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For Women: Why Don’t We Stop Judging Each Other?

A Validation Revolution

I spent many days dreaming of little laughs from freshly powdered babies; babies that would be a perfect blend of my blue eyes and my husband’s wavy, brown hair. That was in 2002 and I was still enamored with being a new bride.

I had hopes of starting a big family. I also had dreams of finishing my degree and having a career. But during those first years of settling into my marriage and my life as a new Muslim, I stayed at home, cooked, cleaned, and studied Islam.

As a new Muslim, I didn’t hang out at the mosque much. I didn’t understand what real community was about, nor did I feel comfortable there.

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I was often asked intrusive questions about when I was going to have kids. When I did go, I answered the procreation questions politely and hopefully- when Allah wills.

That was if the ambitious sisters who had kid(s), ran households, held down jobs, and/or were getting advanced degrees weren’t asking me, “What do you do all day? Your little apartment must be spotless!”

The condescension that dripped from their remarks couldn’t be missed. I felt as if I were nothing, as if my efforts were so pithy that I didn’t matter.

Why don’t we stop judging each other?

After a few years, I went back to school and began working. My husband and I still hoped and prayed that we would soon conceive and provide a loving home to as many children as Allah willed.

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And people continued the tired line of questioning. “When will you have children???” I answered cheerfully (trying to hide my frustration and deep sadness) – when Allah wills.

With the ambitious sisters off my back now that I was “being more productive”, I began to receive patronizing remarks from the stay at home sisters, to the tune of: “It seems selfish to me when people don’t have children” or “Devoting your life to your family is so fulfilling” were statements that passive-aggressively peppered conversations.

I felt as if I was a failure at being a woman for not being able to conceive. I was made to feel as if being a part of the world outside of my home made me dirty.

Then my life changed drastically. A young mother in the Islamic community fell very ill. She was alone, incapable of caring for her daughter, and needing a Muslim family to care for the four year old.

So a mutual friend asked my husband and I if we would be foster parents to the child until her mother was well again.

My husband and I very hesitantly agreed. And the questions about when my husband and I would have our own child intensified. I answered, exhausted- when Allah wills.

But now that I was a wife, foster mom, student, and an employee; the criticism about my life choices also intensified. I felt as if I couldn’t do anything right.

My husband and I decided to enroll our foster daughter in the local Islamic school when it came time for her to attend kindergarten. And all eyes were on me.

If I put a fruit roll up (a sweet, dried fruit snack) along with healthy foods in my foster daughter’s packed lunch, it had to be because I didn’t care about her health or nutrition.

If she acted out in class, it had to be because I wasn’t a good disciplinarian and needed to spend more time at home with her.

Every move I made seemed to be the wrong one … to someone. And, as had been the case all along, each group had their religious verdict to back them up in their judgment of me.

From a lazy housewife to a selfish career woman

If I was a housewife, some would think I was lazy and not doing enough to help the community. If I was a student and career woman, others would suspect that I was selfish and wanted to mix with men in a haram way.

If I cared for a child, worked, and studied; still others would see everything I did as inadequate, saying I should be home caring for my family.

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About Theresa Corbin
Theresa Corbin is the author of The Islamic, Adult Coloring Book and co-author of The New Muslim’s Field Guide. Corbin is a French-creole American and Muslimah who converted in 2001. She holds a BA in English Lit and is a writer, editor, and graphic artist who focuses on themes of conversion to Islam, Islamophobia, women's issues, and bridging gaps between peoples of different faiths and cultures. She is a regular contributor for AboutIslam.net and Al Jumuah magazine. Her work has also been featured on CNN and Washington Post, among other publications. Visit her blog, islamwich, where she discusses the intersection of culture and religion.