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SAHM Tip #16: Planning Our Days

Planning our days is the main thing that contributes to our days feeling great alhamdulillah. And when I fall off planning (and I still, regularly somewhat do), the funk feels funkier ‘cos now, I know better. I guess it comes down to that saying that goes ‘fail to plan and you plan to fail’ – couldn’t be more true for me.

Planning has also made me more aware of the value of time in general (I’m a beginner here) as well as the meaning of Suratul ‘Asr (The Chapter of Time in the Qur’an), and its overall theme of time – and wanting to cultivate good within it.

How I Began Planning

I began with planning very simply. I even avoided mummy blogs that were, what felt to me at the time, very advanced in their planning – planning with spreadsheets, etc. I didn’t want to feel overwhelmed or behind. I wanted to embrace where I was, and start with baby steps from there.

So I began with five rugged boxes that I drew out on an A5 page within a lined notebook; and I’d title each of the five boxes with the five working days. And to begin, I wrote the ‘main’ thing we were doing that day in each day’s box. So if there was an outing to a park, that’d be in the box, or if we were doing a craft at home that day, that’d be in the box.

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Slightly (okay, more than slightly!) embarrassed by this; at the very initial stage of planning, I’d literally jot down one thing for every day. Was learning to drive here, too.

Slowly, my boxes began to include more detail, like wash time on some days, what we’d be eating on other days. I’d pencil in getting ready in the morning, and book time, and bedtime routine, too.

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Progressing to a bit more detail in The Five Box Weekly Plan

Next, The Five Box Weekly Plan would include most of our activities for the week, and then, when I noticed that I was writing out the same things every week as my plan started to get more detailed, I decided to move onto a spreadsheet. The spreadsheet had the days of the week across the top, and the timings down the side – and the cells were filled in with what we’d be doing and when (brekkie at 7am-ish, etc). This worked well because copying and pasting across the week then became an option, alhamdulillah (time-saver!)

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More detail with weekly planning: spreadsheet. Not everything gets done (like the one sunnah morning du’a: didn’t get done, nor did playing the Qur’an, most days that week), but more gets done overall alhamdulillah than without a plan.

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I always slot in an intentional break; taking care of me benefits everyone.

My Personal Planning Benefits: Intentionality, Productivity, Values Alignment

With a plan for the day, I feel so much more intentional and ready to get on with the day, and less caught up in thinking ‘ooh, what chore should I do today? What are the fundamentals for us today? What should we eat?’ I wake up knowing what’s on the agenda, thus waking up with a more a get-up-and-go vibe.

Where I’m at in my journey, planning is not about getting everything on the list done; but, overall, getting more done, being more focused and intentional, feeling like I’m living my values and being more likely to have a really good day; because I’ve taken the time to craft it.

At the moment, sometimes, I plan for the day (10mins-ish the night before) and other times, I plan for the week (takes me about an hour in total). Currently, I’m doing daily planning more.

Planning in Helping to Accelerate Progress And Move Things Around

I’m amazed at how much easier it is to move things around and how much help Allah sends us with a good plan, too.

The other day, we were driving home, and the usual route home had roadworks; so I took some different turnings. One of those roads disallowed the turning I needed and so it would now take me longer to get home. I had planned to pop to our local Tesco around a certain time after I parked up home, but because I couldn’t take the turning I needed, I just continued on and decided to go to a different supermarket instead…one that was easier to do a shop at because of parking. If I hadn’t roughly planned in the time to do that quick Tesco stop off, I would’ve perhaps just skipped the whole groceries trip, and thought ‘that’s long, I’m slightly delayed now, allow it!’ But with a plan, it’s easier to redirect.

Planning can make us quicker to remember that anything that happens out of circumstance that changes things around for us is a redirection – and it’s from Allah. So, if it’s from Allah, for me, Allah always decreeing in my favour is more at the front of my mind.

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I feel like planning is tying our camel, as per the hadith, and so the second part of the hadith (putting your trust in Allah) – accepting whatever comes up – becomes easier.

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When I fall Off My Planning Game: Getting Back On It With A Small List Method

There are times when I fall off planning, and when I do, I find it harder to get back on it again. What I find helps to lessen the time it takes to course correct and get back on it is whether I’m willing to build a little ‘bridge’ back to my more detailed planning game.

Sometimes, I’d get disenchanted with falling off planning, and then I’d have days where I wasn’t fully showing up to the day, and captaining the Mama ship, and feeling not great, too. But now I’ve found (through the pain/discomfort of experience) that what works is if I jot down a quick to-do list for the next day…just a list of a few things I wanna do the next day type of thing (like Qur’an, book time, park, washes, spag bol). Then, I find, the next day is better than the funked out/disenchanted non-planning phase.

And then the progress (and momentum) that surfaced from the list can then be used to get back on the more detailed planning game quicker insha’Allah. So taking the path of least resistance back to detail.

The list method above also helps me on days when, for whatever reason, I haven’t planned the day before, or the week before.

Planning In Salah Times

Planning in some of the salah times – the ones that come in whilst I’m looking after the kids – is helpful, too (I don’t do this always). I may have to move around the timing of the salah but when I jot it down, I’m much more likely to kick that Shaitaan’s behind quicker by roughly knowing when I’m gonna pray, as opposed to just deciding when the time comes in and thinking ‘should I pray now? should I serve the kids lunch first?’ etc.

And of course, there is no wrong answer if we’re praying on time, but for me, knowing when, helps me pray at a better time because I’ve decided it beforehand. Even if that’s sometimes later within the allocated time slot because we were out in the park or something, I know when salah is planned for when I get in insha’Allah.

The Days We Turn Up Without A Plan

There are days where I do just turn up to the day with no plan – but that can cause me some pain unless there’s a legitimate reason or it’s intentional…and now that I’ve tasted the planning side of things, it feels like I’m just wasting time when I do that! At the same time, I’ve found that ‘cos i’m not 100% there with pre-planning the days, when I don’t allow for those funk days and get all perfectionistic if I don’t plan a day – rather than riding the wave or going for a bulleted to-do list –  I slow down the overall progress of my planning game.

The days where I don’t plan, I think the best thing to do is to aim for my staples: outdoors and books, and my motherhood days du’a ‘Ya Allah, please put barakah in my sleep and miracles in my days’. Ameen to dat!

Also, there are days or periods we do just need to be and intentionally not planning those is a-okay for me.

When Support Is Lower

Another time I plan is when my hubs goes away; and when I don’t, I pay for it! Before he leaves, I usually have a day off before and I go for a coffee and write down intentions for the week. Because support is lower; I make a solid focus intention for the week and write it down: self-compassion, fun with the kids, self-care (reading and watching/listening to nourishing content) and rest will be prioritised. Speaking to close girlfriends; chores can be let go a bit more (alhamdulillah we’ve been blessed to have a weekly cleaner for a few months now so that’s not an issue any more).

