Ramadan is a month of challenge and striving. We Muslims push ourselves to perform good deeds and acts of worship while displaying self control in the face of hunger, thirst, and fatigue. Twenty-four hours hardly seems enough time to accomplish enough each day, particularly for mothers whose duties never end.
From early morning until late at night, mothers tend to be “on call,” perpetually available for every family member’s wants and needs. Particularly when their children are infants and toddlers, many women feel frustrated with their inability to dedicate themselves to extra prayer and remembrance of Allah SWT.
Dishes, laundry, diapers, cooking, and errands seem never-ending and overwhelming. As much as we would like to put those duties on hold for a month, the fact is that a household must continue to function, even during the holiest month. So what can overextended mothers do to reap the benefits of Ramadan, despite their jam-packed schedules?
1- Make every action count. Child care and housework might not seem very glamorous, but in the eyes of Allah SWT they are extremely noble and important.
For instance, babies need to be fed, cleaned, held, and diapered frequently. Instead of lamenting the time we could be spending in prayer, we can instead reap the rewards of our nurturing. Remember to say “bismillah” before each and every thing you do, and know that your tender care of your infant is beloved by Allah SWT.
For instance, when a mother breastfeeds her baby, she receives a reward for every suck! And if her child keeps her awake during the night, she has a reward similar to the reward of freeing seventy slaves for the sake of Allah SWT.
While some Muslims are able to spend hours at tarawih prayers in the masjid, inshaAllah the mothers who stay at home to care for small children can still earn countless blessings. Indeed, they have the status of a noble warrior! The Prophet (PBUH) said, “A woman in her pregnancy to the time of her delivery to the time of her weaning is like a soldier in the way of Allah.”
2- Make dhikr at every opportunity, even at red lights! Motherhood is full of mindless tasks: dishwashing, driving to and from appointments, cleaning, cooking.
Instead of letting our minds wander aimlessly as we stir the soup, wait for the traffic light to turn green, or fold the laundry, let’s use that time wisely. Praise and thank Allah constantly by repeating “SubhanAllah,” “Alhamdullilah,” and “Allahu akbar.” Ask for His forgiveness by saying “Astaghfirullah.” Make it a habit to repeat those words during every mindless task, and soon it will become second nature, insha’Allah.
3- Allow family members to earn good deeds by helping around the house. Ramadan is a time for charity, and there are bountiful blessings to be earned by cheerfully supporting each other. Remind your children that Allah SWT loves when they help their parents, and during Ramadan they should increase their efforts to be useful and kind.
Many household tasks can be delegated to children, freeing more time for mother to pray and read Qur’an. For their part, husbands have the beautiful example of Prophet (PBUH) to emulate. Since he (PBUH) helped around the house and was a model husband and father, it is clear that Muslim men need to participate in the running of the household and the upbringing of the children.
“The best of you are the best to your wives,” said Mohammad (PBUH). What better month than Ramadan for Muslim men to strive to be the best?
4- If having more free time to pray and read Qur’an is your fervent wish, then ask Allah SWT to enable you to have it! Sometimes we forget to ask Allah SWT to put baraka in our time — to make every minute blessed and productive. If we start our day with the intention to do our best for the sake of Allah SWT and to use our time wisely, inshaAllah He SWT will enable us to get everything done with time to spare for focused worship.
5- Simplify as much as possible. It is worth reminding ourselves and our family members repeatedly that Ramadan is about fasting, not feasting. Iftar meals do not have to be complicated to be satisfying and nourishing.
If hosting iftar parties saps you of energy and strength, or takes a toll on your worship, then it is time to scale down. Our priorities during Ramadan need to be pleasing Allah SWT, not impressing people with impeccably clean and perfectly decorated homes, or five-course meals.
The Prophet (PBUH) did not eat much meat, and his meals were quite simple. He always advised his Ummah to eat and drink in moderation. If, in your household, Ramadan has always centered around cooking elaborate meals and entertaining guests at the expense of connecting with Allah SWT, perhaps this is the year to start a new, more authentically Islamic tradition.
6- Be a conscious, positive example for your daughters. Remember that young girls will be looking to you as an example of how to be a Muslim wife and mother. Show them by example how to welcome the month of Ramadan with dignity, patience, joy, and taqwa (God-consciousness).
If we let the demands of our life make us frazzled, resentful, and over-exhausted, then our daughters might begin to dread Ramadan.
On the other hand, if we demonstrate how to transform every single task into an act of worship and devotion, then inshaAllah our daughters will be inspired to follow our example.
Remember, too: our words will affect our children and ourselves. Instead of complaining, “I’m so tired of cooking!” we can train ourselves to say, “Alhamdullilah for food to eat!” Instead of proclaiming to our older child, “Your little siblings are exhausting me, and I have no time to myself!,” we can say, “Please play with your brothers and sisters for twenty minutes. They love being with you, and inshaAllah you will earn good deeds by helping me.”
7- Finally, do not overextend yourself, Mama, even during Ramadan. Yes, it is a month to exert great effort and self-control; however, Islam is above all a religion of balance. If we mothers wear ourselves to exhaustion and collapse, it will certainly not benefit us, or our family. A certain amount of self-care is necessary, even during a month of self-deprivation. Mothers who are “on duty” all day must get enough sleep at night. They also must make sure to eat healthy meals and drink plenty of fluids at suhor and iftar.
We do not want to model “martyr mothering” to our daughters, making them think that women should sacrifice everything — including their health, sanity, and happiness– for the sake of others. In fact, it is our duty as Muslim women to care for our bodies, minds, and spirits.
We should not feel guilty if we cannot complete all our work, or if we need to ask for help. Additionally, we should learn to say “no” when we are unable or unwilling to do something, without agonizing about the decision. It is our job to set boundaries and to make our own needs and wishes clear.
In the end, Allah SWT knows each individual’s efforts and intentions. If the tasks of motherhood are exhausting you this Ramadan, then know that He SWT sees all of your sacrifices, your fatigue, and your tears. InshaAllah you will be rewarded for every single step you take to please Him SWT. At the same time, remember to take care of yourself because you, mother, are the linchpin of your family.
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