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My Ramadan Plan For Life With A Toddler: Shifting My Mindset And Setting Humble Goals

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After having my first, and only, child a week before Ramadan a couple years ago, the whole idea of what Ramadan meant to me was completely shattered. What I hadn’t expected at the time, however, is that Ramadan would still be so different nearly two years later—and I need a plan to not only survive, but to also thrive and try to be happy, this Ramadan. Here’s my biggest issue, however: fasting and being the primary caregiver for my son are the two of the most challenging things I have to do…and putting them together sounds miserable. I’m looking for a low stress Ramadan during which I can reincorporate some of my previous worship habits which have fallen away due to the demands of motherhood. At the same time, I want to be compassionate to myself and allow myself enough breathing space to get though the month without falling to bits. So, what’s my plan? The first is a shift in mindset and perspective and the second is a humble set of achievable goals.

The shift I am making this year is rooted in accepting where I am in life at the moment and then making an appropriate effort while also hoping for Allah’s immense blessings during the month. Where am I in life, you ask? I’m a frazzled mom with health issues and we’re living through a pandemic at the moment. I know being a parent is tough for many. Nearly every day the thoughts “why did I ever think being a mom was a good idea?” and “wow, having a child is so special” cross my mind. Being a stay-at-home mom stuck in a monotonous routine of caring for my toddler without much support because of the pandemic leaves me with little bandwidth and energy for much else and I often find myself at the verge of a complete breakdown on a weekly basis. I’m trying my best to accept where I am and grow into the role of a parent in a healthy way with counseling sessions, a mom’s self care group, and even an Islamic parenting class. I’m a real hot mess right now and I’m being realistic with how to improve my situation.

Now, enter: fasting in Ramadan. I have always struggled with fasting and it has always been especially taxing on my body.  For the most part, I can say that adding fasting into my daily grind will make everything a bit worse. Honestly, doesn’t fasting make almost everyone’s day a bit more challenging? Taking the two issues of my life at the moment and the difficulties of fasting into consideration, I am actively trying to compassionately accept the limited capacity I have to offer during Ramadan. We often hear that we need to maximize on the opportunities for good deeds during Ramadan, but I need to do that while balancing the rest of my life. That means that, after completing the mandatory obligations of keeping fasts and offering prayers, I am going to make a good enough effort in order to preserve enough energy to successfully get through my musts for every day: take care of my child while being attentive and patient to him, offer all mandatory prayers, and keep all necessary fasts. Therefore, as far as this Ramadan is concerned, I’m not trying to read through the Qur’an once, I’m not trying to pray a full set of taraweeh on my own at night, I’m not even going to push myself to pray sunnah prayers as I usually do if I am feeling off (whether that’s physically, mentally, or emotionally.) You read it right. I’m not a carefree college student anymore, and I’m accepting that. I have only a few goals that I think are appropriate for myself in my current state: do I everything I have to do with good quality and avoid burning myself out in the process. I don’t have a large margin to play with and I’m telling myself I’m not going to push myself over the edge and compromise my ability to take care of my responsibilities. I will take some time out for meaningful self-care, perhaps being extra selective with my choice of activity, and ensure that I continue to exercise and do things that are fulfilling to me because I know that I can’t just pray, make dua, and read Qur’an in every free moment I have when I have my mom hat off for the evening. I’m also reminding myself that not being an angel who solely thrives on performing acts of worship in order to feel happy and garner regenerative energy is absolutely fine—there’s the compassion again.