But before that, I would think ‘the dishes get done when they get done’ typa thing so that if, at the end of the day, I feel exhausted, and my mind whispers ‘oh look but you got dishes and other bits and pieces’, I know it’s okay to let it go (and strangely what happens is that as I’ve given myself permission to let it go, I feel more inclined to get it done anyway).

Basically, ‘cos I’ve made that decision before, I’m not negotiating with myself in a potentially exhausted state. Along with the intention and focus, I also write down  a loose plan for the week; not as detailed as usual days. Whispering up to my Lord for ease and help always helps, too.

So, how can we board the planning train with life at home with littles?

Actionable Steps In Implementing The Tip

1) If you’re a beginner, think about starting small (think simplicity!); so as to make the likelihood of consistency higher. Also, start where you are. Perhaps a list or a weekly A5 five rugged boxes plan.

In my daily lists, I’ll often write down a few things, and at times, I’ll star the must-do’s/most important, and I’ll do a dash bullet for the others…so I know what’s more important.

2) Important vs. urgent. Schedule in the important, too. For me, it’s Qur’an, salah, personal development time (reading, deen etc). The urgent always ends gets up getting done…but the important (like, for me, writing this is important but not urgent) may very well be put off and procrastinated if it isn’t solidly committed too.

3) Weekly planning – I used to refer to my weekly planning as ‘giving the week a backbone’…it holds the week up, you know, supports it to success, insha’Allah.
At the end of the week or weekend, make some time (mine takes about an hour) to think about what you want to do each week…and write it down. I’ll also jot down what we’re going to snack on and eat for meals here often…I put rough timings in for things, too  (though on the day, we can, and do, change it up; we flexible!).

4) Daily planning. Take about 10 to 15 mins the night before, and just jot down what you want your life with your kids to look like tomorrow, insha’Allah. For me, I will write down, fajr, dua for waking up and Qur’an. I’m also write down any Home Ed tasks we’re doing. You will find some love hearts next to meet ups with friends/Mummy friends <3. Reading time and intentional breaks are also intentionally jotted down. Washes and bedtime routine. All that jazz. Like with the detailed weekly plan, rough timings are included in the daily plan, too

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Daily plan (my preferred method of planning) – done in 10mins(ish) the night before.

5) Write down an intention. This is a new practise which I like and sometimes do: Yesterday, in my list plan, I wrote ‘Intention: Allah, calm, kind’…as in, I wanted to do everything for the sake of Allah, from decluttering and organising some storage spaces that I did, to my page of daily Qu’ran.
Calm and kind referred to the type of interactions I wanted to have with my children. It helped, you know…because, I started with that…and it manifested in my behaviour. We got off course, but we got back on it quickly, alhamdulillah. And as I glanced back at the list plan two or three times, I saw the intention there and it seeped in again.

6) Salah ‘planning’, I’ve noticed being in a state of wudu helps in praying at a better, earlier time. If we have wudu, and start with a gentle intention to pray in the earlier time of the time slot, we can improve. I have not got this completely down but when I do better, it’s the intention, the sometimes jotting down of the time I’ll pray, and keeping in a state of wudu that help.

And dazzit! I hope some of these tips help. And I wish you glorious days with your lovelies – ameen!

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Who Had The Tricyle First? A Tale of Sibling Squabbles 2

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Context: Me doing something around the kitchen and the boys both making struggling/unhappy sounds. I turn around and see they’re both struggling for the tricycle with Mr 4 almost or already on it (can’t remember which one). It did look like Mr 4 had it first, but I can’t be sure. I go over quickly and get in between them as it looks like they might hurt each other. Mr 4 goes off and Mr 2 begins to cry. I comfort him and Mr 2, uncomfortable, is cycling off.

Mr 4 (something like): ‘I had the tricycle first; I put my toys at the back’ [the tricycle has a little basket to carry stuff at the back]
Me: ‘What happened?’
Mr 2 says something like ‘No, I had it first’/’I want the tricyle’
Me: ‘Mr 4, come back, please.’
[Mr 4 cycles back to the living room; I may have asked him/them again what happened to understand but can’t remember]
Me: ‘You both think you had it first. What should we do?’
Ismi: ‘I don’t have any ideas’
Me: [feeling stumped…sticky sibling situations are like, my whole life as in they occur so frequently and sometimes, I just don’t know what to do…I don’t wanna just solve it for them…they both seem intense/unhappy at this point]
[Pause]
Me [lightly and jokingly]. ‘Maybe we should cut the tricyle in half?’
Mr 4: ‘Oh, I know [he now responds lightly, the intensity of a few seconds prior, just gone; he begins to keenly take his toys out of the basket) ‘Mr 2 can sit on the back of the tricyle and ride with me!’
Me: [something like]: ‘That’s an idea! Mr 2, do you wanna do that?’
Mr 2: [who was upset and cuddled up to me, a few second before, now excitedly says] ‘Or I can ride my scooter and we can race!’
Me: ‘Mr 4, Mr 2 wants to ride his scooter and race!’
And then they both rode off and played on their vehicles together, happily!

It’s often not easy to do this. To just say what we see: ‘you both want this’ and then facilitate problem solving. I knew they couldn’t cut it in half but I wanted to a) get the potential solutions going and b) see if a little humour would work…and alhamdulillah, it did, in this instance; it shifted them from intense and a bit disinterested in the process to coming up with ideas enthusiastically.

I love to hear them in their room playing together and at times, negotiating issues based on some variation of the above drill that we’ve done many times. Even though, I sometimes butt in and lay down my law more often than I’d like…instead of trying to hear them both out (a challenge for me…because the above method is often longer, and requires more patience and self-regulation). Still, I love it when it works…and when I hear bits of it serving them, without my input. It seems to better for their relationship, too. It points out the problem (instead of them thinking of each other as the problem) and then they can seek solutions that work for them both (win/win) Insha’Allah W’Allahu a’lam.

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Learnt from ‘Peaceful Parents, Happy Siblings: How To Stop The Fighting And Raise Friends For Life’ audiobook by Dr Laura Markham; and also, from a Siblings webinar from The Parenting Junkie (www.theparentingjunkie.com)

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SAHM Tip #15: Learning About Mindful Parenting

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Learning about mindful parenting has created a significant change around time at home with the kids for me. And by change, I mean there’s more chance and likelihood of peace in day-to-day interactions and life. This doesn’t mean there aren’t (frequent) struggles, tantrums, or whines. It just means that they are (intended to be!) tackled in a peaceful way, and in a way where the goal is, though I fall short of it, to teach and ‘work with’ my children (problem solve, reflect, coach), and avoid ‘doing to’ them (punish, control, etc).

