This post has been sponsored by Liamanah - Islamic parenting hub
Allah calls the initial years of motherhood “WAHNAN ALA WAHN ” (hardship upon hardship / weakness upon weakness) – basically the era of pregnancy and breastfeeding…
“And We have enjoined upon man for his parents. His mother carried him, in weakness upon weakness, and his weaning is in two years. Be grateful to Me and to your parents; to Me is the destination.” [Quran – 31:14]
وَهْنًا عَلَى وَهْنٍ
The word وهن comes from the root word و ه ن (Wow-haa-Nun) which means to be weak and feeble, lax in the joints, broken in energy, to sap the strength, to lose vigor or courage, discouraged, disheartened, worn down etc.
Allah doesn’t call this time period just “wahn”, rather “wahnan ala wahn” – weakness UPON weakness. Hardship UPON hardship. All the above things layered in double. These kind of wordings are also used for Allah Himself in the Quran (24:35) – “Noorun ala noor” (light upon light)…
Whether you’re in the pregnancy stage of “wahnan ala wahn” or you’re in the breastfeeding stage (almost 2 years after birth), I hope this article serves as a VERY brief guide on how you can stay afloat in this difficult journey.
1) Journal for a brain dump and some clarity in your life
Being a mother challenges us physically and emotionally. There are changes that you can’t really prepare for in advance until you’re deep within it. Most women are afraid or ashamed to admit that joy has gone out of their lives since they’ve become mothers. Their hormones are rapidly adjusting to new levels and they may even experience the baby blues, anger episodes or even worse – depression (which is completely different from general stress). Listen to your body and heart intently. Get to know what it really needs (not what the society expects from you, but what do YOU really need). I want you to spend days or weeks (or even months) and really examine when you have the most energy and when you are the most fatigued, when you feel like you just can’t do it anymore and when you feel like you can breathe a little…Journaling is about writing down everything what has been floating around in your brain. A journal is not some miracle that is going to take your hardships away, but it helps your mind feel less cluttered.
The first lesson in Liamanah course and academy helps mums destroy preconceived parenting beliefs and other limiting beliefs to help them develop new beliefs while finding clarity. Zuliat also provides assignments and an affirmations ebook to help them go through this process.
2) Take care of yourself (utilise early mornings for what fills your cup)
A mother has vulnerable parts (worry, guilt, stress) that constantly rear their ugly heads into her life and self-care is not going to make them go away. BUT it sets the tone of the day and makes it easier to paddle through the mud.
For some, self care may be something as little as taking a shower or painting their nails, reading a book, journaling, reciting Quran or just spending some quiet time in reflection, calling a family member or a friend. Whatever it is that will make you go through the whole day with a sense of fulfillment, do it in the early morning in which Allah has showered barakah. After that, when motherhood responsibilities hit you like a storm, you might feel more prepared to take them on.
Liamanah has the self care section in both the course and the academy where mums learn stress reduction strategies and they also develop a holistic self care plan which covers soul, mind, body and relationships.
3) Consciously “choose” what you do instead of do what you “have to” do
Many mothers feel like they went from being the queen of the house to being the slave of the house. Remember that we are born as free people. Whatever we do on this earth is a choice and we are accountable for it. For eg: I may say – “I have to cook a meal today!” But, it’s still a choice I’m making because I don’t like the consequences that follow if I fail to do that. It may make me feel worse, because my kids may become even more cranky and I can’t go hungry either to be honest. So I didn’t really HAVE TO cook, I CHOSE to cook (even when it was difficult). Same goes with homeschooling, nursing-on-demand, cleaning etc. And this phrase is like regaining power and reminding yourself that I chose these extra responsibilities in my life after motherhood because it felt right to me and I made the conscious decision to be here – even if it is so SO hard! Next time you are doing something that you have to do, choose to do it as well.
And I know your choices won’t become easy like that. So each time you will break in two, remember this hadith…
“A (poor) woman entered upon Aisha with her 2 daughters, and she gave her 3 dates. (The woman) gave each of her daughters a date, then she split the last one between them. She (Aisha) said: ‘Then the Prophet ﷺ came and I told him about that. He said:’ Why are you surprised? She will enter Paradise because of that.” [Ibn Majah 3668]
When you break your time in 2, when you share your bed space with one arm stuck beneath one child and other wrapped around the 2nd, when you share your body by hosting one inside your belly and nursing the other, when you break your sleep in 2 over and over as you console one child and feed another to slumber, I hope that this hadith acts like a balm on those days when you break in two over and over, saving pockets of Jannah for yourself over and over in shaa Allah.
4) Do it for the sake of Allah (and consider it sadaqah & ibaadah)
I have a reminder on my wall – “Lillah” (for the sake of Allah) – making sure I see it day in and day out, reminding myself that whatever good I do as a mother for the sake of Allah is an ibaadah. It is a sadaqah.
