This time a few years ago, I anticipated Ramadan with anxiety. I had 3 children, all under the age of 5, and was part of a large, busy household of working men and women. When Ramadan finally arrived I was petrified inside at whether I would be able to cope with running after my youngest daughter, managing the school and nursery run with the older two, as well as keeping the house in order and preparing iftar for the family in the evening.
A year later, that anxiety has been replaced with something more positive; Ramadan is challenging there is no doubt about it. But I wanted to share some practical tips, as a mum, that made last Ramadan that much more manageable and a time of spiritual benefit.
1. Prepare the evening meal first thing in the morning. Decide on your menu and write it down into checklist form. This is the time to marinade, whizz up chutneys and even get out serving dishes. All the effort you invest early on will give you more time before Maghrib. It’s amazing how hectic it can get in the kitchen just before Maghrib – and when you’re dehydrated and tired it’s difficult to cook quickly. Instead, try to make your mornings your most productive time in preparing iftar.
2. Use salah times as the markers that divide your activities. I always set myself a target to get everything done in the kitchen before dhuhr. This way I avoided that feeling that I’m taking time away from work to pray salah. Dhuhr salah was a great way to end a productive housework-focussed morning in the kitchen and helped me refocus on the next tasks – whether that was having to go out or completing more housework or listening to a lecture or reading Qur’an.
3. Make sure you pray Asr before you start getting iftar on the table! So many times I’ve nearly missed Asr because of getting carried away in the kitchen – and this is true for so many mothers I’ve spoken to. I’ve found after the kids get home from school and I’d fed them and helped them with homework or reading, ‘Asr was a good marker to tie up that stage of the day.
4. Put the kids to bed as early as you can. Your evening ibadat, Qur’an reading and taraweeh depends on this. Leave bedtime any later and I guarantee you’ll most likely fall asleep with your kids and you’ll wake up 6 hours later feeling awful just having missed sehri, still wearing your day clothes and still having your contact lenses in… That was not a great evening.
5. Ramadan is not the time to deviate radically from your normal routine and responsibilities – else we would simply not receive its benefit. Yes, we should increase in certain types of ibadah – read more Qur’an, pray more nafl salah – but running a household, going out on errands, engaging with our children and keeping them safe is also part of life and hence part of our ibadah. Fasting was not prescribed for a week, or just a few days, but a whole month. The beauty of this duration is that it’s not so long to be a physical or mental burden but also it’s not so short that you can suspend your daily activities like a holiday. By normal activities, I’m referring to that ironing pile, the paperwork, hoovering. I found that even during the 20-hour fasts I could still pursue my normal routine but at a slower pace. If you do this, you’ll have no build up of housework that you’ll have to spend ages compensating at Eid time.
As you can probably tell, I’m a big fan of routine. But routine becomes monotonous and depressing if there is no time invested in personal growth, pursuing your passions or helping others. But generally, mothers of small children are tired; remember that Allah knows your situation and that every aspect of our daily life can become an act of worship if our intentions are to please Him.
Afaaf Rajbee is a graduate in International Relations from the LSE, which surprisingly didn’t prepare her for life as a mother to 3 children. She is part of the Charity Week team and volunteers her skills for a variety of different organisations.
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