I first came across mindful parenting through Dr. Laura Markham’s facebook page. I then ordered a copy of her book and that was the beginning of my mindful parenting journey. I began to read it and was hooked. I loved the premise behind mindful parenting. That we do not just treat the symptoms of our children’s behaviour, or misbehaviour, but that we look for the cause and address the needs stemming from the cause. For example, my child is tired and missed a nap and thus he is prone to meltdowns…perhaps cuddle up with a book with him for some quiet, connected time, perhaps an earlier bedtime would help, that kind of a thing. As opposed to just punishing his ‘playing up’ – likely that he will only play up again because what he needed was rest.

I loved that the aim was to work with and help our child with their needs and emotions. That we keep the definition of discipline in mind which means to teach, as Dr. Dan Siegel says. Mindful parenting states that punishment doesn’t teach much; perhaps fear, but we haven’t taught or given our children any skills on how to manage whatever caused them to act out in the first place…how to regulate their emotions in order to consciously choose their actions, such as to take a break when they get angry instead of hitting.

Dr. Laura Markham’s 3 Big Ideas As Pillars For Peaceful Parenting

Dr Laura Markhams’s book is split into three big sections which I think illustrate some ‘pillars’ of mindful parenting well. They are:

1) Regulating our own emotions (as parents)
2) Connecting
3) Coaching, not controlling.

Regulating Ourselves

Regulating our own emotions means that we breathe through your triggers, that we take a pause before responding rather than just reacting, that we try to see things from our child’s perspective when viewing a certain behaviour that riles us up. That basically, we practise healthy emotional regulation. This makes our parenting more effective as we begin to walk through the emotion part of our tests and respond, and not react, to the situations in front of us. It is also beneficial as it will insha’Allah be a model of how to calm ourselves down for our children. Children mimic; they mimic all my frequent fails in parenting but also, they mimic when we get it right as well.

Connecting With Our Kids 

In mindful parenting, priority is given to the relationship and the connection we have with our children. Connecting is important as generally speaking, the connection, love and emotional safety we create with someone, is the basis of a good relationship. Firstly, a good, healthy (not perfect) relationship is a springboard for our flourishing and success.

A significant (and welcome!) by-product of connection with our children is cooperation and influence. And in relationships in general, the people who love and accept us just the way we are, we care what they think. Connection assists with discipline and increases the positives in the relationship, and more goodness and positives make relationships more enjoyable and fulfilling for everyone. Ultimately, we really cannot control anyone. Even with regards to our rights over others and theirs over us – they work through wilful submission to Allah, I think. And Allah knows best.

Coaching, Not Controlling

Coaching means that we endeavour to become sources of loving guidance and teaching for our children, rather than relying on control. It means that we teach them to walk through and healthily navigate their big feelings, if that may what’s behind their misbehaviour. It means we talk about the impact of actions and gently point out how our actions – helpful and hurtful – affect others. It means that we help them in meeting our expectations. It means that we set empathic limits, kindly and firmly, when we need to. It means that we endeavour to accept all feelings – though we may not agree – but limit actions (no hitting/harming etc). It means that, as stated in No Drama Discipline, we connect first, then redirect.

Empathy In Parenting

A big, and hard, part of mindful parenting has been trying to be empathic; trying to see things from my children’s point of view. So when my elder son snaps or yells ‘no!’ at his brother when he gets close to something he is playing with, I try to empathise first (I’m hit and miss, here!). So I try to empathise first ‘you shouted “no!” because you thought he might break your tower?” I will usually get an agreement at this point, in which case, I will understand and empathise. “I understand sweetie. What do you think you can say to him next time he comes near your things?” Smiley’s response, something like “can you not come near my things please?” Me: “Yeah, i think that’d work. I think that would feel good for him”. I continue: “what about if he doesn’t move?”. Him: “Ask Mummy [to move him]. Me: “sounds good, baby. We can try that, insha’Allah”. Then I will address little brother too, if need be.

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Progress, not Perfection in Mindful Parenting

There is also a gap too between what I know about mindful parenting, what I know works (connection generally, connecting before redirecting, pausing and not just reacting but responding, problem-solving, empathy) and what I do (react, be blaming in my speech, lose it from time-to-time, get triggered often). But I try to keep in mind that it is a journey, and to focus on progress and not perfection. Self-compassion and making repairs with my children, and when I remember, backtracking when my voice takes on a stern tone (saying ‘sorry honey, that was my cross voice, let me try again’) help. They help to get me back on the high road (of striving, though falling short) and off the low road (of reactivity). It can be hard! And parenting fails are aplenty for me! But let’s fail forward, reflect on what we can make better, and notice the plenty of wins we have – and celebrate those, too.

So what can we do to incorporate mindful parenting into our lives? Where can we learn about it?

Actionable Steps In Implementing The Tip

1) What is mindful/peaceful parenting? This video gives a good, brief overview (I love and would recommend diving into The Parenting Junkie‘s work on peaceful parenting)

2) Learning about children’s development, particularly their brain development…this (when recalled!) will make much of our kids’ behaviour, or misbehaviour less urgent and more understandable (even if testing…)…consider ‘is what I’m expecting developmentally appropriate?’ and ‘how can i help them achieve these positive expectations?’ A good book that explains how neurobiology drives behaviour is No Drama Discipline by Dr. Dan Siegel and Dr. Tina Payne Bryson

3) Learning about how the Prophet SAW was around children is both so heart-warming and so helpful. How he stood up for Fatima RA when she entered the room, how he asked about Abu Umair’s bird when it passed away, and the narrations from Anas ibn Malik RA of the Prophet’s excellent treatment of him (‘I served the Prophet SAW for ten years and he never said ‘why did/didn’t you do this and this?’).

Click here for an excellent audio series entitled ‘Children Around The Prophet’ by Dr. Hesham Al Awadi. 

Click here for a post by Dr. Hesham Al Awadi on how the Prophet SAW dealt with children

Dr. Hesham also has a book on the topic of how Muhammad SAW raised the companions; I haven’t read it yet but have heard good things about it, masha’Allah. You can purchase it here.

4) Books That Teach Mindful, Peaceful Parenting:

  • Calm Parents, Happy Kids – Dr. Laura Markham
  • Peaceful Parents, Happy Siblings: How To Stop The Fighting And Raise Friends For Life – Dr. Laura Markham
  • Hold Onto Your Kids: Why Parents Should Matter More Than Peers – Dr. Gordon Neufeld

The above were my three faves. I also liked:

  • No Drama Discipline – Dr. Daniel Siegel and Dr. Tina Payne Bryson
  • Simplicity Parenting – Kim John Payne

Below are others I benefitted from:
The Conscious Parent – Dr. Shefali Tsabary

5) Muslim Teachers of Mindful Parenting:

Sister Kathryn Jones (The Peaceful Parenting Coach)
– Sister Hina Khan-Mukhtar’s parenting articles are wonderful, masha’Allah. Here is one I like about how to get our kids to open up to us. On the same website, if you search for Sister Hina’s name, a list of the articles she’s written show up (and all the ones I saw were on Muslim, mindful parenting). And ooh, this article entitled ‘Raising Children With Deen and Dunya‘ is uber useful by Sister Hina, also.

