Motherhood Has Brought Out the Worst in Me

21 October, 2019
Q As-Salamu ‘Alaikum. I gave birth to 3 children in 3 years. The youngest is 2 months old and is very demanding compared to the other 2 siblings. Motherhood is supposed to bring the best in a woman, but it has brought out the worst in me. I easily get angry and upset. I have some help with the two older kids and the house chores, but as this person has some degree of OCD, I feel that her help isn't effective.

She is a non-practicing Muslim relative. She doesn't know the fiqh of cleanliness and says and sings silly things to my kids, etc. Due to this, I'm constantly worried and feel my energy level is sucked out by having her in the house. I have feelings of resentment for having so many kids yet not being able to raise them by myself. In addition, I've not slept in the same bed or room with my husband since our firstborn was 8 months. He couldn't sleep when the baby cried so we had to separate rooms. Deep down, I realize I shouldn't feel resentful because everything has been ordained by Allah, but I can't help it most times.

My faith is getting weaker. I actually have feelings of dislike towards my spouse too as I feel he doesn't understand what I have been going through. We are like housemates and we see each other usually for no more than 2 hours every day or even less. He is self-employed; therefore, he is always in his office. He starts his day in the late afternoon and comes home after midnight. We rarely spend time together. If we do, it's only because he needs me physically.

When I sulk, he says I'm ungrateful and he wonders what he had done to deserve such a wife who is always unhappy. I have offered him to take another wife and leave me alone with the kids (without divorce). He didn't exactly disagree, but he said if I found him a woman he would marry her.

I continuously make du'aa’ for strength and fortitude, yet to me nothing seems to change for the better. I think I'm very pessimistic and egoistic. Every day, I pray for the day to pass quickly because I plan to leave my husband as soon as my oldest child turns 10 years old, if I am still alive Allahu'alam.

Sometimes, I can't believe I am devising such plans in my brain. I think I am breaking down. What should I do to improve my situation? Do I lack gratitude?

Answer

In this counseling answer:

•First, ask him if you are doing something which is provoking his behavior. Inform him of your right to emotional support.

•You can turn to family members for the adult conversation you need and for feelings of love.

•Keep asking and obeying Allah, which you have been already doing by asking us how to respond to your situation “correctly”.

•Sometimes it helps to see a therapist.


Wa ‘Alaikum Salaam wa Rahmatullahi wa Barakatuh My Dear Sister in Islam,

NO, NO and NO! You do not lack gratitude; that is not your problem. However, it does seem to be your husband towards you. Maybe, he lacks thankfulness towards you because he lacks awareness and/or understanding of what you suffer and sacrifices taking care of his children. But, whatever his reason(s), I want you to know that you are not the one with that problem; he is!

However, you definitely have some other problems, and one of them is his lack of appreciation for you. While he appears to be a good provider (of material things), he seems oblivious to the fact that he also has a duty to provide emotional support to his wife, starting with appreciation. Allah says in the Quran regarding marriage:

“And of His signs is that He created for you from yourselves mates that you may find tranquillity in them; and He placed between you affection and mercy. Indeed in that are signs for a people who give thought.(2:187)

And, last, Allah says we are equal in marriage, with the man only being “one” degree above: 

“They (women) have rights similar to those (of men) over them in kindness, and men are a degree above them.” (2:228)

Motherhood Has Brought Out the Worst in Me - About Islam

What to do? First, ask him if you are doing something which is provoking his behavior. If you are not provoking the situation in any way (in which you can change), inform him of your right to emotional support. Use the above quotes to prove your assertion so that he knows it is of Allah’s orders and not just your wishful thinking.

If he changes, problem solved. If not, he may have an attachment disorder, like RAD (Reactive Attachment Disorder), which is an inability to attach due to abuse or neglect as a child or Schizoid Disorder (another serious form of inability to attach). If he has an attachment disorder, he will, In Sha’ Allah, need help with that, because, by definition, attachment disorders are severe, insidious and tenacious.

However, this help does not have to be therapy (if he is unwilling to go to therapy). It can be reading about these disorders to become conscious of the reason(s) for the problem and its remedies, so he could begin remedying the problem himself. Masterson’s theory of self-psychology is very relevant to attachment problems.

If he is unwilling to try to solve the problem by any of the above means, unless you want to divorce him, you will need to figure out other ways to cope with his starvation of you emotionally. (And I say “starvation” because our emotional needs are just as real as our need for food, clothing, and shelter). Start with building as strong a relationship with Allah as you can!

