By Olivia Kompier
Crosspost from: http://www.screamfreemuslims.com/?p=689
So, this Ramadan has been my first Ramadan in seven years where I have not been pregnant or breastfeeding. I did both back to back, without any “down” time in between my kids where I wasn't doing either, because I nursed for two years and had my three kids roughly 2 and a 1/2 years apart. Wow. Like, wow, I forgot how easy this was when you don't have a baby in your womb or taking its life-force from you.
I met a friend at the park who just had baby number 3 (a lot of my friends seem to be having baby number 3, I guess I had mine early). We were discussing Ramadan and she was telling me how its hard just to get up for Fajr (and this is a super-practicing sister). She can't go to Taraweeh (or she could but with an 8 month old and two older boys under five that would be challenging) and she tried to fast but then stopped because she was worried about her milk. Qiyam is a dream for her, because she's literally sleeping at that time.
As she's telling me all this I could sense the feelings of inadequacy in her voice that I remembered so well, where everyone around you is getting their īmān-rush on and you're barely hanging onto the fard. You have a whole month of fasting to look to forward to making up, when you'll be doing it all by your lonesome self and Shaytan will be back to remind you how miserable you are.
I remember when my Ramadan looked something like this: I didn't fast because I was worried (so I felt guilty) or I did fast but was worried (so I felt guilty) because of my baby, I still tried to do something for ifthar to make Ramadan special, not just for my family but for me, because like what else am I going to do? Then at night I had to wake up every two hours to nurse a baby, all the while never really falling into a deep sleep. I'd pray 2 minutes of Qiyam and then my kid would start crying and I'd just crash back to sleep after that.
I told my friend that 2 hours of mothering sleep = 1 hour of normal people sleep. That means that if I, as a normal person, sleep for 5 hours, I get as much rest as a mother with a baby gets sleeping for 10 hours. Don't believe me? I spent seven years (cause my kids still woke up at night until they were totally weaned) never feeling totally rested, but I somehow was in my bed for 10 hours. Now, this Ramadan, I get 5 hours of sleep and I'm cookin' – I'm up praying Qiyam the last third of the night, I NEVER miss suhoor (before I'd have to drag myself), and I stay awake many days after suhoor to write my books, and I've read more Qur'an this Ramadan than any of the 12 years since I accepted Islam. I can't believe how easy this is, māshā'Allāh. Or really, I can't believe how hard it was before.
Yes, that's right, it was super-hard before, but when I was in the moment and for so long (it was a 7-year moment), I thought, “What's wrong with me? Why am I not doing enough? Why do I feel like I'd kinda rather be not doing this because I'm so, so tired/burned-out/down?” If you're in the moment now, give yourself some credit. You're not a bad Muslim/hypocrite who can barely hold it together–your body and mind are both running on fumes. I mean, how long has it been since you can say you had a full-tank? I think my body is still mad at me for making it wait so long (and is insistent that I don't do that again for a few years at least ).
Shaykh Yaser Birjas wrote a great article about being a stay-at-home-mom during Ramadan, and it has some nice practical advice, so I highly recommend it. My musings are going to give you something a little more akin to emotional support and advice related thereto.
1. Stop feeling guilty about whether or not you're fasting
Whether you're pregnant or nursing, your decision to fast is always going to be ambiguous, unless you've had like 7 or more kids so you feel really confident with your choice (and even then your body can surprise you as you age). You're always going to have some doubt about whether or not you're making the right decision. Don't let that doubt nag you and make you feel bad. Nothing is going to make that doubt go away; you're in-utero baby isn't going to knock and tell you “I'm fine!” or “Help!” nor are you going to be able to practically measure the output of your breastmilk. Your kid may being crying and colicky because he's tired or gassy or just in a bad mood, and you're going to wonder, “Is he getting enough milk?” He isn't going to tell you. Only Jesus (peace be upon him) spoke in the cradle, guys. So learn to live with that doubt and stick with the decision you feel most confident about.
That being said, there's always going to be some nay-sayers. I remember going to the masjid when I had a baby and there's always that sister who asks you “So, are you fasting?” and then you get that pang of trepidation and you wonder “is this just one of those people who doesn't really want to know my decision, but wants to tell me what they did and why I should do the same?” That's the thing, a lot of people just want you to validate them. People want to tell you what they did, and they want you to make them feel like it was right; its human nature, they want you to agree. If you don't agree, then get ready for some criticism. It doesn't matter if you choose to fast or not, people will be the same about it either way. My advice? Don't tell people, or give them so really vague answer. And above all, don't act wishy-washy. ”Well, I was fasting, but now I'm not, but you know, I don't know…” Even if you feel that small percentage of doubt, don't broadcast it. You provide the perfect segway for this person to give their song and dance about what they did and why you should do it, too. Be private about it except with people you'd really like advice from, not random Sister Sally at the masjid.