6) Some articles and quick write-ups that I’ve done from a mindful parenting slant:

Here’s one entitled: Helping Siblings Resolve Squabbles

Another about redirecting and play schemas; a little tale 🙂

– Lastly, ever experienced anger as a parent?! Here’s a piece of some healthy ways to process it 

I hope some of these tips help, and I wish you great days with your little lovelies, insha’Allah 😃

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SAHM Tip #14: Using ‘Bad’ Days And Moments As Lessons

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Using ‘bad ‘days and moments as lessons is something that I find uncomfortable, in terms of sitting with the discomfort of the emotions that come up after something not-nice happens. It is that when we mess up and fall short, or run into other things like spells of boredom, or find we don’t have enough time to do the things we want to do, we endeavour to make small changes.

Changes Around Screen Time

Changing things up after a ‘bad’ spell or episode comes to me quicker or slower based on my fear factor around the ensuing change. For example, a while back, I had been trying to shorten the amount of screen time the children had and I started with that change later than I wanted to. I was scared that more sibling squabbles would ensue (!) and I would become triggered and that I would wish I didn’t.

Alhamdulillah, that didn’t happen (generally!). There was one day where we went back to the screen as getting one of my kids out of the bath took me to all kinds of mental ‘cut it out!’ places though I was trying to change my thoughts and attend to my child’s experience whilst setting limits. But generally, it went well. And what new change isn’t without its blips and obstacles? It doesn’t mean we shouldn’t begin anyway – and then, troubleshoot en route to the change, should the need arise.

Changing Things Up At Home When They Don’t Work

Sometimes, when my children were even younger, we used to run into spells of boredom, and we were going out less often back then. Going out with the kids more was one of my remedies when these spells would occur. We’d usually make sure we go out after staying at home for a day. For me, staying at home with the kids a few days in a row felt (and for reals, still feels!)…risky (we’re a home educating family). Risky in the sense that I know we can get into what feels like too much limit setting (coupled with my getting worked up, and perhaps not enough connection and/or loving interaction to balance it out). Too much limit setting especially around sibling interactions, and it would make things feel a little…sour, at times. Or depleting.

So if we stayed at home one day, we’d endeavour to go out the next day (especially as fresh air makes us all feel so much better). The kids could then play in parks, playgrounds and open natural spaces, without too much limit setting from me, and they’d have space to play separately or together as well. And I would enjoy the outdoors, too.

So for us, a testing or a humdrum day at home, means that we will very likely be using that day as a prescription to go out the next day (or more rarely, that afternoon). Before we went out often, I also used to use activities as a way of changing things up when things got samey-samey.

Changes After Not-Nice Interactions With Our Littles

Using ‘bad’ moments to inform our future decisions also means in the realms of our interactions with our children. Quite a while ago now, one day when we were going out, I had some stuff on my mind. The boys got into a squabble and before I could halt my emotional brakes, I snapped at one of them. It didn’t feel great. For either of us. My son seemed to be making attempts to reconnect after that; to re-enter the safe feeling of connection. I felt bad. I didn’t wanna wallow there, but I also didn’t wanna rush past it or apologise until I thought consciously about what I could do better next time.

So alhamdulillah, that day the solution came quickly (doesn’t always). When I knew what I should’ve done from this ‘bad’ moment, I apologised and then proceeded to tell him what I plan to do next time insha’Allah; should a similar situation reoccur. And that was that.

Potty-Ville: Sour Starts To The Day And Then Changing It Up

Another thing that I had let go of after months is asking my son to use the bathroom when he woke up (this is about two years ago). He’d be super resistant to it. And I’d often find myself falling into threat mode after a while – not cool. But at that time, I really felt like I had no other choice, subhan’Allah. I felt like he needs to use it as I didn’t fancy cleaning up so whilst I was happy to let anything that he didn’t need to do go, I felt like ‘but he will have an accident and it’s not fair’ type of thing. ‘Why should I I have to clean that up when he hasn’t bothered to help himself [and me!] in the first place?’ Just wasn’t a pleasant way to start the morning.

So after doing that for ages, I actively noticed that this battle with my son was contributing to our sour starts to the day, and kind of gnawing at our relationship as well. I decided to let it go. To perhaps prompt but to let it go. So that day he didn’t go to the bathroom as soon as he woke up. And eventually, he was like ‘oh, I need to use the potty’ and made a dash for it. I decided to practise acceptance regardless of what had happened. And he made it. And then we continued with that. And it felt so much better, subhan’Allah.

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Choosing What To Change and What To Not

With regards to changing things up that aren’t working, it’s okay if making change takes a while at times; as much as I value proactivity, it can take effort and energy to just roll with it and change things up, so I think it’s okay to do things one at a time; especially with littles at home… As our energy is being used up in other ways, or perhaps in another area that we’re making changes in, we may choose to intentionally overlook or let go of a not-so-great thing, whilst we work on another; or preserve energy for something else that is more important.

So how can we use our ‘bad’ moments or things we don’t like as springboards for change, and as a means of informing our future decisions, insha’Allah?

Actionable Steps to Implement the Tip:

1) After ‘sour’/’bad’ interactions with our loved little people, we could try to stop and think of one thing we would do differently next time, should the situation arise again.

2) If there is a reoccurring incident or thing in our homes, such as, say, the morning-potty-use-ville in our home, we could think about what we can do to change it. Is it us? Do we need to let it go? Or try again if it’s something to do with capability? If we can’t let it go, can we change our approach? (make it fun, get creative, do it post connection time and play, kindly and firmly uphold it and follow through that it needs to happen?).

3) We could learn about areas that we feel incompetent in, or feel like we’re falling short in. For me, at the moment, it’s taking a breather and reacting calmly when there are sibling squabbles and then facilitating problem solving for them. It just doesn’t happen these days. So I’ve just gone back to listening to the chapter in a siblings audiobook I have by Dr. Laura Markham, entitled ‘Teaching Peace’  – which goes through this. So it helps to be reminded if we forget, or learn in order to progress. Same with marriage and home education: we can learn about these areas and progress imperfectly (hey, change can be hard, and is often uncomfortable). Sometimes, it takes pain for me to step up and learn; I don’t look for a reminder as soon as would be wise.

4) Experiment: play with what works and what doesn’t when you change things up. Sometimes, I can create a real heavy feeling around a change, like it’s a ‘big’/daunting thing, and it doesn’t help in getting the change ball rolling. Sure, there are nerves and fears around changing things up (‘what if I lose it at them?’, ‘what if I feel shattered and triggered? Hmm, let’s leave it!’ or is that just me?! :-D). But approach is as play, as fun, as ‘ooh, let’s see where this takes us’. Let’s use self-compassion if it doesn’t work or requires tweaking, rather than writing it off as a complete flop. Remember, it is only a complete flop if we don’t learn from it. Otherwise, it is a useable and useful experience to inform future decisions, insha’Allah. So Bismillah!