Allah loves the mother’s service! There are many hadith about the superiority of the mother– in front of Allah –because of her sacrifices for her children. Many men are oblivious to the value of women and mothering – but not Allah! Allah knows what you suffer and He cares about it and about you!

However, to be able to understand how Allah shows His care, you have to know His plan, which is impossible for us, except for one thing: The Next Life. If we evaluate this life without The Next in the equation, the struggles and hardship of this life seem unfair, unreasonable and unsolvable. It is like trying to solve a mathematical equation without all the information you need to solve it.

So, to avoid that pitfall, you need to always remember the Next Life, i.e., The Reward of Allah. If you keep that in the front of your mind, In Sha’ Allah, it will give you the wisdom and the strength you need to survive this very difficult situation.

In addition, Allah also sends help in this life. However, that also often comes through the unseen world, i.e., in our emotional and intellectual makeup. In other words, Allah works in mysterious ways. When we ask for help from Allah, we usually want Him to remove the problem – make it go away. However, Allah usually does not send that sort of immediate miracle. Instead, He asks patience and faith from us.

That is the reason some people turn to drugs, magic and worldly things; they want “immediate gratification”. This is not the way of Allah. Allah wants “faith” from us; therefore, He works in our hearts to make them the heart of a believer, and to be faithful. That is where strength and wisdom come from – from the ability to be longsuffering! As ironic and paradoxical as that is, it is, nonetheless, very real.

So, be pleased with Allah that you are being tested. It is a sign that Allah is caring for you.

Keep asking and obeying Allah, which you have been already doing by asking us how to respond to your situation “correctly”. Also, if you don’t get mercy and understanding from your husband, at least give it to yourself!

Many women are caught in the same sort of situation as yourself; their husbands do not “get it” that women have emotional needs. That is their problem, don’t make it yours! You know what you suffer. You know your interior value as a human being. You know you love Allah. You know what you have sacrificed for your husband. You know you are trying to figure out “the right”, so you don’t displease Allah! Love yourself, even if he won’t!

You may be doing something which psychology calls “internalizing”. Internalizing is when an oppressed person accepts the value system of the person(s) oppressing them. You seem to be internalizing your husband’s value system because you are devaluing yourself the way he is. Your husband is ungrateful to you so you are ungrateful to yourself – buying into his way of thinking. It is an easy mistake to make when he defines your world. However, his definition of your world is false.

In Sha’ Allah, Allah’s view of you is probably the opposite because Allah loves/appreciates the sacrifices of the mother. Internalize that truth about yourself, not your husband’s!

Next, you can turn to family members for the adult conversation you need and for feelings of love. I know, nothing will ever replace the love you need from a spouse, but it helps to feel loved and appreciated by anyone (lawful). Most women know well what you are suffering! So, keep company with those who understand you.

Of course, do not tell very personal secrets; just do things with others who are kind and helpful. In Sha’ Allah that will provide you with some good feelings to feed your soul rather than all the negativity that your husband’s world brings into your life, In Sha’ Allah.

Muslim sisters can provide that sort of relief. Little of this world can be as rewarding as a good friend. Look at the closeness of the Prophet (SAW), Abu Bakr and Omar (May Allah be pleased with them); they are even buried together SubhanAllah!

Lastly, sometimes it helps to see a therapist. The reason it might help you is that while you are not the one with the problem, you think you are. If you don’t start appreciating and loving yourself and having mercy on yourself and giving yourself some relief, you will die inside – as you are already feeling –, and that will be a great loss to the world and especially to your babies!

So, please recognize your value and recognize that you are dealing with a supremely hard situation. Appreciate yourself rather than condemning yourself!

May Allah make it easy for you!

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Disclaimer: The conceptualization and recommendations stated in this response are very general and purely based on the limited information provided in the question. In no event shall AboutIslam, its counselors or employees be held liable for any damages that may arise from your decision in the use of our services.

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About Nasira S. Abdul-Aleem
Nasira S. Abdul-Aleem, an American, has a BA in English from UC Berkeley
and is about to receive an MS degree in counseling psychology
(Marriage and Family Therapy - MFT) from the Western Institute for Social Research.
For over ten years, Nasira worked as a psychotherapist with the general public and in addiction recovery.

For the last few years, she has been a life coach specializing in
interpersonal relations.
Nasira also consults with her many family members who studied Islam overseas and returned to America to be Imams and teachers of Islam. Muslims often ask Nasira what psychology has to do with Islam. To this, she replies that Islam is the manifestation of a correct understanding of our psychology. Therapists and life coaches help clients figure out how to traverse the path of life as a Believer, i.e., "from darkness into light", based on Islam and given that that path is an obstacle course, according to Allah.