When my sister-in-law told me that her former co-worker now turned stay-at-home dad asked if I'd be interested in writing an article for TheGoodTheDadAndTheBaby.com, I was thrilled.

The site, run by Detroit native Matt Dudzinski, tells the story of a very rare and unique role people take in today's world: a guy who decided with his wife to be a stay-at-home dad watching their daughter while mom went to work.

My excitement came because I had just recently experienced a time in my life when I was unemployed and, with my wife, made the decision (and in some ways was forced) to be a stay-at-home dad with our new baby boy, while my wife went to work. The experience was something I wanted to share with people, and I thought what better place than on a site written by someone in the same shoes.

The article was written for an open online audience at large. One of the goals I had was to show other American readers that your Muslim neighbors go through some of the very same and real problems you do, and here's how they approach it with Islam to empower them.

Now, I'd like to share it with the Muslim community. The goal this time, however, is to call something to our attention.

There are many personal situations that our community is largely unfamiliar with. Some examples are divorce, poverty, unemployment, and baggage from before accepting Islam.

Because of our unfamiliarity, we sometimes look down on people in situations that we don't understand.

This does a lot of damage to people. They might be in some sort of great need, but instead are shunned, because their unique situation is something people are just ignorant about, leaving them without any means of seeking help.

I found myself in one of those “unfamiliar” personal situations. I was a stay-at-home dad.

And while I found support in certain places, I also found scenarios where people from our community looked down at me because of my situation.

Why? I'm sure there are many reasons. Yes, our faith defines general guidelines for roles and responsibilities between genders. And maybe the way certain cultures that are predominantly Muslim have institutionalized those guidelines into hard, fast rules might have something to do with it.

But, like I mentioned for the other scenarios, I feel it's because of people's unfamiliarity with my situation that may have caused them to have a negative feeling about my decision to be a stay-at-home dad.

After all, what kind of Muslim man has his wife go out and earn an income while staying home to change diapers? No one really knows, because it's not something common, and therefore probably not a good thing.

These types of standards made life a little hard for me, socially. I would find myself feeling bad about telling people within our community that I was a stay-at-home dad. For some reason, I felt like people wouldn't accept me for it.

subhanAllah, we know very well the high regard our faith gives to people who treat their families best. And in my situation, unable to find work, I had no choice. I had to stay home (as you can read in the article). Yet, still I got heat for it!

Now, my situation isn't that big of deal; I only had to deal with this social stigma to a limited extent. Plus, I actually really enjoyed my time at home with my son.

It's people going through much worse that I worry about. Those who are divorced and have a stigma attached to them by others. People of other races that are looked down upon. Even people struggling with their faith finding little to no acceptance in the community.

People are in need, and when they want to try and reach out for help, they don't, because they know how people will react if they find out about their situation.

The solutions to this issue are many. But the one clear way I feel is to take a prophetic approach and be more open and accepting as a community.

Behind every tradition of the Prophet in words and actions, there were real live humans he interacted with on a daily basis, peace be upon him. Especially those that came to him with situations unique from the majority of the community. Anybody with any problem was able to approach the Prophet with an open-door policy. Hearing about those Companions' lives, may Allah be pleased with them, gives people in similar struggles something to find comfort in and relate to.

But it's knowledge about their stories that is critical. To bring back the prophetic way of acceptance in our times, maybe we need to hear more about what people go through today.

And that's why I'd like to share my experience as a stay-at-home dad. Our community needs to hear about people in situations we're unfamiliar with. As Allah says in the Qur'an, “…so that you may get to know one another.” (49:13)

I hope that by seeing how the situation was for me, our community can increase understanding and begin to exercise compassion to others in similar situations.

Compassion that, hopefully, can do the same for those in greater need, as well.

The Best Job I Ever Had

Four weeks before our first son, Abdullah Yusuf Shafi, was born, we found ourselves in an interesting situation. I had lost my job as an accountant at a corporate retail company. Within a few weeks, Ayesha was due to go on maternity leave from her position as a high school math teacher at a small private school, unpaid. Not exactly the situation we had planned for when we would have our first child.

Read the rest of the article, The Best Job I Ever Had,” at TheGoodTheDadAndTheBaby.com.

