The holy month of Ramadan fast-approaches and many mothers may be finding themselves in a predicament–a low spiritual state. Reflecting on the Ramadans of previous years and phases in our lives, we may be wondering, how did my faith come to such a low point? And more importantly, how do I work towards improving my spiritual connection with Allah demands of motherhood–the lack of spiritual self-care for mothers. With so many things to juggle all at once, it can be very easy to forget to dedicate time and energy towards spiritual growth.and His Deen? The answer to both of those questions is oversight of spiritual upkeep and development that many mothers experience due to the
If you’re realizing you’ve stumbled into this pitfall–don’t worry or feel bad about it now. This Ramadan is giving you an opportunity to make a change in your life which will benefit you, first and foremost, and the rest of your family.
Importance of the Holistic Self
It is important for all human beings to be well-rounded, especially mothers. Intellectual, spiritual, physical, psychological, and relational health is important for mental wellness, functioning at one’s best and being able to reach one’s full potential. For the Muslim, spiritual health should come first, but can be very easily overlooked due to its abstract nature. With other aspects of a person’s health, it can be easy to set goals and track them. For example, physical fitness: running a mile three times a week and gradually attaining a faster mile time. For having healthier relationships: reducing the amount of yelling at children and getting the number of incidents to lower each month. But when it comes to spiritual health, it can be challenging and confusing to set goals and track our progress due to the fact that a person’s spiritual state is largely unseen and unknown.
Specifically for women who are mothers, when a mother is not in good health, she is not the only one impacted. Mothers have great influence over their households and when those family members go out into the world, those effects of the home touch all aspects of society. We often hear the saying, “you can’t give from an empty vessel.” Now think about a mother’s spiritual health: if a mother is not in a good place spiritually, how is that good for herself and her akhirah? On a secondary level, how does this imaan low effect her children and those around her? However important a goal it is for any mother to be a great mother, it is important to always prioritize our spiritual health for ourselves first and foremost. Everyone and everything else is secondary.
Spiritual Self-Care 101
We may have heard of the term “self-care” before. When we think of self-care, we often think of relaxing activities: reading a book, taking a warm bath, having lunch with friends, or going for a walk. But this might be the first time many of us are hearing about “spiritual self-care.” What is it? Spiritual self-care is the practice of protecting and improving one’s spiritual health. Regular self-care is not a substitute for self-care for the soul; a tired soul doesn’t need rest, it needs a reconnect with Allah.
Many mothers who are practicing self-care may find themselves rejuvenated or energized to a certain extent after engaging in activities they find relaxing or recharging. But neglecting spiritual self-care will not completely remove the mommy burnout many mothers experience on a regular basis. Why is that? We are created first and foremost to worship Allah, as He tells us in the Quran,
“I did not create the Jinns and the human beings except for the purpose that they should worship Me.” [Adh-Dhariyat:56]
So as believing Muslim women, when we have disconnected from a regular practice of protecting and improving our souls, we will never feel satisfied, no matter how many lunch dates with friends we go on, or books we read.
Making Your Relationship with Allah#1 Since a Muslim’s–man or woman, parent or not–spiritual health is of tantamount importance when considering a person as a whole, the relationship we prioritize first and foremost should be our relationship with Allah . We can start this by scheduling everything around Him. Going through the day-to-day hullabaloo of managing and supporting a family is very demanding and challenging, but prioritizing our mandatory acts of worship, daily prayers, and fasting during Ramadan (when/if applicable) above all other commitments, is necessary for a bare boned protection of our souls and spiritual health. Carving out extra time in addition to observing mandatory worship for more opportunities for spiritual growth can also help keep our relationship with Allah the center of our lives. Our souls gain strength through our connection to Allah , which can be further established through dhikr, spending time with Allah , and reflecting on His Names.
The other way to keep Allahour most important relationship as moms is through harnessing the power of intention. We’ve heard this in the many khutbahs we used to attend when we did not have young babies to care for – it all boils down to the intention. But re-frame it specifically in light of the conversation of spiritual self-care for Muslim mothers. Through the mercy of Allah , almost anything we do can be accounted for as a good deed and way of connecting to Him. Many of the things we busy ourselves with on a daily basis can be beautifully transformed into acts of worship. Watching the kids, doing laundry, maintaining the home, teaching children, or helping with schoolwork–these can all be good deeds if we slow down and make the intention for them to be acts of worship we are dedicating to Allah . The invaluable acts of service to keep our families afloat–the same ones that mainstream society scoffs at or ignores–have the potential of bringing us closer to Allah and elevating our ranks in the Hereafter. One additional layer of benefit when we make a good intention for seemingly mundane, everyday tasks is that not only do we hope to attract the blessings of Allah , we also are given a touchstone to help us perform our tasks with a level of excellence, ihsan.
