September 27, 2013

Sunnah of Childcare: Being Just Between Children

As Muslims, justice is a theme that drives and forms the foundation for much of our interaction with others, even when it’s against our own selves.
Allah, subhana wa ta ala, says in the Qur’an (translation): “O you who believe! Stand out firmly for justice, as witnesses to Allah, even if it is against your own selves, or your parents, or your kin, and whether it be for rich or poor, for Allah can best protect both. Follow not the lusts of your hearts, lest you swerve, and if you distort justice or decline to do justice, verily Allah is well-acquainted with all that you do.” –Surah An-Nisaa, ayah 135.

This theme also applies directly in how we deal with our children. In Islam, we are obligated to be just with our children, avoiding any and all preferential treatment with one child over another, even in the case of something as simple as giving a gift.
In Sahih Bukhari and Muslim, there is an authentic report on the authority of Nu’man ibn Bashir that his father gave him a bondsman. But his mother said, “I will not agree to it unless you make Allah’s Messenger, peace be upon him, a witness to it.” So the father went to the Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, and told him what he had done. The Prophet, peace be upon him, asked, “Have you given to everyone of your children the like of what you have given to An-Nu’man?” The father replied in the negative. So the Prophet, peace be upon him, said, “Fear Allah and be just to your children.” In another narration, the Prophet, peace be upon him, responded: “Then take back your gift.” And in another narration, he, peace be upon him, responded, “Do not ask me to testify because I do not testify to injustice.” 

And in being just, there lies great wisdom. Think of the possible effects on our children, and in turn on us, if we made it a habit to not be just: 
  • We could inspire jealousy or hatred between our children.
  • We could establish feelings of low self-esteem or low self-worth amongst our children who feel they are not favored as much as other siblings. Or even arrogance amongst our children who feel that they are favored more!
  • We could create emotional distance between ourselves and our children.
  •  We could be a cause of our children becoming defiant and disobedient to us.
  • We could be a cause of our children turning away from Islam, may Allah protect our families.

In his book, Child Education in Islam, Author ‘Abdullah Nasih ‘Ulwan says about unjust treatment of children by family members, “unequal treatment of children is considered the gravest factor in the psychological deviation of children, in addition to the resultant sense of self-abasement, envy and hatred.” 

He goes on to say that even physical or moral reasons, such as preferring one child over another because of their beauty, intelligence, or physical state, are not justifiable reasons for being unjust in terms of our care and treatment of children.

So in what ways can we maintain justice between our children?

1. Recognize and understand the differing natures and needs of our children.
Though they may take on similar characteristics or behavior, every child is unique in their own right. Different children will have different passions, sensitivities, and needs. And all of these will change over time depending on each child’s age, experience, etc. Recognizing the individual differences in each child can help to ensure that each child’s needs are being met in a just way.

2. Remain fair in giving gifts.
If you give gift a gift to one child, give a gift to the others. This, of course should be done on an appropriate level with consideration of the state of mind, preferences and nature of each child. For example, you wouldn’t give the exact same gift to a child who is 2 years and a child who is 16 years.

3. Avoid creating situations that may breed jealousy or worse.
Jealousy can quickly turn to anger, which can quickly turn to envy, which can quickly turn to hatred. Nip this in the bud by making it a point to show affections equally, praise equally, discipline equally, and avoid comparisons.

When it comes to discipline, discipline each child with what is appropriate, making sure not to let one child get away with something you wouldn’t want another one to do. Also, try not to cause embarrassment for a child by making a display of their reprimands and/or punishments in front of the other children. Doing this can easily make them singled out and picked on.

When praise is due, try not to focus all your praise on one child while ignoring others. Every child is unique and has unique qualities that are worthy of praise. Seek out and encourage the praise-worthy qualities in all of your children to help them all feel appreciated, paid attention to, and help inspire them all to more good.  

Stay away from comparative language such as “why can’t you be like your brother?” or “But your sister already had this down when she was your age.” Comparing children to one another can easily foster feelings of low self-esteem and envy.

Show equal affection to all of your children! Too often one child is hugged more, kissed more, or told I love you more than another and this can have create many negative feelings in a child. If you kiss one, kiss them all. Hug them all. Tell them all that you love them and care for them. You don’t need to be excessive or unnatural about your affections, but do be fair.

4. Involve children in one another’s routines and family decisions.
Let’s say that you’re expecting a new addition to the family, try to involve older children in the discussions of what is to come and routines/standard of care that the baby will need.  This may help keep older siblings from feeling jealous of any necessary extra attention the baby has to get.

