Author: Khafayah Abdulsalam
If you are a working mom like me, you might have had eyebrows raised at you and been told off many a times for leaving your children at a daycare or nursery and going out to work.
Society sometimes stigmatizes working women for delegating their role to others, out of concern for the detrimental effects it will have on the health and upbringing of our kids. I strongly believe and it has been proven that you can be a working mom and raise productive well-rounded kids too.
When we dip back in time we find that our Mother Khadijah was an excellent mother, wife and entrepreneur – she raised children who were promised Paradise! We can’t beat that, I take my inspiration from her and other great women of the past like the mothers of Musa , Imam Bukhari and Imam Malik to mention a few.
Recent studies show that working moms are raising happy, productive kids who have turned out to be intelligent, secure, loving, confident and are making a positive contribution to the growth of the society.
The focus of this article is not to give preference to the idea of being a working mom, but to point out ways we can raise smart, well-adjusted kids with the demands of juggling a career and managing other priorities in our lives.1
All moms have to make choices on how to raise your kids, depending on your vision and goals for your family. Also, remember we all have different circumstances. Some women choose to work, some choose to stay at home and some are forced to work because they are single, abandoned or mothers with no other source of financial support.
You know your situation better than anyone does, and you are the best judge of what is good and healthy for the well being of you and your family. What works for you works for you!
As we already know, parenting is the most challenging yet rewarding job on the planet. You are on call 24/7, 365 days a year. So how do we balance managing a career and a family without being frazzled, overwhelmed and burnt out? Many of us often find ourselves burning the candle at both ends.
No doubt, as a working moms we have to make huge sacrifices and cut done on some of our own leisure activities – which in itself is an act of selflessness. We might miss the occasional parents evening for a meeting at work, provided we are true to ourselves. It’s perfectly fine to express ourselves to our kids and let them know that you are not super mom all the time.
Here are a few things we can start doing to raise excellent children without feeling the mommy guilt that all mothers feel but working mothers do even more:
1. Strengthen your relationship with Allah
A starting point is to understand your primary obligation, which is to worship Allah . Our creed already informs us that our primary purpose is to worship Allah .
“I created man and jinn for no other purpose than to worship Me only”1. [Qur’an: Chapter 51, Verse 56]
It’s crucial to ensure you have a strong spiritual connection with your Creator, because trust me you will need Allah every inch of the way.
2. Understand your role and responsibilities
We have many obligations and responsibilities, Allah warns us:
“O you who believe, protect yourselves and your families from a fire whose fuel is men and stones.” [Qur’an: Chapter 66, Verse 6]
It’s important to have a clear purpose and vision on how to achieve this. The Prophet also tells us that:
“Each of you is a shepherd and each of you is responsible for his flock. The leader is a shepherd and is responsible for his flock; a man is the shepherd of his family and is responsible for his flock; a woman is the shepherd in the house of her husband and is responsible for her flock; a servant is the shepherd of his master’s wealth and is responsible for it. Each of you is a shepherd and is responsible for his flock.” [Bukhari and Muslim]
Allah appointed you to this role. You have to be a visionary mom who has clarity about the primary duties and responsibilities, assigned to you by Allah . A visionary mom knows that she is her child’s first school and has a responsibility of nurturing iman and teaching and guiding her children, shaping their character and behavior by instilling Islamic principles, values and beliefs in them. Your duty is to establish their Islamic identity by raising God-conscious children, just like Yaqub did with Yusuf at a very early age.
Allah has equipped us with the resources, character traits and behavior required to perform the world’s most important challenging, yet most enjoyable and rewarding role!
As a mother you know that your purpose is to earn the pleasure of Allah and this applies to every aspect of our lives. The key here is to strive for His pleasure with ihsan (excellence) and motherhood is no exception.
3. Allah is only a dua away
“Supplication is the essence of worship.” [Tirmidhi]
Knowing that my Lord is only a du’a away gives me the added security and certainty that no matter what happens He will be there to see me through. Especially in those moments when you can’t see the wood for the trees – you know what I mean? The Prophet tells us that Allah says:
“The Most High 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 running.” [Bukhari and Muslim]
Having good positive thoughts about Allah is pertinent in seeing us through the regular troughs and throws of life. Never underestimate the power of dua.