I hope some of these tips help, insha’Allah.
And I wish you wonderful days with your littles 🙂

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SAHM Tip #13: Avoid Perfection (Go For Progress Instead)

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Avoiding perfectionism looks like not beating myself up about my mistakes, that I don’t expect everything to be done, and that I learn to let go of certain things (for me). So for example, with trying to be a mindful parent, I used to often feel like my response to my kids could be better. But, you know what, what’s better is when I feel like ‘Ima try, I’m human, things are so much better now than they were 6 months ago, than they were a year ago, and definitely than they were, like, 2 years ago. I’m growing. Feeling uh-mazing at times, failing forward at others. So that’s what’s up, Mrs internal voice that’s trying to put me down’.

And if our ‘bad’ days and moments, which do not feel good in the moment, will inform what we will do differently next time, for the better, what else does that inner critic expect us to do?! Just wallow in the guilt?! That’s neither productive nor conducive to any good.

Progress, Not Perfection, In The Many Facets of Being a SAHM

Getting more things done around the home, with the kids, and being mindful in how we interact with them, for example, can be challenging for me – especially in our modern set-up where we don’t have a village to raise our little blessings with. I noticed in the past that when I’m cooking and/or getting through chores, I would likely be less mindful. However, I noticed this, which at first made me feel like, I need to then back away from those things until their screen time (which I didn’t want to do) or do them in the evenings. But now, I’m trying to do both and go for progress. I’m thinking practise is what it needs, not elimination/time re-designation.

Also, keeping it in mind that it takes practise to get near getting most of what we’d like done: food, home, chores, laundry, mindful responses, time to work on our individual projects, connection time (and add, prepping for homeschooling and primary caregiver to the list) = hello, something’s gotta give. So for now, at the beginning of my journey, something’s definitely gotta give. We need to remind ourselves to be mindful of where we are in our journeys, what thing(s) we can improve, that our resources are often few for the amount that needs doing (and to do something about that where we can), and that it all will get better with practice, approaching it all with a growth mindset, being kind to ourselves and planning and prioritising (especially our self-care).

Perfection vs. Self-Compassion

Perfection makes us want to abandon ship on self-improvement or run ourselves into the ground- it knows no middle ground; self kindness beckons us towards progress and proactivity, that we do our best, try again, humbled and yet enriched (and struggling some days) and insha’Allah, wisened up from the falls and fails. So when we try again, we try again at a more elevated, improved level, in that we have lessons and experiences in tow now.

There are days where I have taken a long time to do stuff around the home alhamdulilah, and thus had to skip the boys’ baths. Or days when the boys have needed me so I miss something else. There is no reason why we can’t strive to tick off our to-do list but we must not feel guilty when something more important (according to our individual and family values) comes up and we want or need to halt the to-do list; and also just halting it for little snippets of self-care so that we are taking care of ourselves.

Perfection With Time-Keeping

Another area that I, when I try to improve, can get perfectionist with, is timekeeping. So the other evening, my son asked me if he could ride his scooter in the corridor with my younger son and our neighbour – in our communal hallway space (the little kids on our floor play in the corridor sometimes). So I said yes, but not for too long, as they both still needed to take their baths. But we had recently just got in, and I was trying to balance that, and then getting their dinners ready post running my elder one’s bath, after they were done with their scooting session – which extended a little as I was speaking to my neighbour whilst her son played with our sons). And then I wanted to pray Maghrib as it was just about to come in and was trying to figure out in my head if I should get the dinners set before, or take Smiley, who was now in his bath, out of his bath before praying or after praying.

I’m very much a person who needs to focus on one thing at a time and I was finding it hard to let go and be mindful, in the midst of all that was going on. And I did that to myself. I do better when I let go and think ‘okay, what’s the priority here?’ If it’s a certain bedtime, let’s let one of their baths go (I did that eventually; bathed younger Smiley the next morning) but I made that decision not completely intentionally but rather, consequentially, when I was already all frazzled.

So yeah, eventually, I went for progress and not getting it all done. But I couldn’t readily step into the potentially joyful space that progress and making room in my schedule could bring, as, in this instance, I was already frazzled so was a little exhausted from that (and the day). Not fun.

What works better in situations like that is to pause, or even sit down for maybe a minute and think ‘okay, what’s best here? Should I let something go? Or should I do it all but with little pauses, and taking it slow, and embracing a later bedtime?’ That way, I find, for next time, I’d probably take the letting-go-of-perfection in this instance as a springboard to do better, perhaps to get both baths done calmly, and start earlier too, learning from experience. But once I’ve hit frazzled, I can still learn from experience, but I think less so for me. I’m a lot less lighter, too, when I don’t roll with the flow and exercise flexibility with time-keeping (and life).

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Progress, Not Perfection in Mindful Parenting

Next, there is going for progress in the realm of mindful parenting. So although, I say I prefer to work with my kids, I fall into lecturing, getting worked up and other less than optimal ways, too.

The point it you get it right on some days, or in some parts of the day, and wrong on others. You do okay in some incidents, smash it outta the park with other incidents (yay! we must note, dwell on, and thank Allah for those – alhamdulillah), shame (and blame) in some moments (which feels horrible upon reflection and requires repair), and sound like a whiner with our kids ourselves in other moments (well, I do). Parenting is not an easy gig. It can be a joyful gig for sure, filled with laughter and love, and we wanna find and also, with Allah’s permission, go about facilitating those moments insha’Allah, but it is most certainly a challenge.

Taking Stock Of Our Context

We can’t implement all mindful parenting brilliance all at once or even from moment-to-moment: internal work requires effort at the best of times, let alone on little sleep, with young kids under a certain age, kids who are nap resistant, and when our ibaadah doesn’t feel solid quality-wise. I know the deal.

But we have to be kind to ourselves. To take stock of our context which is some or all of the above (or more than the above). And aim for progress. To think ‘only love today’ (as Rachel Macy Stafford writes). To think: are we moving forward and progressing overall? To repair sincerely when necessary. To celebrate little wins. Like, today, wahey, alhamdulillah, I took something off my son that he crashed into me with a few times, and he cried his eyes out. I managed to remain calm and to empathise with his feelings verbally of having it taken away and him still wanting it, but still kept it away. I didn’t do it all perfectly, but I was calm and you know what, all round, it’s progress, wa lil laahil hamd.

And thennnn, in the afternoon, I was all sigh-y, and sleepy, had a ‘come on, guys!’ kind of tone, and blame-y a few times. In hindsight, I realise I was getting sleepy and what I needed was a good filter coffee. Noted and will be implemented next time insha’Allah. Progress. Not perfection. Self-kindness, not harshness. Baby steps forward. And sometimes, we can hear our voices and then start again when the harsh or blame-y sentence comes out: “I’m sorry, honey, that was my cross voice; let me try again” (<learnt from Dr. Laura Markham)

So guys, this parenting gig that can demand so much of us…do me a favour, okay? (I need to listen, here). Let’s try our best, learn and grow, go for progress, not perfection. Let’s nurture ourselves, offer ourselves grace, call out to Al-Mujeeb, Ar-Rashid for help and guidance, make repairs and move on.

