As I was reaching the end of my third trimester I decided to take a short break from my Quran lessons as I knew I’d get very busy in the coming weeks. When I informed my teacher she said she’ll see me again three or four months later in that case. What?! Four months? No way! I would resume again in one month at the most I insisted, to which she simply smiled and said inshaAllah. A wise smile, from an experienced mother speaking words I’d only come to hear and understand once my own baby actually arrived! One whole year later and I’m yet to restart my lessons with her, partly due to the fact that my little one takes up most of my time and also because of bad management of the free time that I am lucky enough to have when he’s taking a nap, or has gone to bed for the night. So it got me thinking and asking fellow mummies, how do you combine and balance life with a demanding baby/toddler and your desire to seek knowledge as you did before. What’s the secret? Is there a secret? Is it even possible? With Ramadan coming up right around the corner it becomes even more pressing to figure out how to be productive while fulfilling our motherly duties.
1) Make Dua
Dua is and always will be the answer to any problem you have. You’ll see the results of your heartfelt dua and wonder why you didn’t make it sooner! Seek the times of acceptance to make your dua in, particularly at tahjajjud time. Having a young child means, whether you want to or not, you’ll probably be awake in those early hours, so use it to your advantage. In Ramadan particularly, use the time before iftar to get your dua game strong rather than wasting ridiculous amounts of time preparing a grand iftar. For those of you whose situation insists you must be in the kitchen, well you can still make dua on the go. Allah sees your struggle. Keep your tongues moist with His remembrance regardless of what you’re doing.
2) Recite Qur’an
Making time for the Quran is the best thing you can do to have a good productive day. Just a page a day gives you that boost you need. The words of Allah soothe the heart, relieve the stress and help develop a positive outlook for the rest of the day. So begin your day with Quran. It can be as little or as much as you can manage. Ramadan is the month of the Qur’an so give it its due diligence. Even the person who doesn’t pick the mushaf up the rest of the year gets it out in Ramadan even if only for the 27th! I would normally say aim for a juz a day in Ramadan if you can, so if you have the opportunity to attend taraweeh you’re following the recitation. However, with children it can be difficult. So do as much as you can but do it every day. Generally, if you aim to read around five pages after every salah you should complete the entire Qur’an by the end of the month.
3) Technology savvy
Technology is generally the main cause of our procrastination but it can also be an awesome thing if used to our advantage! You can spend hours on YouTube watching cat videos or you can access the overwhelming amount of fabulous lectures that are freely available at your disposal anytime you like. Put these on while you’re doing your daily chores or even playing with your children, have it on in the background- something is better than nothing. Online courses and classrooms are also extremely valuable to those of us who despair at not having classes widely available in our area. Even if you crave that classroom experience, online will always be more practical and convenient when you’re running a household. So instead of feeling sorry for yourself, access the wonderful cache of knowledge just clicks away from the comfort of your sofa or bed!
4) Reasonable goals
As much as you may want to do five different classes, different jobs and six different courses, it’s not practical. So set yourself small achievable goals that you can complete with ease. The more you set yourself to do and fail to complete, the more disheartening it is and you end up doing nothing. Remember, “The best deeds are those done regularly even if they are few.” (Hadith). Set weekly goals, use a diary, whether you’re a pen and paper person or a digital one it doesn’t matter, just get stuff jotted down. Review what you achieve at the end of every week and you can either increase or decrease for the following week. Writing down and allocating time to everyday tasks is a brilliant way to use your time efficiently. In Ramadan the dip is almost guaranteed in the middle of the month. We’re all hyped up at the beginning and at the end but we end neglecting the middle. This usually happens because we either wear ourselves out by doing too much in the first few days that we just can’t physically do anymore or we set ourselves an impossible goal which we fail to achieve so we give up altogether! Slow and consistent is the key, don’t get overwhelmed for either of these reasons and end up wasting another precious Ramadan.
5) Study buddy
Keeping the momentum and motivation going can be difficult but having a study buddy is a way to overcome that. Rope in a friend or family member to do a class with you, or learn a surah, watch a lecture, memorise a new dua, whatever it is you want to do. You can keep each other in check and push one another when laziness is knocking on the door and enthusiasm is running low. Having good company who remind you of Allah is a wonderful gift so hold on to people like that and strengthen your relationship by worshipping Allah together. A study buddy isn’t just for Ramadan, they’re for life!
If you’re lucky enough to have babysitters on hand so you can go to the gym even once a week then I envy you! Joke. No I really do. Babysitters are wonderful creations of Allah so use them wisely and sparingly! If you do have the opportunity to go the gym then go for it but if you’re like me and babysitters are rare things for you, then doing an exercise video for ten minutes every morning or every other day can make all the difference. You need a healthy body for a healthy mind so look after yourself. Eat a healthy varied diet and exercise regularly. The boost of energy a good diet and regular exercise gives you is a brilliant weapon to ward off the trap of procrastination and laziness. If you can exercise in Ramadan and find a time suitable (maybe after taraweeh or before suhur) then I recommend you still do even if its ten minutes every other day, keep the momentum going in and out of Ramadan.
Never despair in the mercy of Allah
I know it feels like you literally have no free time when you’ve got children but you’d be surprised at how much time you waste that you could put into productive use when managed properly. Don’t get me wrong, you still need your me time but take a look at your typical day and figure out where those cheeky minutes, maybe even hours, are going. Be prepared to sacrifice sleep more than you already are doing, if that’s even possible! Not to the extent that you can’t function, but again you need to look at your day and decide what can be sacrificed and what is necessary.
Know that every little that you are doing for your family carries immense reward and all the ‘ibadah you’re squeezing in will also be greatly rewarded. So don’t be sad, Allah sees your struggle and all He requires from you is to have a sincere attention and try your utmost best. Don’t use your children as an excuse to not try at all, that doesn’t count, you must make an effort at least. Be careful not to burn yourself out though. If you’re down, nothing will get done and overdoing it will cause more harm than good. It will get better and easier as your children grow up, or so I’ve been told!
Finally, don’t be fooled by the supermoms you see on social media. We only see the good side of parenting on social media. We don’t see their bad days or their kids throwing massive tantrums. They may be doing a fantastic job but I’m sure they also have their challenges. Yes aspire to the good they do but you don’t have to hold yourself to anyone else’s standards. Everyone’s situation is different and as long as you try your best to be the best parent you can be then your children will grow up just fine, more than just fine actually.
I end with the wise words of a fellow Ink of Faith colleague and fellow mother because these lines are enough: “The key is to know exactly how much we can dedicate to what at the moment, and make our peace with that. Perhaps Allah will make a mountain of good out of what we think is a tiny speck, we hope in Him and keep our duty to Him in that hope”.
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