When I feel constricted as a mother, feeling like I’m not doing anything for the world at large, I recall that sadaqah comes in so many forms. Our intentions are enough to turn any everyday task into sadaqah.
So when you smile at your kids even though you just cried in the bathroom, consider it a sadaqah. When you hug your children even though you’re too exhausted to move your limbs, consider it a sadaqah. When you bite your tongue even though you want to scream at the kids because they have stepped on your every last nerve, consider it a sadaqah. When you re-tell a story 100th time even though you just want to sleep, consider it a sadaqah. When you nurse your teething child the whole night while sacrificing your rest, consider it a sadaqah.
When you do the mundane tasks day in and day out, which no one appreciates, but you keep doing them for the sake of Allah, consider it all a sadaqah.
A mum who feels like her existence has no bigger purpose but to soothe a fussy baby, to put tired kids to sleep, to hug a frightened soul, to feed a hungry stomach, to be a crying shoulder, to teach fiddly legs to walk, to calm down a stressed toddler, to play and nourish the little minds, to give love to the tiny hearts so they are able to spread that love forward – know that you are there for someone in need, and Allah will be there for you at the time of your need too.
To the world, it may go unnoticed but not by the One who sees it all… May we always go through these hardships of motherhood for the sake of Allah because no one else can reward us the way He can. And no one can understand the way He does!
The Prophet ﷺ said: The Compassionate One has mercy on those who are merciful. If you show mercy to those who are on the earth, He Who is in the heaven will show mercy to you. [Abu Dawud 4941]
5) Study about child development so you don’t get confused with all the unsolicited advises
Based on all the pre-conceived notions and societal pressures, you may start thinking that your child is doing so and so intentionally. Or they are trying to manipulate you. Or they are winding you up on purpose. That they need to be punished so they can become more disciplined. Their cries need to be ignored so they can sleep on their own. Their tantrums are a sign of disobedience.
It’s unfortunate that we’ve believed in such things about kids throughout time… Kids are developmentally incapable of regulating emotions. When you have lower expectations from your child, it really makes a difference in your perspective.
So learn about child development and if you still think you need to do or believe all of the above, please read the sunnah on how Muhammad (pbuh) dealt with the kids.
And try this 16 week Positive Parenting Course from an Islamic perspective by Liamanah with modules on different parenting styles, character building and personality development, understanding phases of your child’s mental and emotional development, positive discipline techniques for the child, emotional regulation and stress reduction strategies for mums along with many other topics. Liamanah also hosts practical workshops around the world, called “Nurturing Our Amanahs“.
6) Sleep when the baby sleeps (no matter how cliche that sounds) because your rest matters
You know that joke? When you think everybody hates you, you need to sleep and when you think you hate everybody, then you need to eat :p So yes, sleep when the baby sleeps! Because you know that you probably won’t get it at night – your baby might be nursing throughout the night. I know that a lot of mothers don’t have the option of taking naps. But I also know that there are a lot of mothers who can take naps, but don’t. And I’m one of those guilty ones (but the days I end up taking my own advice, I’m much more sane!). Flexibility as a new parent is gold. Because a LOT of things don’t happen the way you want them to. Little people are VERY unpredictable! But when we keep our babies close to us, we take from them what sustains our hearts: love and connection. When we flow with their rhythm, we find our own as well. Both give and take what is needed from each other.
7) Define your parenting vision and then don’t compare or worry about “what will the people say”
It doesn’t matter what your friend or neighbour is doing as a mother. And it surely doesn’t matter what a random woman on the internet is doing. Their parenting journey is unique to them, just like their life is unique to them alone. Their resources, experiences, personalities, upbringing etc. are different. Learn good things from people, but this journey is yours and no one else’s, and that’s what makes you and your version of motherhood so special. Most women constantly feel the societal pressure in this stage of life when they choose to take a break from their work. They may find it difficult to explain when they are asked “what do you do all day?” So, when they ask if you’re ‘just’ a mum? Stand proud and say “I am”! I’m ‘just’ a mum who’s enough. Enough to have Jannah beneath my feet. Enough to be 3 degrees higher than a father. Enough to have the honour of continuing the legacy of Islam. Enough to be a vessel through which the Muslim ummah expands. Enough to be a source of pride for Muhammad ﷺ in the aakhirah as a result.
Tell them that you’re enough as a mum alone and if you ever plan to take any other role in your life, this would still be your most prized possession. The amaanah of His creation that Allah gave JUST to you. Allah gave you His creation that He fashioned Himself so you can beautify its soul before returning it to Him. Tell them – if I can walk into Jannah by raising an ummah, I’m so happy to be “just a mum”.
If you would like to refine your own parenting vision, you can book free 15min one-on-one consultation with Zuliat Lawal at Liamanah.