So how can we move from perfection to progress, practically?

Actionable Steps in Implementing The Tip:

1) Embrace self-compassion! When you fall short, mess up, wonder if you can do it, or make mistakes, do not believe all the thoughts that tell you that you can’t (or that you’re not enough), etc. Relate to them as an observer, and put a space between you and those thoughts, and do not make big decisions in this state. If there really are doubts or questions you have or things you want to quit, address them honestly when you’re in a happier, settled kind of place. In the interim, nurture yourself. Speak to loved ones whom you trust and are compassionate if you need to. Journal. Du’a. Rest. Go slow. Chill. Ya’ni, let the thoughts just pass on by.

2) Define what’s important for this season (and what it’s okay not to be so good at!). At my home? That the kids and I are well, and that they are learning, and that play is facilitated (big reminder to myself: I fall into bouts of overwhelm at times). I’m big on read-alouds, as well. The house and stuff, I will try to keep up with but not at the expense of the kids’ curiosity or us going out and them getting a good run around, or having the energy to parent calmly.

Another priority: that I’m well (especially in terms of mindset – generally!) in order to facilitate the above (also, we are looking for a cleaner; I encourage outsourcing if ya need help especially as a home ed family; us modern mamas don’t have villages). That Mama is happy! Cos, as The Parenting Junkie says, ‘you can’t give [in this instance, with regards to kids] that which you do not have’. How can I want contentment for my kids when I’m not working on contentment myself?

3) Go to Self-Kindness and Gratitudes. Celebrate progress – especially on the days where it feels like it’s just a usual day. Nothing new, nothing noticeably improved, nothing apparently exciting. But there is. Take a few minutes and jot down that which you’re grateful for, that which has improved on this day (or in your life in general) or that with which you were gifted.

I hope some of these tips help, and I wish you great days with your little lovelies, insha’Allah 😃

Please share if you or someone else you know may benefit: jazakum’Allahu khairan and thank you. Below are some beneficial resources on this topic 🙂

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Resources on Overcoming Perfectionism:
1) An article on Perfection and Deen entitled ‘Myth of a Naturally Good Muslim’ 
2) http://www.ahaparenting.com/blog/How_to_forgive_yourself
3) http://www.ahaparenting.com/blog/my-name-is-laura-and-im-a-recovering-perfectionist
4) Lecture pertaining to growth mindset by  Dr. Carol Dweck entitled ‘How to Help Every Child Fulfil Their Potential’
5) Book: The Gifts of Imperfection – Dr Brené Brown. I love the distinctions she makes between perfectionism (not healthy) vs. healthy striving/striving for excellence (healthy).
6) Book: How To Be An Imperfectionist – Stephen Guise
7) A short clip from Brendon Burchard entitled ‘Procrastination and “The Perfectionist”‘
8) Book: Mini Habits – Stephen Guise

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SAHM Tip #12: Carving Out Intentional Breaks (Daily & Weekly)

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Having some time in the day at home with the kids that I can generally count on to get a break is really important for me. For me, it used to usually happen when my younger son was napping and we usually did quiet time with my elder son: which meant he played in a different room with his toys for about half an hour (and I would chill in another room). For that half hour, I’d usually read or sometimes write. Sometimes, I’d call a close friend or just be.

Carving Out Intentional Breaks (+ The Benefits)

Having such time in the day is vital for me to feeling ‘topped up’ for the afternoon. I feel more able to relate to my kids and the rest of the day from a better place. Keeps depletion away (most of the time! Mummy depletion is neither cool nor pretty: snappiness hollers at me and I begin to respond)

Carving out such intentional breaks then – which will look different based on individual circumstances and/or needs – I feel, can really help us to feel like we’re not running on low (at least, not for the majority of the time).

These little breaks, if we take them, can allow us to fill up our tank a little bit so that we can function and move through our days from a better place. We can use this time to work on an individual project, to nurture a personal dream even in small but consistent time chunks (even if it’s just 15 minutes daily), to just be, to nurture ourselves; and this helps nurture our families.

These days, we don’t do quiet time but my children have a set amount of screen time most days (usually in the afternoon) and I generally use some of that time for replenishment/reading.

On The Days That Break Time Doesn’t Work Out

If, for some reason, break time doesn’t work out for a continuous stretch of time – even if ‘brief’ like a few days – finding another slot of time where the kids are safely occupied, like bath time or independent play time helps – even if it’s just an intentional 5 or 10 minutes on some days. This, coupled with getting (re)intentional regarding committing to pre-planned break times, helps in getting back on the consistent daily break time train. We can (and do!) all sometimes fall off any good habit train, but I think it’s just about learning to course correct quicker.

If there are days when break time isn’t happening at all, then I like Dr Laura Markham’s suggestion of making a deal with ourselves: to nurture ourselves in the evening when our lovelies sleep.

For me personally, especially in the summertime when sunset is later in the UK, I opt for a walk in the early evening after the kids’ bedtime when I feel I need some me-time – this happens infrequently but it’s there as an option.

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When We Don’t Take Breaks (Pitfalls!)

I have gone through phases where I don’t take these breaks for whatever reason, underestimating how useful they are for me. Sometimes, Smiley used to ask if we could take quiet time together or play together and I, at times, said yes, so as not to refuse the sweet boy who wanted to connect and play with his Mum. I’d (at times!) feel bad refusing that. But then I’d often regret it.

Taking quiet time together in the same space didn’t work for me, as even though beautiful young kids mean well, they don’t always get that you’re reading (cue: lots of talking and questions and the quiet time not being so…quiet). Which is fine in that it is to be expected with young kids. But I found it to be a trigger for me (because I don’t get a break and it’s not playtime for us, so we don’t get to enjoy each other completely).

And the times when I’ve thought that maybe we could just skip quiet time altogether and just have one-on-one time, it mostly hasn’t worked out as, towards the end of the day or afterwards, I’m okay but would be feeling like I needed to switch off a bit. So I’d find myself wishing I had taken that time…so that I’d keep as well as I can – so I’m beneficial to myself and them.

So when we did quiet time, kindly and firmly upholding that we have quiet time apart worked better so that we could all rest insha’Allah and spend time together post quiet time. There would be resistance at the beginning but I continued with kindly redirecting; and to b honest, getting annoyed and not being so kind on a few occasions, and then striving to fix that…like establishing anything new, the process will be neither perfect nor mistake-free on both sides.

Now that I take time during screen time though, we often take time *together* in the same room; I use some of their screen time as reading time and they are into what they’re watching so it works for now, alhamdulillah.