If there’s a routine that an older child can’t be directly involved in, such as breastfeeding a younger sibling, try having dad spend time with the older child during that time so they don’t feel neglected. Or make it a point to let the older child know that you’re going to breastfeed the baby and when you’re done you will come right away to play, read, or talk with them. When children are involved and aware of what is to come, they are less likely to succumb to feelings of inadequacy or neglect.

September 20, 2013

Beautiful Reminders: The Greatest Joy

In a Sahih Hadith recorded by Muslim, the Prophet Muhammad, sallallahu alayhi wa sallam, was reported to have said (translation): 

"This world is all temporary conveniences, and the greatest joy in this life is a righteous wife." 

September 14, 2013

Jenna Solorio on Returning to Work

Jenna Solorio is an African-American mother of three children, currently residing in California, USA. After 16 years of being at a stay-at-home wife and mother, she recently decided that it was time to return to working outside the home.

Share with us your experience as a housewife/stay-at-home mom.
I spent 16 years of my life as a housewife and honestly those were probably the hardest times of my life.

Not only did I stay home but I also homeschooled most of those years as well. I found it very challenging to have my children perpetually there as they would often fight, especially as they got older. I gave so much of myself to my children trying to be the "perfect" mom, mostly by homeschooling and then adding cooking, cleaning, play dates. In those years I had not done any self-care or self-growth because almost every waking moment was spent with the kids or with other moms talking about the challenges we faced on a daily basis.

Even though I set a strict bedtime for the kids, my husband was home by then so even then my time was being spent with him. And when the next day came, the cycle just repeated itself.

Don't get me wrong, I love my children but my being home and around them all the time made it challenging. I missed having some alone time as even the personal time I would try to take in the bathroom was interrupted constantly by my children. My husband would watch the kids while I went out with my friends but it became apparent that it was not enough time or space to realize who I was and also not enough time to deflate from the kids.

Once they went to school, I found myself at home with no sense of identity and would wander around aimlessly trying to figure out what to do with myself. Then whenever my kids were home, I found myself really angry and almost bitter because I felt like it was a burden instead of the joy that I watched other mothers have. It made me feel like I was a bad mom.

How did you feel about yourself as a Muslim mother when you stayed at home?
I felt inferior and horrible, like something was wrong with me and I could not understand why I was not normal. I would see other moms thrive on being at home and being the great housewives, cooking, cleaning, etc. I saw myself slowly sinking into a deep depression.

I tried my best to volunteer but it was not enough because most of my work was at home. It was a hard time. I became resentful and I felt guilty because it was not my kids fault. I even thought about running away and not coming back for real. I could not take it, because every day it was the same thing, the same problems, the same kid issues.

Yes, I was a mom but there were other parts of me that were stifled and I wanted to express those sides as well. I had this idea from other moms that you are supposed to sacrifice everything for your children but subhanAllah I saw more and more that I did not agree with having to be a martyr for my children. It was better for them to have a happy mom vs. a miserable mom.

So I became "selfish" but I soon realized that by doing so my children would greatly benefit.

What thoughts, feelings and considerations did you have when you initially began to think about returning to work and how long did it take for you to come to a final decision?
One day I came across an article written about a woman and how she felt about working and not being a stay at home mom. She said that she was a much better mom being at work and then coming home and spending time with her kids versus being with them all day and ending up angry and bitter all the time. She said that she gets home and gives her son a bath, dinner, and reads him a story and that ends up being the best time she ever spent.

I connected with that article and realized that maybe that could work for me too. It took me a few years to finally get up the nerve to take action.

In the end, what were some of the reasons that you decided returning to work would be best for you and your family?
I realized I needed a break and was at my wits end and was desperate to try something. I decided that quality vs. quantity was best for my family. The more time I spent with my kids the worse parent I was. The less time I spent with them, the better time we had.

I want the memories my kids have of me to be happy memories of me laughing and being positive with them. By working, I believe that they will have a lot more of that with me.

Now that you’re back in the workforce, how do you feel about yourself as a Muslim mother?
I feel like I have finally been honest with myself that I am not like other women and have finally accepted that this is who I am. I finally stopped fighting who I was and I finally feel like a weight has been lifted. I finally feel happy. I no longer care about the criticism that I get.

What do you feel are some of the benefits (if any) and drawbacks (if any) of returning to work?
I feel happy. My heart feels light. I have interaction with adults and I get the space I need to re-energize before I get home.

How do your husband and children feel about you returning to work?
My husband had in his head the idea of me being a housewife but as time went on he finally understood that a "traditional" style of parenting is not a one size fits all. My husband and the kids have all seen the difference in me and are very supportive. 

My teenage son gave me a letter just yesterday saying that I am a good mom and that he notices that I am getting better.

How do you balance your roles as wife and mother with now being an employee outside the home? What specific tools or strategies do you use to help with this effort?
I have a very supportive family and I feel that is the number one thing.