31 Responses

  1. Nuraini

    my husband and i will be in a similar situation. we are a cross-nationality marriage. one of us will have to leave the native land and migrate to the other’s. the twist is, i am the one with the higher earning power. the kinds of things my husband is good at (crafting) in the current world is no longer quite so valued – even though he can do so many things with his hands. plus his country’s economy and cost of living is getting worse, whereas there is more opportunity in mine. so, based on this and other reasons, the logical conclusion is that he migrates, which means he will be out of job at least for the near term and effectively function as the stay-at-home spouse. he will have a workshop to tinker in – and who knows, maybe start a business from in future, as he does want to begin earning again at some point so he can buy me presents and stuff.

    we think actually this general arrangement suits our personalities and natural gifts best – and it’s a good thing for kids when parents are happy. nowadays when the home is wired for technology, there are more things to troubleshoot and keep in good repair – i would have a husband looking after all of these things, on top of some of the daily tasks, and make some of our furniture and things too, without having to call in a plumber or technician. i value that a great deal. i think it disrespects the female stay-at-home spouse when you say a stay-at-home dad ‘does nothing’. coz this implies the wife also ‘does nothing’ when she’s a homemaker. besides, in this age where there are many jobs that are more gender neutral and even being increasingly virtual (removing any advantages of physical endurance or strength), there are going to be some marriages where to prioritise the family means swapping around some of the traditional earner/home roles.

    increasingly there are couples where the wife has the steady employed job, providing the ‘safety net’ whereas the husband has the riskier own-business type jobs for the opportunity to move up the socioeconomic ladder – i know at least 3 pairs of friends like this. one of these wives has the talent and in a position to someday be the national authority in an emerging technological field of knowledge, which the country would lose had her husband not been supportive and open to a flexible family arrangement, her talent and intelligence would have been wasted, the ummah lose an intellectual merely because she is female. another is a specialist doctor who will serve her turn at rural communities – had her husband not been supportive, considering the shortage of doctors, who will serve such communities? both are otherwise completely feminine, ordinary muslimah wives and mothers. what enables such flexibility aside from an open mind? the power of the extended family – such a force of good for the ummah, when we wish it to be.

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  2. cassieandraj

    I really enjoyed this. My husband and I just converted last month. I am a stay at home mom to 2, my oldest is from my first marriage. When I mentioned this before people seemed to act strange about it, but I didn’t let that bother me. We are struggling with our families, since they are Christian, and the Christmas season. We have abandoned doing Santa for the kids and had planned on leaving the Christmas tree behind as well, however it proved to be a huge point of contention with our families.

    When some of our Muslim friends saw that we had a tree they immediately called my husband to “Talk” to him about it. We are doing it to keep the peace, not to celebrate the birth of Jesus. It’s hard when you are a convert, born Muslims seem to have a hard time understanding American/Christian celebrations. My family never celebrated Christmas as a religious holiday anyway, it has always been about family and friends. At first I felt bad about the tree, but I have decided that it is what needs to happen to keep my family from completely rebelling against us.

    I foresee many more problems like this in the upcoming year and plan to handle them accordingly. I will base my decision off of what ends up being the most peaceful for my family. I am not willing to sacrifice my family in order to make other people think higher of me. I am hoping that over the next year or two we can slowly weed out things like the Christmas tree, but to keep the peace it will have to be a slow and gradual process.

    Thanks for bringing up the point of not understanding what converts have to go through. I appreciate that!

    AA

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    • Saher

      I completely agree with you. We have a tree downstairs and it has nothing to do with celebrating the birth of Jesus for us. For us this is just a time of the year when the kids are done exams, friends and family are free to spend time together and it’s a lot of fun putting up the tree with the kids. They have no clue that xmas is intended to be the day some people celebrate Jesus birthday. I have a lot of chritians friends who don’t take xmas as a religious holiday. Just a time for everyone to eat and hang out. I say, don’t feel bad about the tree. And even if you think that it’s not a good idea…then don’t put it up next year! Can’t change everything over night. All the best to you!

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    • Umm Sulaim

      As-Salam alaykum and welcome to Islam, Cassieandraj and family.