Getting Ready In The Morning

Intentional ‘me’ time is also getting ready in the morning for me (not always!). Taking this investment into the day can allow us to feel good rather than sloppy, and that makes the challenges feel less…weighty. They feel like ‘I feel good and I got this’. I’m not wishing away any morning tantrums or challenges etc. There’s something about neat hair, a clean face, and being dressed in day clothes (as opposed to PJs) that can make us feel put together and for me, feel like ‘I can captain this ship’. The ‘feeling together’ feeling of being ready can induce a readiness to engage with the day. But if I don’t get ready in the morning, I feel sloppy and unfresh, and more pertinently, I am more likely to be wishing away the challenges, resistant to them rather than going with the flow and accepting whatever comes up.

So what can we do to carve out intentional breaks, insha’Allah? Here’s what works/has worked for me:

1) We can look at our day and see if there is a time when our children are consistently busy. for example: a consistent time of the day the kids play independently; nap time; screen time etc, and perhaps consider using some of that time to do something replenishing: reading Qur’an, reading good books, watching a lecture, getting some exercise, or something else personally uplifting and/or replenishing for you.

2) Consider if establishing quiet-time would be of use to you. Here is a useful article on how to establish quiet time and things to keep it in mind for quiet time:
http://loveplayandlearn.com/7-tips-transition-toddlers-naptime-quiet-time/

When we did quiet-time, I went for 30mins – but at times, set the timer for about 40-45mins; to account for the occasions when my little one would come in or resist or come and ask some questions; the little extra time would allow me to be a bit gentler in handling it and redirecting him to quiet time (without the time buffer, I was finding myself frustrated at times).

3) Weekly time-off  can also be incredibly nourishing – an afternoon, morning or evening where you take time to nurture yourself.

I hope some of these tips help insha’Allah.
And I wish you great days with your littles 🙂

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SAHM Tip #11: Dealing With Our Own Personal Stuff

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Photo Credit: Roberto Whittaker

Dealing with our own personal stuff means that we’re aware of our internal and emotional going-ons. What we’re feeling, if something is the matter, and the very strong likelihood that our internal landscape, our state of mind, affects our parenting.

For me personally, it happens that if something has come up that I have found personally challenging, such as an upsetting personal incident that I haven’t completely made sense of, I’m less patient with my children. I feel like I don’t have the internal resources to parent as best as I can, that I want the challenges/demands/their need for me to stop already, as though I’m ‘full’ and can’t quite take anymore. In these instances, I’ve found that, as a first step, noticing it helps.

For me, when I feel emotionally snagged, I just don’t feel right, like, things can feel heavy and I often feel like I can’t physically do much – around the house, etc (and I sometimes begin to crave tuning out…onto my phone etc). And the kids’ beautiful childish ways are something that, in that state, I find very testing (because of my own perturbed state).

The Issues That Come Up for Us

Taking the steps to solution any issues, tests, obstacles etc, is something we should do for the sake of Allah first, and then for wanting to operate from a place of accepting (and then engaging with) our tests, from being the best possible versions of ourselves, and not resisting or putting our heads under the carpet when things come up. For wanting to cultivate sound hearts too – qalbun saleem.

The unresolved, wafting-around-in-our-minds ‘issues’ at times can look like personal limitations, frustrations or failures we’ve come up against; which, for me, means I need to strategise for or learn about this area to be better, to feel ‘unblocked’ and unstuck; it could look like a relationship test or a family issue.

Even if we don’t parent negatively because of these things or perhaps not right away (and some things weigh heavier than others), it is something that is added to the day, I find, like a detraction from lightness and patience resources (sabr tank!) Like, these things are subtractions from our parenting game rather than pluses (‘pluses’ can be anything that replenishes you in parenting and adds to your energy, positivity and vitality and general imperfect smacking-it-ness [!] )

Issues are ‘subtractions’, leaving us feeling stuck, if they are left untackled or if we haven’t changed our perception of them.

What Can Help On Those Days

I usually begin with lowering expectations on the days where I feel emotionally snagged, which means my aims are to be kind and to help where I need to. Leaving out toys to invite play helps and easy foods, too. I don’t think it helps to feel bad about letting certain things go on those days.

Getting outdoors (what I mostly do) or, if need be, journalling during the kids’ screen time (which I prepone if I need to on these kinds of days) and confiding in my husband and/or calling a good girlfriend, depending on what the problem is. To make du’a too and tell Allah; asking Him for guidance, help and direction. To discharge it in some way, to begin the process of making sense of it; so that the problem, even if still unsolved, is emotionally ejected, to some degree, out of my system.

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Figuring Out Our Issues

Sometimes, we do have to be more patient with ourselves, to be with and allow the discomfort (which can feel hard) and then slowly move the day forward, one micro task at a time. Then, I find, the puzzle pieces begin to take place, one at a time. And one at a time, doesn’t mean one after another. It means, okay yes, that’s what I felt; go to the park, walk around, perhaps listen to something inspiring/subject related to the issue I’m dealing with, be with the kids in the park, walk home; on the walk home, I realise a different perspective, I think of Allah SWT, I gain a new insight through just being or by way of sitting with the situation without the charged emotions or the blame or resentment that was trying to incite me. I think yes but what can I do, whilst staying on my own side of the road? What happened? Why do I feel this? How can I better prepare for this next time? What do I need to release/let go of? Arrive home, lunchtime, dishes, naptime/ quiet time, perhaps speak to a loved one who is a soft place to fall…feel better, more emotionally centred; find a few moments to read; and then proceed with the routine.

Other times, we need to adjust or view the situation at hand reconnected consciously to our bigger purpose in life which is being created to worship Allah. Asking ourselves what next step would please Him and what next step would help in moving towards shifting our states and situations for the better.

Sometimes, it is easier to solve, just a few steps (okay here’s what happened…what do I need to let go of; okay, why do i feel annoyed? I didn’t honour myself and a boundary for myself perhaps…okay, next time what will I do? Okay cools, so now, bye bye. Done). And sometimes, it takes more time and effort.

Dealing With Our Stuff: A Personal Tale

Over the course of writing this, there was something that triggered me in the morning. Before the kids woke up. And it was Fajr time. But before I had prayed, I felt like ‘journal and let it out before the kids wake up’ and that felt hard because I wanted to keep sleeping for a bit, before I prayed and before the kids woke up. But I journalled anyway, and that really did help. I didn’t feel great afterwards but I felt like I could move through things from a place of peace because I’d discharged some emotions and understood more what I was feeling. Alhamdulillah. Then I went to pray and prepped my younger son’s breakfast whilst my elder son was still asleep.

So by the time my elder son did awaken, and I was helping both boys with a few things, my state had completely shifted. I was feeling good now and moving around the place and attending to the kids with internal peace, alhamdulillah (doesn’t always happen so quickly). I had this piece in mind also, and a thing from a few days prior to this, when I took some missteps, and didn’t emit my emotions and work through them right away –  so I was walking around with an internal unease, and doubts, and thus reactivity was harder to avoid.