8) Connect to nature and its Creator Who gave His amaanah to you (practice mindfulness)
Some days, the relentless nature of all the responsibilities come in the way of relaxing and enjoying your baby. One way to combat this is to go for a short walk to prevent cabin fever. A change of scenery, as well as fresh air and gentle exercise, will lift your mood and your baby’s, too. Once you’re in the nature, reflect on its Creator. The One Whose amaanah you’re taking care of! Mindfulness is a mental state achieved by focusing one’s awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings, thoughts, bodily sensations and surrounding environment. With the hectic schedule you may be on as a new mother, these tiny moments of mindfulness can feel like a medicine to push you through the day.
9) Live like a traveler and declutter regularly (leave what doesn’t concern you)
‘Abdullah bin ‘Umar (RA) reported: Messenger of Allah ﷺ took hold of my shoulders and said, “Be in the world like a stranger or a wayfarer”. [Bukhari]
This hadith truly makes me wonder how living like a traveler must be. You only carry the basics. Every time I see around my home, I realize I’m living on earth as if I’m never going to leave it. As if I’m here to stay forever. And I get the feeling how things have owned us vs how we should have owned them.
Can you look around your home and see a life of a traveler?
Think of the things that take up more of your time than they serve you. For eg: I took out dining table and chairs (because I was cleaning the table and floor both with messy kids – now I just clean the floor (the sheet we eat on)). I didn’t keep any carpets etc. (because potty training and messy play would have been a nightmare). I hardly kept any decoration pieces etc. because dusting them took time too. I’m not saying owning these things are wrong – these are just my examples, yours could be different. Read THIS ARTICLE on decluttering for a better perspective.
The Messenger of Allah ﷺ said, “Part of the perfection of one’s Islam is his leaving that which does not concern him.” [40 Hadith Nawawi 12]
Celebrity gossip, dramas, movies, series, news, what is everyone doing on social media etc. Whatever it is that doesn’t concern you, let it go. There’s so much beauty in this advice because concerning ourselves with things that don’t have anything to do with us is one of the biggest time consuming things I’ve found in my life. Whenever I indulge in them, I wobble and find it hard to find the balance. My thoughts are consumed with what doesn’t concern me. My time is consumed with what doesn’t concern me and then even my words and deeds are consumed with what doesn’t concern me or benefit me. It’s a strange chain reaction that is hard to break once I find myself in it. So I try to stay away from it as much as I can. Because if I’m not mindful with what I consume, it becomes me!
10) Take the ease when it’s given to you and ask for help when it’s not given automatically
Make the most of any help that’s offered. Sometimes amidst our formalities, we don’t let people show love to us and then after so many NOs, they stop offering help too – after which we may feel like they don’t even care. Please remember that accepting help isn’t a sign of weakness. Especially if someone is offering it already. If they were offering it as a formality and they didn’t mean it – while you said yes to it, at least they’ll be careful next time and will only offer help when they actually mean it.
It was narrated that Asma’ bint Yazid said: “Some food was brought to the Prophet ﷺ and it was offered to us. We said: ‘We do not have any appetite for it.’ He ﷺ said: ‘Do not combine hunger and lies.’” [Ibn Majah 3298]
People around us aren’t mind-readers (only Allah is closer to our jugular vein and only He knows what we need and when), so try asking for help when no one offers and be specific. For eg: You can request your husband to rock a baby to sleep. You can ask your elder children (if you have any) to bring a diaper for the baby and water for you. Whatever you need help with, try communicating. They may or may not do it. So stay open to rejection as well.
I know my 4yr old can get lazy sometimes and would say that she is too tired to bring so-and-so. I don’t force her then and simply accept that just like me, others may get tired too. As I start to get up, she runs and brings it then :p so let your loved ones love you and let them know how they can show love to you in this difficult time.
11) Spend time WITH your family instead of FOR your family
We often see examples in the sunnah where Muhammad ﷺ spent time WITH his family (listening to their stories, talking to them, noticing them so much that he knew what they liked or disliked and how they expressed it even when they didn’t use words – he even knew from where his wife drank or ate so he could do the same – it takes immense amount of mindfulness to be THIS present – and the list goes on) and he also spent time FOR them (helping them in house chores etc.). If your family members can be self-sufficient, all of you will be able to spend more time WITH each other instead of FOR each other.
If you can spend more time with them by cooking simpler meals or eating the dinner as breakfast again, eating raw fruits/veggies, nuts, seeds, dates, milk, yogurt etc. (that you won’t have to cook) as lunch, then you may cut half of your kitchen time. . And if you have elder kids and you welcome a new baby in the home, let the elder kids be independent (they can bath/clothe themselves, eat the food themselves, brush their teeth themselves etc. I know they won’t do it as perfectly as you do it for them, but they’ll learn this way and you’ll get to spend quality time with them instead).