2. Don't expect to do so much, but expect Allāh's reward.
Don't expect to be able to do what your husband and non-baby friends do. Don't look at them with stars in your eyes and feel bad because you can barely launch into orbit. Allāh will, inshā'Allāh, reward you for what you would have done had you not been burned out with a baby. Allāh knows that it would be 85% easier for you to pray had you not been sleep-deprived, and Allāh knows that you would have made your Fajr prayer longer had you not been worried your baby was waking up, and Allāh knows you would have fasted had you not been worried about it. Don't underestimate Allāh's ability to reward you for what you could have done. And inshā'Allāh you get rewarded even more because you're taking care of your kids, and even taking a concession from Allāh is rewarded, as Allāh loves when we take His concessions.
3. Don't be a super-mom.
For some moms, iftar is their Ramadan contribution, and I totally respect that. For many of us though, it's love-hate. Emotionally you may want to make a gourmet iftar, bake treats, and decorate the table, but practically this is more of a burden than you convinced yourself it would be. It's like you're forcing a smile while you help your three year old stir the cookie batter and the baby's crying in the bouncer and the foods boiling over and you're thinking: “Why isn't this fun like it's supposed to be??! Why am I such a horrible, impatient mother??!!” Make your life easier during Ramadan, not harder. Time isn't going to free itself up for you; you have to free it up from somewhere else. Make iftar easy to free up time to just sit and read Qur'an. Don't get involved in projects with your kids that push you to your threshold of patience. I'm not telling you to be a lazy parent/wife, I'm telling you to be a good-enough parent/wife. I know Ramadan is coming to an end, but we still have the “big nights” left. Make ends meet with the kids and ifthar and the house, but let things slide as much as you can, for your own sake. YOU ARE WORTH IT. Don' guilt-trip yourself.
4. Tell Baba what you need him to do.
I remember one Ramadan when I had three kids, my youngest just an infant, and my husband was laid-off. I was nursing and sleep deprived but still fasting. It was the perfect opportunity for Siraaj to finally do 'itikaaf since he didn't have a job, so he went to the masjid for the last ten days/nights. Hypothetically, this sounded wonderful. For him, it was like he got to make up for lost time. And what sort of wife wouldn't want to support that? So I had this fixed smile and told him to go, even though I knew deep down that this was going to be tough without him: fasting, tired, nursing, three kids, no adult companionship….So he went, and by the eighth day I was so burnt-out I actually got physically sick with a flu or cold or something, and I called him and was like “Can you please come home?!?”
I remember how envious I felt that he got to go. I thought how easy these men have it. They have no idea. But Allāh's Messenger tells us we shouldn't wish to be something we're not, as narrated when Umm Salama voiced the same sort of complaint. Allāh knows best why he put my soul in a woman's body. Maybe if I was a man I wouldn't be as good of a Muslim or maybe I'd find the experience of being a male more challenging than being a female. Maybe being a female is harder on my soul so this is how I'm getting more reward (I mean, come on, dealing with these roller-coaster hormones isn't a cake-walk). Maybe I could only find my true calling in life as a woman.
We often feel bitter when a lot of husbands sort of go back onto the “bachelor track” during Ramadan. Maybe they don't get up with the baby and they're not going to start now, they're not going to suddenly pitch-in with the house and ifthar or maybe they're even less involved than normal because they want to read Qur'an and what not, maybe they go to Taraweeh every night and leave the kids at home, maybe they expect a special ifthar and suhoor like mom used to make so you feel the pressure to prepare it, maybe they're doing itikaaf for five or ten days. Everyone wants to do their best in Ramadan and let's be honest; a lot of times the wife picks up the extra slack and the husbands get to do more.
I'm not saying the guys are jerks. This is actually our fault, ladies. We always feel like we should do the all that extra stuff, and be super-supportive, and make it special, and be patient. And if you do all those things, may Allāh reward you. But if you do those things, also know that that's your choice, so don't be bitter at your man. He most likely didn't ask you do to all that, he just assumes that if you're doing it and you're not complaining, you're fine. Men aren't reading in between the lines of our minds, girls. If you're too drained then its your responsibility to tell him. ”Hey, can we alternate the nights you go to Taraweeh so you can help with bedtime with the kids?” ”Hey, can we eat out once a week or can you just help yourself at suhoor?” ”Hey, I'm not going to do the super-iftar, because I'm behind on Qur'an.” (that one wasn't even a question). ”Hey, can you do itikaaf for five days instead of ten? I think it's just too much for me and the three kids at home for ten days.” If you don't tell him, don't expect him to guess and figure it out himself. Men just aren't like that. And if you feel like you can't tell him those things, then I encourage you to start practicing being more authentic with your spouse overall on a daily basis. Being authentic isn't complaining. Those aren't complaints or accusations. Being authentic is just being honest with your partner so you can find a mutual system that makes you both happy.
My love to all the mommies out there and may Allāh accept all our good deeds! Have a blessed and Screamfree end of Ramadan and 'Īd!