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I’m also going to value what I do all day, care for my son, as an excellent good deed. I had this really naïve assumption that my worship and closeness to Allah would only increase as I got older—that I would keep leveling up, like in a video game. If I say the kalimah ten times a day at twenty, I’ll say it fifty times a day at thirty, a hundred times at forty, and five hundred times at seventy. What motherhood has taught me is that my definition of worship needs to change and that what I do on a daily basis will be different based on what my life is like at that moment. Perhaps the Ramadan that I witnessed with my newborn son was the best Ramadan I’ll ever have—I was literally his source of life through breastfeeding and I cared for a completely helpless and innocent being the entire month. Would I have thought that was true before now? Did I think that was the best Ramadan ever at the time? No. But why?  If I thought about any person caring for an entirely dependent newborn baby, wouldn’t I come to the conclusion that they were cashing in on the opportunity of a lifetime, even if that meant that they couldn’t read a page of Qur’an every day? So why can’t I think that of myself when caring for my own baby? And as a matter of fact, why shouldn’t I continue to think that about my current situation of caring for a somewhat helpless child (to eat, relieve himself, sleep, and stay safe, among many other things) are in a top tier of good deeds? Well, I am counting it this year and fully acknowledging all that I do.

The last part of my mindset shift is being hopeful in Allah to bless me, grant me ease, and accept my humble efforts. I can worry myself to death over how miserable this all will be, or I can simply prepare myself for success as best as I can and be optimistic in the “magic” of Ramadan, which is striving despite the struggle and doing so much better than you anticipated you could. That magic is the blessings from Allah and the sacredness of the month of Ramadan. I’m going to be optimistic that Allah will make things easy for me and He will help me survive the struggles that will come. I’m also optimistic in Allah accepting my small efforts because with His infinite knowledge and mercy, I believe that He will accept my intentionality in approaching this month in a way which is meant to prioritize my most important responsibilities without falling apart.

The second thing I’m doing: keeping the most humble set of goals which I hope to carry over into my life outside of Ramadan. I’m thinking of Ramadan this way: I’m going on a month-long retreat to build good habits that are spiritually nourishing to me and will be an investment in my future life in the hereafter. I’ve created categories for myself for which I’m going to simply do one or two small goals, and honestly, most of them are things I used to do before motherhood. Now that my son is getting older and more independent, I have some more space for myself and I’d like to rehabilitate some of those things that I didn’t have the wherewithal to do in the last two years. My categories are: prayer, Qur’an, dhikr, community, Islamic learning/study, character, and motherhood. My goals are humble, as I mentioned, and I’ll share examples. For prayer, I’d like to sit and perform the bare bones tasbih as well as make even just one dua for just two prayers every day. That’s really fallen off since becoming a mom, and I miss that in my life. For motherhood, when I see my child for the first time every day, I’d like to take a second to make the intention, everything I do for this child today is for Allah. This is something I think will be a gamechanger for me, not only in the way I go through the motions of every day, but also in my scales of good deeds. What I do within this month of Ramadan, I’d like to take with me outside of this month.

I’d like to take a second to make the intention, everything I do for this child today is for Allah.Click To Tweet

That’s my plan for this Ramadan

It’s mostly just a shift in mindset, because the small goals seem almost negligible to me in comparison of what I accomplished during Ramadan before becoming a mom. That said, the shift in mindset is, in reality, going to be much harder than completing a recitation of the Qur’an and probably much more needed for me where I am in life, anyways. Maybe this plan will be the best I can do for Ramadan this year, and maybe it’ll even be the best Ramadan of my life—even though it feels like I’m failing in many ways. But I’m not failing at maximizing my blessing for this month if I remind myself about where I am in life right now.

P.S.–I heard some of these same thoughts echoed by Shaykh Mikaeel Smith weeks after originally making my Ramadan 2021 plan. You can check out that Ramadan Prep lecture on Muslim Matters’ YouTube page, and with this link.

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Alhamdulillah, we're at 900 supporters. Help us get to 1000 supporters before Ramadan ends. All it takes is a small gift from a reader like you to keep us going, for just $2 / month.

The Prophet (SAW) has taught us the best of deeds are those that done consistently, even if they are small. Click here to support MuslimMatters with a monthly donation of $2 per month. Set it and collect blessings from Allah (swt) for the khayr you're supporting without thinking about it.

Meena is a high school English teacher, DIY enthusiast, wife, and new mom. She loves working with Muslim youth and is interested in literature, arts, and culture. She studied Comparative Literature and Creative Writing at the University of California, Irvine, briefly dabbled in Classical Arabic studies in the US, and has a Master’s in Education from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

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