4. The power of priority
Getting my ducks in a row gives me clarity and focus in life. First things first, plan your day around salah and not salah around your day. After Allah and the Prophet , my next priority in life is my children. I will never compromise this at any cost. My children know that no matter how busy I am, I love them and they are a significant priority in my life. Your commitment to your family will be displayed in what you are modelling to them. If I have to stay behind occasionally to work, I let them know why and when I will be home. It’s important to be on their team and them on yours. I have an agreement with my children that no matter what, I don’t bring work from home. As soon I walk out of the door at work, I put my mommy hijab on! This helps me prepare myself mentally and physically by putting myself in a positive state of mind ready for my kids. I always go home to my kids with a huge grin on my face – even if my day did not go well which I leave as something to discuss at the dinner table.
We need to embrace our imperfections so our children know we are not superhuman beings. They will appreciate and empathize with us. This does not mean we dump our baggage on them; we are just making them aware of our feelings and this is crucial to their understanding of how to handle their emotions and those of
5. Be present
When you are there, be there! We know that when the Prophet attended to anyone, he turned his full body to give the individual his full attention and listened actively and attentively. Your child will love you immensely for this because this way you are creating and establishing a bond between you and your child. Remember Yusuf and his father? Yusuf ran to him when he had a dream because he knew that his dad was his hero. Be present with your child and ignore those emails, chores and the phone because you can do that later. Or else, you’re only telling your child will that the phone call, the email, or a document you are preparing is more important than him/her. Being present means your child is the most important person to you in that moment and they have your full attention, trust me being in the here and now is fantastic!
6. Have mom-and-me time with your kids
As a working mom I am sure you already know that we have limited time to be with our kids. For me, my children have 10-minutes minimum every evening or morning and it’s one-on-one time with me. During these moments, we discuss anything they want and sometimes it will be a family evening chat; to be honest they usually turn out to be family chats and we love them. All technology is turned off during this time and we usually have a blast – this happens in my room funny enough! These are the best and most valuable moments I will treasure for as long as I live.
Mom-and-me time can also be unscheduled and part of your routine activities with your child. For instance, I used to teach a class at a masjid and used to take my son with me. We travelled for an hour and a half each way, so he had plenty of time to have useful chats with me which he named mom-and-me time and always looked forward to it. We always had so much fun along the way!
7. Organize and establish your routine
It’s important to have a routine for your regular activities. Routines for the morning, evening, homework, Qur’an, family meetings, outings and other routines, which are unique to your family. A working mom has to be very organized and plan well so she doesn’t burn out and end up making herself and her children
8. The day starts the night before
I find it very helpful to plan the next day activities the night before, whether that’s getting the kids’ things ready for school and putting it by the door, preparing packed lunches and ensuring all clothes for the next day are ironed and laid out – including my own! Getting school forms signed and giving out lunch money the night before works wonders for me so most of the time I have uninterrupted mornings and have a great start to the day. This way makes the morning runs smoother and more productive and everyone will be able to get out of the door in one piece!
9. Wake up early
Wake up an hour before the rest of the family and meet with Allah . We know He descends to the lower heavens to answer the duas of those asking, so why not wake up and meet Him? The Prophet has already told us that the early hours of the morning are the blessed time for his ummah. I urge you, and I, to take full benefit of these blessed hours. Re-energize yourself, have a bath/shower etc., whatever floats your boat and then get dressed for work. It does not matter whether you are a working or stay-at-home mom. Waking up early helps prepare yourself to handle the challenges of the day well. Before I jump out of bed, I organize my schedule for the day in my head, and once I am up I am ready to roll.
10. Be flexible with your work
Most organisations are promoting work life balance and have introduced a lot of “family-friendly policies”. Here in the UK where I live, the government has introduced extended maternity leave, working from home remotely and working part-time. There are other flexi-working schemes available in various organisations. With proper arrangement, I am able to attend my kids’ celebration mornings, sports day, parents meetings, etc.
Find an organisation that allows you to adjust your working hours to your family’s circumstances. I work as a consultant, which gives me the flexibility to work the hours that suit my personal circumstances, and it’s working well so far Alhamdulillah. I recently started a new project and I made it clear from the beginning that I will be starting a bit late in the morning, because I have to take my kids to a little corner shop where they get their goodies for the day and I drop them off at school. We cherish this routine so I want to keep it going for as long as possible!