      The important thing is your intention and the fact your actions are not deliberately to join in the celebration. I admire that.

      Even born Muslims come up with excuses for marking the day.

      With time you will be more comfortable with the situation, though I truly doubt your family’s opposition will diminish.

      Welcome to the Truth.

      Umm Sulaim

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      • cassieandraj

        I don’t see my family’s opposition changing anytime soon. However, I am hoping that it will become less of a big deal over time…maybe they can just be opposed among themselves when we are not there.

        Thanks for the support!

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    • Reina

      As salaamu alaikum and congrats on converting! I converted in 2007 and just in the last few years have weeded out all the Christmas stuff out of my life, alhumdulilah. My family, like yours celebarted it the holiday as more of a secular event but does not change the origins or the overall meaning of the holiday. There comes a time when, for me anyway, compromising your religion for family gets uncomfortable. Our compromise is that we still do Thanksgiving…lol, hate the origins of that holiday but Christmas is way more problematic religiously. Anyway, My parents still buy my kids a few things around the winter time but everything else to do with the season has stopped. It really has taken a load off and I feel a lot bette rnow that it’s behind me.

      It takes time to change your life and Islam is a huge and wonderful life change, alhumdulilah. Take the time and as many steps as you need!

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      • cassieandraj

        I’m not sure that I will ever be able to get the families to stop buying gifts. My oldest sons family I’m sure will never stop. His father told me when he brought him home that they accidentally fed him 3 pancake/sausage on stick this weekend. They are super rednecks though so I am honestly surprised that they are taking it so well.

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      • SaqibSaab

        Pigs in a blanket! Now you gotta make some Halal chicken sausage and pancakes on a stick for them. Don’t forget the real maple syrup, thanks for your comments!

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    • Abu Sumaiyah

      As-salamu alaikum

      Welcome to islam. I, like yourself, am a revert. I understand your situation. However. I would like to give you some advice. Do not compromise on your religion with your family. My family is from Bosnia, the Croatian side. They despise Muslims with ferver. However, I dont compromise my religion with them. They didnt like it, but they are the ones who made compromises for me, my wife, and my children. They dont like it, but they will realize that you are serious about your religion and if they want to have a family they wil just learn to be quiet. If you compromise on one thing, you will being to compromise on everything. I advise you to obey Allah and His messenger. Follow him in everything and ask Allah to make the hardship easy. With every diificulty, there is ease. You should realize that Allah comes before your family. I made that clear to my family, that my religion is more important. If a Catholic family from Bosnia can accept it, then I am sure a typical Canadian/American family can.

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      • cassieandraj

        I appreciate your input. I was planning on avoiding Christmas for the most part, although I won’t alienate myself by not going to the family get togethers as this is the only time I see some of my family. I understand that my religion should come first, but my family is a huge part of my life and I cannot put myself in a bad situation with them. I have to take it little by little and ease them into it. These are the people who help take care of my children and who help us if we ever need it, I can’t just ignore their concerns. I will compromise where I feel I can and won’t when I feel like it is not possible. Compromise, unfortunately, is just part of life in general, we all have to make them upon occasion.

        Thanks for your support, I really appreciate it!

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      • Umm Sulaim

        Appreciate and stick with your family for as much as you. If I had a family I could describe with even those words, my psychology would be totally different.

        Just do not lose focus.

        Umm Sulaim

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  3. sister M.

    MashaAllah; may Allah reward you for your attitude of acceptance and openness to others who are in different situations than yourself, and for encouraging others to be open and accepting as well. That is really how we as Muslims should strive to be, regardless of social/cultural conventions. Writing this article was indeed a great effort in encouraging acceptance and open-mindedness. JazaakAllahu khair.
    May Allah continue to bless your family.

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  4. SimplyMe

    MashaAllah. Throroughly enjoyed this article.
    A wonderful way to highlight an issue we as muslims need to look into. This may not be a common issue but it is something that happens.

    At least three we know of including the above commenters. I am sure there are others who are facing this situation.

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  5. Siraaj

    Great article Saqibsaab, I remember this time well in your life. I had heard there were some positions for you out in Dallas at the time, and I thought, man, Saqib, Murphy, Faiez, and Mueze in Dallas, what’s gonna happen!?

