way:

Prophet Muhammad ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him)
said: Allah Subhanahu Wata’ala said: I am as My servant thinks (expects) I am. I am with him when he mentions Me. If he mentions Me to himself, I mention him to Myself; and if he mentions Me in an assembly, I mention him in an assembly greater than it.  If he draws near to Me a hand’s length, I draw near to him an arm’s length.  And if he comes to Me walking, I go to him at speed.’” (Sahih Bukhari)

As I get older, alhamdulillah I care less and less what people think and I am more comfortable being clear about my limits or requirements according to my faith.  I have to remind myself to implement this without becoming harsh or judgemental and to act from love always when living by my faith and understand that others also are in a different place in their journey.

A Moment of Gratitude

Alhamdulillah we go about our daily lives without a second thought when everything is good: our children are safe and well, we have a roof over our heads, our spouse is kind and our bellies are full.  All blessings and all taken for granted until something goes wrong and then we are upset and angry and wonder why Allah SWT is letting this happen to us.

Sometimes a moment to reflect on all that we are blessed with can leave us feeling full, loved and contented – to have so much, to be safe, to be whole alhamdulillah. I needed to take that moment today after I have been brooding over something for the the lat three days that I can't "think positive" my way out of.  I found today that a moment of reflection on what is good helped put my anxiety in perspective.

A spouse who is kind and thoughtful in a world that seems rife with loneliness, marriage breakdown and divorce.  Suddenly their flaws seem petty as do your complaints.

My children test me the most of any thing in this world I think.  But they are safe where I can see them and have all that they need (according to me, not them 😊) in a world where many children do not see a childhood.

I am most of all grateful for my faith and how it brings balance to my life and helps me find a way back to peace and acting from love when I feel lost or hurt

I pray that Allah (SWT) makes me grateful, that gratefulness to him settles into my bones so that it becomes a way of being an thinking for me insh’Allah.

"If you are grateful, I will surely give you more and more" ~ Quran 14:7.

" And whoever is grateful, he is only grateful for the benefit of his own self" ~ Quran 31:12.

" If you are grateful, He is pleased with you..." ~ Quran 39:7

Ibn Abbas (RA) narrated that the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said: "There are four qualities, whoever is given them has truly been given the best in this world and the next. They are: a grateful heart (that is thankful to Allah), a remembering tongue (that mentions Allah often), an enduring body (to persevere through the trials), and a faithful wife."

Picture of the Day 09.11.19: Changing Seasons

A crisp, cold misty early morning walk in the park with some ladies from our local residents’ group. Lots of good discussion and ideas on how we can make our neighbourhood safer and better to live in.

It was a nice way to start the day: greenery and signs of the changing season from autumn to winter. Vibrant holly berries, all the colours of autumn in the trees and Egyptian geese of all things.

Friday 8 November 2019

Aunty-Zoned - Blaming the Victim, Reclaiming the Title

It seems that the word Aunty has become a bit of a bad word in recent times. Being called an Aunty is offensive because it implies you are old and old-fashioned, in a world where being young an attractive is everything. Auntie’s get grouped like a pack of wolves, or hyena's – upholding toxic traditions and the patriarchy. They are made to look like a bunch of sneering, gossiping, judgemental women. I'm seeing this lazy labelling more and more and it's bothering me for two reasons.

Firstly, the group of women we are talking about are often the most vulnerable in society. Women in their 40's to 60's, often with difficulty speaking English, no job or income, dependent on their families.  They are usually immigrants who have struggled through being uprooted, facing poverty and isolation to build communities and families around them. They often still have poor health outcomes (which we satirise as the Auntie’s talking about their various illnesses and complaints, or hypochondria). They are often still the most vulnerable to racism or hate crimes due to their faith or race.  They have spent a lifetime caring for others and then find themselves looking forward to the prospect of caring for elderly parents and in-laws whilst not getting the support from their children they had hoped for.

Secondly, I think young people forget the foundations they are standing on. I was the same.  I used to wonder what on earth my parents did with their lives, why they didn't fight back against racism, why they put up with so much unfairness. Until I started to see what they did do. Keep our faith and culture alive, build our places of worship, work hard and make sacrifices so that we could have the best chances at education and life.  We dismiss it because they weren't all on Instagram shouting about it, they did it quietly and without thanks.  My generation of newly-minted Auntie's built on this, we had jobs, money and a voice.  We knew how the system worked and we have tried to use it to benefit our children and our communities.

I have to admit, the first time a grown person called me an Aunty (in my thirties) I was offended. After all he was balding with a big belly and I looked young for my age (I think I used to get it because of my hijab).  A few years later, in my late thirties, I started to get used to being called Aunty by people in their twenties and took it as both a sign of respect and their short-sightedness, after all to many young people thirty is the limit to do anything and forty is as old as death.

There are two things that come from this for me. The first is the need to advocate for our mothers and auntie's not belittle them.  I believe part of the reason why Asian women of a certain age have poor health outcomes is that they are not taken seriously by health professionals, who will try to send them away with advice to take a paracetamol instead of looking into their problems seriously until they become serious. I have seen this time and again.

The second is to own our power as the new generation of older South Asian women, both to uphold our values where they are beneficial (e.g. faith and family) and to challenge where they are not (racism, casteism, misogyny). In a culture that mourns the birth of a daughter, look everyone in the eye and celebrate loudly. Where we are seeing young people being forced into marriage or religion being used to harm others – take people to task. Stick up for our young women, but hold them to account also when they take all of their education and opportunity and decide to focus on petty drama, make-up and materialism instead of all of the good they could do.

Where we see bad behaviours, those things that cause us to label people Aunties, don't lump women under one moniker as if to excuse, but call out the individual behaviours. Also, see them for what they often are: the actions of women who are bitter or isolated, lacking in self-respect or self-hating to the point they have bought into the most toxic parts of their cultures. 

This doesn't give young women a free pass either to misbehave (read be disrespectful, lazy or rude) and then expect older women to defend them when they are called out on it.

For now, I am taking up the Aunty label with a view to owning and re-defining it. As the women you go to for help, the ones that can take care of their communities, lead their young folk and stand up to and up for others.  One of the people who has really inspired me to own the word Aunty is The Village Aunty who hangs out on Twitter and talk about interesting stuff, you might want to check her out.