The Importance of Making Time for Yourself
In my private practice as a licensed therapist, many women complain that when their husband wants to do something he just does it. (I want to go for a run, so I will. I want to go to the masjid to pray, see you later!) Whereas women put everything else first and leave themselves last. Your spiritual health and self-care should not come last, however. Look at your schedule and find the best times for you (after fajr, after isha, during kid’s naptime, etc.) and reserve it for your spiritual self-care. Work with your spouse and communicate when you are busy engaging in spiritual self-care so he knows when he should support you–by leaving you alone, taking over with the kids, etc. If you’re a single parent, work with family members or friends–or you may find you need to hire help at times to make it work.
Keep in mind that our lives as mothers have different demands at different periods in our lives. A mother with young children is in a very different position than a mother with adult children. Any number of factors can change your circumstances: adding another child into your family, changing the schooling of your children, a new job,, moving to a new home, a health diagnosis, or a big family change. You will have to adapt as you experience different phases in your life with varying demands on you–so if you find yourself struggling to do half of the things you used to do when you only had one child in school now that you have a newborn to take care of–that is normal. Your personal best is going to look different at varying parts of your life. Everything is relative to your current situation, so always remember to strive in a way that is doable for you wherever Allahhas placed you right now.
Self-Care Tips for Mothers
Here are some tips I’ve put together for you when it comes to introducing or improving self-care in your life as a mother:
- The importance of knowing what works for you. Focus on strengths and what replenishes you. What works for your friend might not work for you. A great place to start is thinking about a time when you felt great spiritual energy and what you used to do then.
- Self-care is not doing things you should be doing anyway–a common misconception. Self care is not taking a shower or praying your fard prayers. Self-care goes above and beyond the basic human needs in our lives. What nourishes your soul?
- There is no easy time to start. You have to make time for yourself and there isn’t a better time to start than now–so just go for it! The longer you procrastinate with prioritizing your holistic health, the worse off you, your kids, and the rest of your family will be.
- Utilize female spaces like women’s halaqaas, book clubs, classes, etc. Not only will you find you’ve invested in your spiritual health, but you will also have opportunities to connect with other women–you are not alone, nor were you meant to be on this journey of motherhood.
Tips Specific to Spiritual Self-Care
- Use small deeds that lead to big rewards like these:
- Tasbeeh: Gives you energy and helps with everyday tasks. It was narrated that ‘Ali
said, “”Fatimah complained about the marks left on her hands from grinding flour. We came to the Prophet and I said: “O Messenger of Allah, Fatimah is complaining to you about the marks left on her hands from grinding flour and she is asking you for a servant.” He said: “Shall I not tell you about something that is better for you than a servant?” and he told us, when going to sleep, to say thirty-three and thirty-three and thirty-four of tasbeeh, tahmeed and takbeer.””[Qawi;Musnad Ahmad 996]
- Praying and sitting after Fajr: Anas bin Malik narrated that “”the Messenger of Allah said: “Whoever prays Fajr in congregation, then sits remembering Allah until the sun has risen, then he prays two Rak’ah, then for him is the reward like that of a Hajj and Umrah.” He said: “The Messenger of Allah said: ‘Complete, complete, complete.’””[Da’if; Jami`at-Tirmidhi 586] Ask your husband or a family member to keep an eye on the kids and pray Fajr at the masjid. Grab a nice cup of coffee afterwards!
- Recite Surat Al Ikhlas: Narrated Abu Ayyub: “”the Messenger of Allah said: “Would one of you like to recite a third of the Qur’an during a night? Whoever recited: Allaahu Al-Wahid As-Samad then he has recited a third of the Qur’an.”” [Sahih; Jami` at-Tirmidhi 2896] Are you up all night with the baby or just too exhausted at the end of the day? Recite this surah we all know with the intention of the reward.
- Tasbeeh: Gives you energy and helps with everyday tasks. It was narrated that ‘Ali
If you’re using Ramadan as a catalyst to implement spiritual self-care in your life, ask yourself this question: Which habits and practices am I doing during Ramadan with the plan of continuing them on until Ramadan next year?
Carrying Spiritual Self-Care Onwards
Mothers are not superheroes who can serve their families without attending to themselves –especially their spiritual health. As mothers, we must pay special attention to our spiritual health and actively invest in it to maintain and grow our souls. We can never be in a good place or feel happy without a spiritual connection to Allah–so take the month of Ramadan as a catalyst to establish a spiritual self-care plan for yourself which you can carry on with you outside of Ramadan.
Source: Muslim Matters