    But anyway, glad it worked out for you in Detroit, alhamdulillaah :)

    Siraaj

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  6. Hansa

    Great story mashaAllah. My own father stayed home with us(his three girls) for many years, and those memories and experiences are among the most treasured of my life. May Allah SWT reward him and you.

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  7. Mohammed

    salaam

    Whilst I fully accept that there are men who are forced to be at home due to circumstances (such as unemployment/ illness etc…), I have to say that I disagree with calling yourself a stay-at-home dad. I think you’re an unemployed dad looking for work and whilst you are doing so, you are spending time in your home with your kids. This does not suddenly make you a house-husband.

    Making a conscious decision to stay at home and willingly invert the natural roles of the male and female is un-Islamic and a recipe for disaster. The man is supposed to be the head of the household and so many of HIS islamic obligations are tied to the fact that he provides monetary income into the family.

    In your case brother Saqib – it seems to be a case of semantics – you were not in that position out of choice so how can anyone be upset at you? However, should anyone be in that position out of choice then I think society is justified in questioning this.

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    • Olivia

      I don’t think brother Saqib is insecure, that’s why he has no problem calling himself a stay-at-home-dad. I mean, he was staying at home, and he’s a dad…No one is advocating a gender-role-reversal. What really destroys the balance and happiness in marriage is when a man is very insecure about his manhood, to the extent that he feels emasculated by staying at home with is kid and being called by a certain term.

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    • Mira

      hope you’re not just looking after your son but taking care of the cooking and housework too.

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      • SaqibSaab

        Mira, alhamdulillah I did cook and clean here and there, and still try to do so now that I’m working full time. Not sure what my wife would have to say about how much and how well, though!

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      • April

        It is admirable that you made efforts to cook and clean, but “here and there” sounds like it was perhaps not as much as a SAHM would do? It would be nice if you comment on this aspect of being a SAHD because maintaining the home is actually a major part of what makes being a SAHM so challenging in many cases…and many people do not understand that “staying home” involves a whole lot more than playing with the kids all afternoon.

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    • April

      I don’t think society is justified in questioning how two adult married Muslims choose to structure their lives. So long as it is consensual, meaning that the wife has agreed to the arrangement, I can’t see how it is anyone’s business who goes out to work and who stays at home to take care of the kids. There are many reasons why such an arrangement might work better in some families.

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      • AbuKunya

        So long as husband and wife agree, what does it matter what Allah says, eh?

        Not singling you out with my response, per se, but to the idea that it should become considered acceptable to invert the roles of who goes out to work .. especially the notion of doing so on the basis of consensuality (is that a word?) between husband and wife.

        _______
        That was where my comment could end, but I feel the strange need to clarify my standpoint, which is this:

        No doubt circumstances may dictate that such an arrangement is a practical reality.
        And if so, there should be no shame imputed, nor felt.
        In such a situation the husband should fulfill this role, however temporary (or not, as the case may be, as decreed by Allah azza wal), to the best of his ability, indeed with cheerfulness, optimism, hope, proactivity and love for his family (as opposed to moping and feeling sorry for oneself) – I definitely applaud this.

        But the *intention* surely ought to be to seek (by dint of dua and by effort) to revert to the natural roles that we were made for, the ones we are meant to fulfill as husband and wife, the roles we will be questioned about, and to avoid the trap of becoming too entrenched in that new arrangement – to the point where it becomes the state of affairs in that family or in society.

        It’s a test from the tests in this world.

        _____________

        As a side note I’d like to point out this – is there also not a distinction to be made between the husband ‘going out to work’ and the husband ‘providing for his wife/family’.
        The two are not necessarily the same (though often of course they are).

        ie. is wealthy enough without having to go out to work.
        (..or, works from home? lol.)

        So long as he is fulfilling his duties of housing, clothing, feeding etc. – is that not what he’ll be questioned about?

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  8. Zahra

    Jazak Allah khairan for the honest and heartfelt insights. This article is a wonderful depiction of all the effort it takes to make a family succeed. May Allah swt bless your family, ameen.

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