Remember that motherhood is a title based on a special relationship. It’s not necessarily about the amount of work you do for your children or family – whether outside the home or inside. It’s about connection, bonding and nourishment (through your body and emotions).
12) Focus on positive self-talk (affirmations) and gratitude
The glass is half full, half empty. You feel you have lost your identity after motherhood? I’d say you’ve gained a better one. You feel like you can’t worship Allah like you’d like to? Perhaps you’re now worshiping Allah the way He’d like it from you!
Of course all the former feelings are valid too, but constantly living in the latter part of thoughts is self-sabotaging and damaging for your health in the long term. It’s easy to fall into self-pity and frustration this way.
“Verily, with the hardship, there is relief.” [Quran 94:6]
Know that ease is there WITH every hardship. Not after. Not later. But WITH. So Allah wants us to see the half glass full as well to balance out the negativity with some positivity. According to speaker Nouman Ali Khan: “The subject of the sentence in the original Arabic is ease, not difficulty (making us focus on ease not on difficulty). The subject “ease” is in the indefinite form and the predicate “difficulty” is in the definite form ((a) the ease to come is much greater than the difficulty. (b) It is also less recognizable. This means that the difficulty you experience is very well known to you. But the relief Allah is bringing you may be not what you were expecting. It may also already be here and you haven’t even recognized it. It may also come in stages or some at a time). Certainty is associated with ease not difficulty (people are being reminded that they become very certain of the difficulty but very doubtful of the relief to come. Allah wants to reverse that equation). The use of the term “with” instead of after – ease isn’t necessarily coming after the difficulty but with it. This means (a) that every difficulty that we can see, simultaneously comes with some kind of ease we fail to recognize. Every bad circumstance may be avoiding some much worse one in Allah’s mysterious plan and if you and I knew that, may be we would realize that compared to the alternative this is ease. It also means that (b) ease in this life is something Allah created as inseparable from difficulty. They have to coexist but one is simply a means to the other. If the ease wasn’t worth it, no one would go through the difficulty…”
I remember there was a time in motherhood when I started filling the #AlhamdulillahForSeries gratitude journal completely dedicated to my kids. Writing down about the positives made me a much happier mother. I even did the same with my husband which resulted in me being a much happier wife too alhamdulillah.
13) Shorten your to-do lists, but plan nonetheless
Aim for the minimum achievement. That way you can sit back at the end of the day and reflect on what you’ve done, even if it’s only one item from your list. Planning takes half of the stress away from your mind, but it’s important to set realistic goals. It’s also important to lower your standards even when the world keeps telling you to dream higher. Know what’s a priority in your life right now, and draw your goals around that – not in that.
It was narrated from Aishah (RA) that: The Prophet ﷺ came in to her and there was a woman with her. He said: “Who is this?” She said: “So-and-so, and she does not sleep.” And she told him about how she prayed a great deal. He ﷺ said: “Stop praising her. You should do what you can, for by Allah, Allah never gets tired (of giving reward) until you get tired. And the most beloved of religious actions to Him is that in which a person persists.” [Nasa’i 1642]
In that moment of realization, start to shed things off in your life. Instead of doing more and more, stop and do JUST ONE thing. And stop praising people who sacrifice the things they shouldn’t to achieve what you admire. Focus on JUST ONE thing. Whatever feels the easiest and most relate-able. Take on less work. Feel lighter and at home with yourself.
14) Find like-minded people and a righteous company
Staying in touch with other new mums can be a valuable way of socializing. Join JANNAH MOMS HUB in ‘Parenting for Jannah’ Academy. I recently signed up for the waiting list. You can as well to be notified when they open for enrollment again in shaa Allah. They have live calls regularly. Sharing and swapping experiences of new parenthood and connecting with other mums sharing the same faith and goals as you, can be rejuvenating.
15) Make dua like your life depends on it
Ya Wadood! May I be able to feel Jannah beneath my feet when the weight of this world crushes my bones. Ya Fattaah! May I leave my legacy in the form of righteous human beings, a legacy which leaves an impact on my whole generation cycle…To make my duas more meaningful and intentional like these, I bought this book for myself – “Mommy’s Dua Book” by Zuliat Lawal. You can get the free version of it which has only 9 duas HERE, so you can use it and decide if you like it before paying for the full ebook.
It gets better…
If you’re in this wahnan ala wahn stage of life, then know that you’re not alone and not a single tear and sweat is lost. Also, the good news is that things will get easier as you get to know your baby and discover what he/she likes and dislikes, and how he/she needs to be cared for. If you can make it through the first few days, weeks, months and years of motherhood, I believe you can make it through anything!
if Allah called this specific stage “wahnan ala wahn“, then it means it DOES get easier beyond it so cling onto this tiny ray of hope. You’ll make it through in shaa Allah…
Tell me in the comments – what is the HARDEST part of motherhood for you?