Not only do I work but I also study sign language. So this takes some of my time as well but I make sure to schedule my work and studying/learning time around my family.

For work, I requested an afternoon schedule so that when I get up in the morning my husband and kids are already gone to school and work and I have that time to myself. I needed this time with no major responsibility, just time for me to be. I journal, make tea, read a book, and when one o'clock rolls around I get up and go to work before the whole family gets home. I am back at home by 6:30 (I chose four hour shifts) which allows me time to skype with my teacher and study in the evening while the kids are in bed and my husband has his downtime.

My husband even worked it out with his job where he is able to leave work and pick up the kids so he can work from home for the rest of the day. Though, I would have figured out a way to work even if he was unable to come home.

What advice do you have for Muslim mothers considering returning to work?
Sit down with your family and have an honest discussion about the new arrangement for the household and come to a compromise that fits you and your family. Also do not care what people think of you for making this decision. Do what is best for you and your family.

Is there anything else you would like to add?
Accept who you are and do not try to be something that you are not. Find a way to embrace it into you and your family's life. Do not apologize for your decision because that would suggest something is wrong with you and that is not the case.

Again one size does not fit all. I have seen many families where both parents work and the children are happy healthy children. You owe no one an explanation as to the reasons why you do what you do; that is between you, Allah and your family.

September 12, 2013

Umm Yusuf on Raising an Only Child

Umm Yusuf is a Guyanese American mother of one currently residing in NJ, USA. She is the owner of The Souq, an online business specializing in hijabs, modest wear, accessories, and other Islamic items. To visit her store, go to or become a Facebook fan.
Before motherhood, how many children did you want to have/saw yourself having and why? 
Before motherhood I always felt three kids was a nice number! I guess that's because I knew my husband grew up as an only child and I grew up with just one other sibling. Based on our experiences, it seemed it would be nice to up the number by having at least three, if it was written for us.

Also since my son has only 1 uncle (who probably won't start his family until my son is already a teen), I would have liked for him to have some siblings and just expand our family in general since from both sides it's pretty small.

Please share with us the reason/story behind your decision to have one child.  
After I had my son, I felt I needed at least two to three years to adjust to motherhood and give him the time, attention, and love he needed and deserved. However, a few years have passed since that stage and we have not been able to have another kid yet.

I am not too stressed, as I feel this is a bounty and gift given or withheld from Allah as He may see fit. I think I also have not stressed the matter much as I just turned 25, and feel I have time to, inshaAllah, figure out what is causing the delay and hopefully with doctors find a way to fix it.

How was your relationship with Allah affected by the knowledge that you may not have more children in the future?
Alhamdulillah Allah has given me a very patient and easy going personality (for the most part!). I see both the pros and cons to being a mother of only one child. As I watch my son grow I've come to see day by day that when raising a child it's all about quality and not quantity. You could have one child and raise him/her to be successful and righteous or have a number of kids, which includes more responsibility and more to be held accountable for in this dunya and hereafter.

As Allah says in the Qur'an "But perhaps you hate a thing and it is good for you; and perhaps you love a thing and it is bad for you. And Allah Knows, while you know not." (Suratul Baqarah: 216).

I fully accept that Allah is the best of planners. While I may long for and feel it's best for me to have more children, Allah must have something different planned for me. Maybe another one is in store a few years from now, or not at all. I am working to embrace His plans for me with open arms and accept the bounties He has bestowed upon me and my family.

How do you believe raising one child can differ from raising multiple children?
Raising one child allows you to put your focus completely on that one child. This could be a good or bad thing, and I think it's important to find balance. In a good sense, it allows you to cater to their needs and make sacrifices for their betterment without it impacting other children (for example: moving for the sake of a better school or even something as simple as taking them somewhere they like without worrying the other sibling doesn't enjoy the same hobby or will feel bored).

Something a lot of parents with more than one child unfortunately do, is compare them to their siblings in a number of matters. When you have one kid, you don't really do that. It allows you to praise their accomplishments and help them improve on their weaknesses, instead of creating jealousy between siblings for those things.

On the down side, I can see that when my son is out he doesn't look forward to coming home at times because he knows it's just him at home without a little buddy to play with! No friendship can compare to the bond siblings share!  

Do you find that your son/daughter displays any specific characteristics or personality traits because they are an only child (whether positive or negative)? If so, please explain.
My son is extremely outgoing, mashaAllah! I don't know where he gets it from. My husband and I are both shy and quiet people. However, my son can go anywhere and strike up a conversation with anyone. He's been doing this since he first learned how to talk. I think because he doesn't always have a sibling at his side, when he goes somewhere he doesn't have someone to automatically stick to. He has to go out there and strike up a conversation with other children or even other adults. This has definitely developed him socially.