11. Plan your meals
Cooking meals takes up a considerable amount of our time. Creating meal plans helps us organize our time better and helps us actually spend less time in the kitchen. I like to schedule meals in two-week blocks with the help of the children, which translates into my shopping list so I know exactly what I am buying from the stores or on-line. We also bulk cook over the weekend for freezing, so during the week we just have to warm them up and dinner is served in minutes!
12. Lunch hour power-hour
With the constant demands on your time you’ll often feel frazzled and overwhelmed. Set a time like during or after lunch where you can all chat, have a laugh, catch up with school and what’s been going on in your children’s lives at school and otherwise. You’ll give them the attention they need and also find that your children are pretty much independent.
13. Have regular family outings
Finding time to wind down with the kids is great. It does not have to be anything extravagant. It could be a visit to the local masjid to teach children the etiquettes of the masjid, a day to the park, the zoo, museum, a walk, having a meal, going on holiday either as short or long breaks etc. I am sure you can come up with many more ideas to spend time out with your family. It’s brilliant because it gives the family time to bond and strengthen your relationships. Through family outings, you are also giving them quality and quantity time – the best of both worlds.
14. Master the art of delegating
As I have found, running a home is about teamwork and effort. There is a brilliant organization called “TaskRabbit” where you delegate tasks that need to be done, from house chores to errands and they will do it for you. This allows me to free my time up to spend it on what I love – like time with the family.
My children are my team; we all have assigned chores that we do to lighten the load. When we take a trip to the grocery store I stay in the car whilst they go off shopping. They always have a budget and a shopping list. After all, they are learning about life skills too. Some times I have a power nap, or listen to something, phone a friend etc., and take this as a chance for me to recuperate and recharge my batteries. Engage the kids in house chores and other activities: I find giving them ownership and responsibilities makes them sensible, independent, reliable and confident individuals.
15. Embrace technology
Technology used in the right way can serve you and help you stay organized. Download the apps that work for you, and make you work smarter and efficiently. I utilize technology for all my banking activities – saving a trip to the bank. All my bills are automated; I check my account every now and then to avoid any surprises. Other apps I find useful are notability, OneNote, Evernote and Google.The thing about Google is that the whole family can access the online calendar system. My kids can schedule things in my diary and vice versa. Thanks to on-line shopping, I don’t have to frequent the grocery store. There is a plethora of Islamic apps available to download onto our devices to help us make the most of our time for worship as well. It’s all about working smarter, not harder.
16. Build a support network of moms
Build a network of like-minded moms and lean on them when you need to. Social connection and maintaining relationships with our friends is vital for our sanity and well-being.
17. Let go of perfection
As Muslimahs we need to do things with excellence and not perfection. Know that it’s okay to have a messy home sometimes; don’t be hard on yourself if you don’t get to complete some tasks. It’s okay because your mind and body needs a break too. The Prophet tells us that the body has a right over us: recognize the warning signs and give it a break. Good enough is acceptable. Ask for help, tasks might not be done to your standard but a task completed is a task completed. For example, on Fridays we don’t cook – we just get take-out and have fun for the evening. My children call this “take-out Friday” which gives me some rest and all of us some great time together.
18. Celebrate successes!
Whatever success means to you, celebrate by sharing it with Allah and thanking Him for a great day.
“And [remember] when your Lord proclaimed, ‘If you are grateful, I will surely increase you [in favour]; but if you deny, indeed, My punishment is severe.’” [Qu’ran: Chapter 14, Verse 7]
Being a working mom is challenging but also one of the most fulfilling and rewarding jobs. Although you work, you are also role-modelling to your children that moms too have interests they like to and can pursue. They will see you grow and contribute to the community for the greater good while caring for and nurturing them, and they will see you as an active productive individual that they would love to emulate.
InshaAllah, I hope you find these strategies useful to apply in your own life. You know yourself and your circumstances best, so what works for me works, and what works for you works too. The best advice my mom gave me when I was growing up is an African saying that goes: “Never set your daily tasks by someone else’s watch”2.
What strategies and tips do you have to be a productive, well-balanced working mom? Share them with us in a comment below.
Khafayah Abdulsalam is a mother of 4 kids, Founder of UMMUKA, Parenting Expert, Public Speaker, NLP4Kids Therapist, MasterNLP Practitioner & Counsellor in training.
She is currently studying with the IOU for a Degree in Islamic Child Psychology and Counselling.
She has just written her first online parenting course for Moms here is the link – http://www.ummuka.com/mom
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