Author: Umm Salihah
When my first three children were small, I had no problem with going back to work at the end of my six months leave. I had family (husband, mother, mother-in-law) to help with childcare and I found being at home boring and looking after a house and very small children felt like unpaid, unappreciated drudgery.
I was full of energy and worked flexible hours, so that I would be home by 4pm and spend the rest of the day doing housework and playing with my children. Fast forward many years and with the birth of my precious fourth child, my darling little girl, my feelings have changed.
I enjoy taking care of my home, it is my sanctuary and as I go about my daily tasks I make dhikr (remembrance) of Allah, so that the routine daily tasks are imbued with worship and consciousness. I am happy to make my home a good place for family and guests.
My three older children are at school, and I have fallen into a nice routine with the school run, sports clubs and after school classes. I have made friends with other mothers at the school gates where I was too shy before. Because the children are at school, I get to spend all day with the baby. I have never enjoyed any of my children as much as this one. Previously I had to care for my grandmother or had extended family members or friends living with me. This is the first time it was just baby and me and it was blissful.
I also had lots to do to fill my time whilst I was on leave – an intensive Quranic Arabic course, blogging and writing, trying to downsize my belongings and organise my home, some e-book projects I have started and also trying to launch my own business.
So the last six months of maternity leave have mostly been pleasant and productive for me Alhamdulillah. I am now preparing to go back and the last few weeks have been full of turmoil and contradiction. The guilt and worry about leaving my baby has been eating away at me. Comments over the years from sisters have come back to haunt me and I could feel the anger building at their inability to understand another sisters situation.
“Can you not reduce your expenditure?”
“I stopped working, my husband’s pay turned out to be enough in the end”
“My children are more important”
As if I don’t think that mine are important enough…
There comes a time in your life when what people say has to be set aside. After all, “people” do not know the details of your situation. I know I am not the only one in this position. As a blogger, over the years, women have e-mailed me to say that they would like to leave work but cannot afford to, or in contrast that they are happy to work and are relieved to find other Muslim women like them.
Something else happened to me during this period of maternity leave that impacted the way I think. I have spent most of my twenties trying to understand my purpose and thinking about what it was I was born to do. As I entered my thirties I started to gain some clarity about the purpose that we have been created:
“You are the best of peoples ever raised up for mankind; you enjoin Al-Ma`roof (i.e., Islamic Monotheism and all that Islam has ordained) and forbid Al-Munkar (polytheism, disbelief and all that Islam has forbidden)” – The Holy Quran 3:110
This period of maternity leave coincided with my husband’s decision to travel for four months to engage in dawah work. This meant I had four months of solitude to really reflect on my life and where it was going. I realised that whether I worked or not, I would always have a vocation. This was more than just a job, this was something that I was meant to do, that spoke to my soul and moved something deep within me.
“When you do things from your soul, you feel a river moving in you, a joy” ~ Rumi
So, during my maternity leave, whilst looking after four small children alone, I made a decision to start doing all of the things I had dreamed about. Even if they seemed impossible. Even if I could only take one small step at a time. Even if I did not have the time or money. This decision was a revelation. I felt like someone had set my soul alight. I started work to set up an online shop because I had always wanted to try my hand at business. I started to write my first e-book because deep down I identify as a writer and I know that’s what I am meant to do. I have always wanted to encourage other Muslimah’s to follow their dreams and did not know anything about coaching nor could I afford the training, so I started by creating an inspiration journal for young Muslimah’s which I hope to give away for young girls insh’Allah.
I hope to tie all of these dreams and plans back to the purpose which Allah (SWT) created us and for them to serve others insh’Allah.
Doing all of the above meant that my job seemed dry and pointless in comparison. I don’t need a job for fulfilment; I need to follow my vocation and live by my purpose instead. At the same time I need the job to pay my bills (and those of others, because you will find most working Muslimah’s have responsibilities far beyond their own households). I refuse to feel guilty or listen to the critics anymore. When I stop working it will be because my dreams bring in enough income to allow this.
Until then, I am due to go back to work next week. My in-laws have come to stay to take care of my little one and are as in love with her as I am. I will have to continue to find ways to juggle all of these complex roles and plans in a realistic way and make dua to Allah (SWT) that he guides me to that which he likes and which is beneficial for my hereafter and away from that which he dislikes insh’Allah.
….Where Practice Makes Perfect
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