A negative thing I see in him is that when he is around other children (mostly younger than him, who don't know how or aren't able to speak up for themselves) he feels the need to be in charge or baby them. He ends up dictating what they can or cannot do, and for a poor 2 year old they could care less about who is telling them what. He has the need to be in control because when he's on his own he doesn't have to share that with anyone else. He's slowly learning that when with others he has to share that role.

Has being a mother of one allowed you to share any sort of special relationship with your child that you feel you may not have been able to enjoy had you had more children?
I think the only thing being a mother of one has given me in my relationship with my son is more time to be at his side. I've seen my mother raise my brother and I, and love us both the same. I never once felt jealous of her love for my brother or vice versa. I think if I had another child or even more, I would still love my son (and his siblings) the same way.

Based on what people tell me though, there's just something special that you share with your first child. So one kid or six kids, I think all mothers might have a different love for their first... not necessarily more love or a stronger love, just a different kind of love. But I only have one kid, so I can't truly speak for that.

How is your son affected by being an only child while many other children they see or know may have multiple siblings?
As I mentioned before, I can see the longing for a sibling in my son sometimes. We have lots of friends with babies who he genuinely loves alhamdulillah. Because of that I can see he likes to play with the idea/concept of having a little baby in the house. When pretending you only think of the positives, he has no idea of the constant crying and sibling drama that would be going on though!

Have you ever felt ostracized, belittled, or made to feel uncomfortable for “only having 1”? If so, please detail an example and tell us how you dealt with it.
I've definitely heard my share of opinions about having one child. I've had people ask if it's because I'd rather give more time to my business, or if it's just because I had one child and realized that I don't like kids. SubhanAllah! Some people's responses have been very insensitive and personal and I can't even repeat what they've told me!

I always think of our beloved Prophet (SAW) and how his mother only had one child. But look at who this child was! Look at the mark he's left in this world and the status he holds! And then look at Prophet Yaqub (A.S.). He had 12 sons mashaAllah, one who was a great prophet (Yusuf A.S.) and 10 of the other 11 who hated their brother to the point that they plotted to kill him! Imagine having so many kids and even He (A.S.) felt the bitterness in his sons and even suspected that they had killed their brother. I can't imagine the pain that could put in a parent's heart!

So I like to focus on what good I can do with what I have been blessed with... because I have still been given a gift. There are sisters out there struggling to have even one child, to experience pregnancy and motherhood. I am very thankful that Allah has given me a beautiful, healthy, and wise son!

What has your parenting experience taught you about being a Muslim mother?
Being a Muslim mother has firstly made me realize how hard my parents worked to raise us as righteous kids on the straight path while living in such a toxic environment. It's definitely not easy. As much as you'd like to shield your child from all evil, they'll still be exposed to things you don't want them to. It's just a process of growing up.

I'm still learning that I cannot control everything my child does and learns. He is his own person, and I have to give him his space to grow and experience things in his own way. I'm also learning to let go and not make a big deal about things. Several of my friends who are now first time mothers grieve about their child not being on a proper sleep schedule, not eating a proper meal for the day, or taking their time with potty training. It makes me giggle! I used to stress about those very things, and look at where we are! My son is still alive and he's doing fine! And I don't see any 7 year olds in diapers, so alhamdulillah, at some point they all fall into place. If they skip meals here and there, break something, mess up on a test... IT'S OKAY!

We all strive for perfection with our kids though we know it's not attainable. Learn to relax and enjoy the ride. I know we've heard it 100 times but they DO grow up fast! Create beautiful memories and not awful memories of getting frustrated with the smallest things. I'm telling you, you'll look back and laugh or wonder why you were being so uptight. They're kids, this is all a part of growing up. I don't even want to think of the mistakes they'll make as they enter teen years!

Is there anything else you would like to share with our readers about raising one child?

May Allah help us to raise righteous kids who are an asset to this deen and this world! And May He put tranquility in the hearts of us worry-some parents! Ameen!

September 6, 2013

Beautiful Reminders: Inside the Womb

Allah, subhana wa ta ala, says in the Qur'an, the translation of which is: 

"And indeed We created man (Adam) out of an extract of clay. Thereafter We made him (his offspring) as a Nutfah (mixed drops of male and female discharge) in a safe lodging (the mother's womb). Then We made the Nutfah into a clot, then We made the clot into a little lump of flesh, then We made out of that little lump of flesh bones, then We clothed the bones with flesh, and then We brought it forth as another creation. So Blessed is Allah, the Best of Creators. After that, you will surely die. Then, surely you will be resurrected on the Day of Resurrection." 

--Surah Al-Mu'minun, Ayahs 12-16