Thursday 23 July 2020

Quarantine Diaries: Working from Home Headaches

We are now coming to four months on from the start of lockdown, and although restrictions have eased, I am still working from home with no likelihood of returning to the office until at least September.

This means I have productive days, unproductive days, frustrating days

I like that I can exercise in the morning instead of my commute time.

I like that I can greet the kids with love as each one wakes up.

I like that I can watch the kids and see what they are doing, eating, watching.

I love that I can pray on time and with ease as it’s easier to make ablution at home than the office.

But there are days when it is an uphill struggle. Today was one of them:

Back to back meetings

E-mails piling up

Work and tasks growing in the background         

But all of that is part of the job and all you can do is take one thing at a time, focus and do your best.

At least in a vaguely sensible, civilised world that’s all you can do.

Sensible and civilised are limited commodities in my house, especially when the youngest two are on the loose.

Today was the day for them not to play up, especially as I was meeting the Chief Exec, Directors and my manager. So of course everyone did.

The girls got into a fight upstairs and I could hear them screaming upstairs, hubby was making phone calls in the hallways just outside at the top of his lungs and the boys were asking me what was for lunch. Thank God for the mute button and the blurry background effect on MS Teams (where we host our online meetings), I don’t think my offices management team needed to see my husband roaming around in his vest first thing in the morning 😊

If my youngest gets even an inkling that the video is on in a meeting, she will drape herself over me and wait for someone to say how cute she is, so I have to lie and tell her the camera is off before I chase her off.

If Darling gets upset, she sobs loudly (usually with my oldest daughter yelling at her to shut up and let her sleep) until I stop everything and placate her.

And if Gorgeous happens to come out of the little man-cave he has turned our front room into, he’ll start dancing or clowning behind me while I’m in a meeting.

Thankfully my oldest two are sensible and will try to discourage the others from disturbing me and will leave me to work apart from the occasional sidling up and asking for money or trying to show me something on their phones.

Part of me wants to set boundaries and tell them to leave me alone, let me work, or at least not make strange noises or cry loudly when I am speaking to people. A bigger part prioritises the needs of the children and wants to make it clear that the children come first and work later.

Today after solid meetings from 9am to 2pm, I stopped work and just cooked. It gave me a break from working, if not a chance to rest, and it made me feel good to cook something that everyone would enjoy and eat their fill of (rice and chicken).

Then I decided to change the scene, so after prayers, I headed over to my mum with the youngest two and my laptop and logged on again to work for a few more hours.  She kept me company, fed me snacks and my sister kept the girls occupied.

It was the breather and change of scene that I needed. I still came home to a stack of dishes, getting the kids dinner and trying to chase Gorgeous out of his bat cave, but I didn’t feel so harassed and exhausted as I do some days by 5pm.

Tomorrow is another day to navigate and another chance at getting the balance right insh’Allah.

Tuesday 21 July 2020

Speaking Well of Our Children

 I have been meeting over the last few days with same colleagues at work to talk about whether we need to sponsor a platform for young people locally to share their stories of racism, particularly their experiences at school.  One of the ladies leading on the project is someone I have a lot of respect for because of her knowledge and experience.

In setting out her motivation to be involved with the project, she mentioned the experiences of her own children. She described them as her “four beautiful Black children”. Her description struck me because of how loving it was and her pride in both the children and their being Black.

It got me thinking about how I view my children and how easy it can be to fall back on complaining about your children as a default. I come from a culture that is quick to criticise, make fun of or be disappointed in children, but struggles to celebrate or encourage them. This doesn’t serve anyone – the parents that start to buy into their own narrative about their children being not good enough or the young people who would flourish so much more under our nurturing, encouraging and positive words.

Even done jokingly – in the way mothers often compare notes on whose child is more mischievous or more of a handful, this can feel discouraging to children.

It made me think about being more careful about the language I use about my children, both to others and myself.  Also, about how saying good things to them and about them is part of being grateful to Allah (SWT) for them.

We are our children’s biggest champion and advocates in the world.  We create the image the world has of them, we can open doors for them in doing so and give them a good start with people.

So insh’Allah I need to keep going back to my narrative about them: my beautiful, fierce, Muslim children. May Alah (SWT) keep them safe and protect them from every evil eye and every bad thing insh’Allah I pray that Allah (SWT) uses them for his deen and is pleased with them and us. Ameen.

Book Review: Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens

I had been struggling with a pile of books that were not holding my attention and needed something I could get lost in enough to stay away from wasting time surfing the web. I spotted this book at the supermarket and brought it home with my shopping.

Where the Crawdads Sing is the story of Kya, a six-year-old abandoned by her family to the mercy of her alcoholic father out in the swamp land of Northern Carolina. The story moves back and forth in time between following Kya as she grows up and finds ways to survive and the books present day (in the late 1960’s).

The book is partly a celebration of nature, partly the story of a young women and partly a mystery. The body of Chase Andrews, one of two Kya’s suitors, is found in the swamp and police must find out how it ended up there. We follow Kya as she sees each family member leave, try to find ways to survive and forge tentative friendships, finding both love and facing intense rejection and loneliness.

You can tell this book is written by a naturalist. The descriptions of the swamp, its ecology and flora and fauna are just beautiful and woven through every page of the book. The book touches on themes of prejudice, racism and sexism.  Kya is named “Marsh Girl” and treated as an outcast as she is different – but her difference come about because of her vulnerability – her poverty, being abandoned, her shyness.

This is the author’s first novel, but she effectively brings to life small town America in the 1950’s with its cast of vaguely familiar characters: the handsome, arrogant jock, his snobbish mother, the kind black couple who help Kya.  In parts the book was a little predictable or unrealistic: we knew that Kya’s relationship with Chase wasn’t going to end well and I thought the benevolent black couple were a little conveniently placed to help Kya face her milestones (like puberty).

Despite this, I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book.  As much as the story, what stayed with me was the deep meditation on Kya’s loneliness. Not the kind of loneliness we experience now and again in a room of strangers, or the type we feel when we lose someone. But a devastating, enduring, pervasive loneliness that comes with abandonment, physical isolation and being left without a single family member or friend.


A sweet, haunting and captivating story that carried me along and finished too soon, leaving me in tears.