My issues began when I discovered I was pregnant last year. I was 23 at the time and was in the middle of my Master's, so it came as a huge shock. I had previous issues of anxiety and spouts of low mood, which I'm currently seeking help for, but I would like to receive advice from an Islamic perspective. My child is currently four months old, and I'm struggling with the responsibilities of motherhood. Other than my husband, who works late, I have no one to help me. With the sleep deprivation and the baby's fussiness, it is overwhelming and I often wish I never became pregnant. I am aware that it is a gift and a blessing, yet the feelings are still there. My īmān has also diminished. I see my single friends free to progress in their careers and do as they please. My daughter has brought immense joy to my life but also great difficulty. If I'm being tested, I'm failing it. I just need to feel like Allāh has better plans for me. Your sister in Islam
Pregnancy and motherhood alone are difficult enough. Having the added dimension of juggling a career and, more importantly, having to deal with it all nearly by yourself makes it almost unbearable. The society in which we raise our children today is not how human beings were created to function. The pressure of parenting where a majority of the responsibility, if not all, falls on the mother and father is a very new phenomenon. Even most of our parents were raised amongst aunts, uncles, grandparents, nannies etc. Not to mention our beloved Prophet himself was nursed by Halima, even while his mother was alive. We are social creatures who were created to function in a community, in an Ummah.
I hope you do not feel that the hardships you face today are the result of shortcomings only from yourself. They are largely because of the direction our society has taken in their view of raising children. Secondly, you are not alone in your struggles. And know that you are definitely not the first mother to wish that she was free to pursue her dreams as easily as she did before. Every mother, no matter what else she is doing in life or doing nothing else at all, has these moments.
However, there are definitely steps you can take to minimize these moments and free yourself to enjoy this phase and the blessings in your life.
1. Look for playgroups: Mommy circles, support groups, Gymboree classes etc. Even if its online, surrounding yourself by people who are in a similar phase of life will help you feel validated, supported and understood. They can even offer you great advice. Being constantly around people who are not in a similar phase or circumstance in life will not only increase your feelings of loneliness but also highlight what you don't have instead of what you do.
2. Self-care. I cannot emphasize enough how important it is to take care of yourself even if it is for a few hours once a week. Whether it is going on a date with yourself, a walk, a massage, a workout or a nap, it will make a huge difference. A BABY WILL ONLY BE AS HAPPY AS HER MOMMY.
3. Get help. There is no shame in seeking help outside of family, i.e. day care, nannies, even if it is having hiring someone to clean or cook so that your responsibilities are minimized.
4. Seek counseling. You did not clarify what kind of help you were seeking for your anxiety and depressed mood, but if you are not already seeking therapy or counseling I believe it will certainly be helpful. Also ask your doctor to rule out Post Partum Depression.
5. Be Flexible. If you do not have any financial constraints, be flexible with the timeline of your career goals. Many people have gone back to school, especially since the economic depression, so there is no real expectation for an age that people should be finished with school. If you have to graduate a little bit later then you expected, or take fewer classes per semester, at least make it an experience that was not so stressful and try to enjoy the process.
6. Make Duaa. Even at you lowest moments of īmān, there is nothing more uplifting than re-connecting with Allāh . A quick 2 rakahs of tahajjud, engaging in dhikr, or most importantly asking Allāh to help ease your struggles and help increase your īmān is a great way to start reconnecting. Also, remember that everything you are doing to take care of yourself, your baby and your family is an act of worship. Although ibadah in this fashion is very different from what you are used to, your intentions of worship will make every moment of this phase of your life an act of ibadah. Remind yourself of this. And finally, realize that although this cycle of exhaustion and these overwhelming days seem unending, it is temporary.
Afshana Haque, MA, LMFT
PhD Candidate- St. Mary's University
Afshana Haque is currently the executive director of her private practice, Muslim Family Support and conducts face to face and online therapy from El Paso, TX. She is also a PhD candidate at St. Mary's University, San Antonio, TX and is working on her dissertation entitled:
An Exploratory Study of the Salient Stressors Impacting Muslims living in the United States. Afshana has completed her master's degree in Marriage and Family Therapy from University of Houston-Clear Lake and has previously worked in various hospitals and institutions including: DePelchin's Children Center in Houston, TX, Methodist Hospital, and AIGB Diagnostics for a bariatric surgical group in San Anotonio, TX. She was also co-director of a non-profit organization, Hawa Center for Refugee Mental Health, now called the Center for Refugee Services.
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