Why It’s Important To Figure Out Our Stuff

If we emit and work through our emotions, I find we have a better shot at pause and mindfully choosing our responses as parents, insha’Allah.

When I’ve emitted my emotions, I usually feel more more centred, and can more likely return to the boys in a more settled state; a place where I can shepherd at least a bit better because I’ve helped myself. I also have a clearer mind or a more peaceful/stiller state to solution problems from.

What are some of the things we can do to face up to the personal stuff that comes up, and the emotions that come with it, and how can we deal with these? 

Actionable Steps In Implementing The Tip:

1) Journal. This is useful in helping figure things out/make sense of our emotions. If we feel emotionally snagged, I find it helps to journal and not hold back. Things don’t have to be accurate at this point, just how they feel for you personally. Accuracy and checking can come later, once you’ve discharged the emotions, and they have lost some of their edge; then you can ask yourself, rationally, am I being true here? Have I made some assumptions? Do I need to ask some questions?

But first, I find for myself, I have to move past the raw emotions (if I’ve already hit them) in order to able to check the story. So first step, discharge uncensored. That should be a release. Then, check if it’s true; if more info is needed; if we just ran with a story with assumptions; if we need to apologise.

(I learnt the asking questions bit after capturing your story from Dr. Brené Brown)

2) Take a time-out, and get intentional. Just for five minutes in the same room (if the kids are busy) or ideally, in another room. What works for me is to just be for five or ten minutes. Sometimes to just be or to journal or to whisper up to my Lord or do some deep breathing (if anger is involved!). Often, I use this time to get (re)intentional of how we’re going to move through this day…(are we going out?)

3) Engaging the kids in an activity of some sort and calling a loved one or somebody trusted that can help can be useful.

4) Seek Inspiration – watching a beneficial khutbah on tests or life’s purpose, engaging with personal development material (books, audiobooks, podcasts), especially on the topic of what our current test – these can all be helpful in getting the ball rolling towards seeking a solution.

More importantly, they can also remind us to have good expectations of Allah and that whatever is happening is occuring for us, insha’Allah.

5) Kindly ask for help if need be. I used to struggle with this one; really overthink it. Sometimes, for ‘bigger’ helps, I still do but I’m getting there alhamdulillah. If I’m in a not-so-great place, isn’t it wise, even kind of me to ask for that help, not as a luxury like my mind chatter is making out, but rather so that I may return to my loved ones in a calmer, more centred state, so I can shepherd better? I don’t think the opposite is an option: not asking for help (when the option to is there!) whilst walking around on edge or giving from an emotionally blocked place, where it feels heavy? Where innocent things our children do feel triggering.

Ask for help. And when those thoughts of being burdensome come up, say jazak’Allahu khairan and thank you to them. Be grateful to have love and support and then let’s love and support loads, too, when our loved ones need a break, too. Take the break, come back recharged and then be wonderful and give and serve with love!

 

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I hope some of these tips help, and I wish you great days with your child(ren), insha’Allah 😃
Please share if you or someone else you know may benefit: jazakum’Allahu khairan and thank you.

 

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SAHM Tip #10: Accepting Whatever Comes Up

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Photo Credit: Roberto Whittaker

Accepting whatever comes up means that we endeavour to choose acceptance, rather than resistance to the stuff that happens at home. An example of this could be when our children spill stuff.  ‘Qadr’Allah’ is my desired response along with a ‘we can try again. Let’s help clean up’. Sometimes acceptance feels like the harder choice as parenting mindfully can be challenging especially after a long day or triggering occurrences; it’s easier to snap or to huff and puff (and I’ve done both).

The conscious choice does require more energy from us but it is walking-our-parent-talk and modelling good character and manners. Ever asked your child to keep it down in an annoyed and raised voice? (Sheepishly putting my hand up)

I feel like I pass and fail at acceptance with my kids equally. I have phases where I’m better or worse at it (and on the worse days or phases, I feel like I’m often apologising for being harsh or unkind).

Acceptance and Night Wakings: A Tale of Wake-Up Parties

I remember when I had my second child. Until he was 3 months old, we lived in a one bedroom flat: hubs, our two boys and I. I was getting up to nurse my son a lot in those early days and sometimes, my elder son, then aged two, would at times wake up and climb into our bed. And something about that situation would make me feel…a little anxious…like I wanted it to be different. I think it may have been the thought that we may awaken (and then keep awake!) my elder son. And then have a ‘well, whaddaya know, both kids are awake in the wee hours’ type of party: the type of party that I did not wish to attend. The only party I wanted was a ‘let’s have a quick feed whilst everybody that should stay asleep does, and then let’s let Mummy catch some zeds’ type of party. I was down for that kinda bash, lol.

Anyway, when the Mummy-catching-some-zeds party was put under question, I would, when I remembered, just observe the situation and find myself uttering ‘I submit’ in those moments. To what? I submit to the decree of Allah. I submit to the situation He has chosen for me. It’s not like I could change it in any way. We had no spare room to set my elder son up in at that point. And we weren’t making a clamour. So I wasn’t responsible for his waking up. I could accept it though, and choose to work with the situation.

After choosing acceptance, it’s (at times) possible to see the beauty or blessings of those moments. For me, during the wake up parties, Big brother would often be uber quiet and oh-so-smiley in those moments. I’d feel incredibly connected to him, smiling and stroking his face. I remember the smiles, the stillness of the night and the beauty of the moment lighting me up. They are still beautiful memories. They could have been like the ‘nuisances’ that I sometimes perceive when I don’t accept or submit, but instead resist.

‘And be patient with a beautiful patience’

Saying ‘fasbir sabran jameela’ (and be patient with a beautiful patience – 70: 4) can really help us at certain moments – when two children cry at the same time, when one child has a sudden meltdown. And when we can bring that He witnesses to mind, I find it makes the minutia that is happening feel like it is, at times, fine, and at others, bearable. It can also help in being mindful, knowing that He sees us.

Let Go and Let God

Another phrase that helps me with acceptance is ‘Let go and let God’.

As a Mum, testing times have arisen for me around helping the boys get to sleep. And sometimes, I’ve been resistant and/or found it harder to accept the challenges. I’m focused on the result: sleep dearies, so Momma can get a recharge.

But when I’m focused on the result, I’m so not present. I’m a little pushy (okay, sometimes, I’ve been very pushy ), and I’m internally not accepting of my situation. And guess what? It does not feel good. Nor does it necessarily bring about the result I want…at least in a way where I wouldn’t regret it (by being harsh, etc). 

Let Go and Let God can help in reminding us that Allah knows better for us. In every moment. That even though we would love for him to just sleep easily, I’m trying and its not happening? We accept and surrender to Allah. We can do something replenishing, even if for five minutes. With acceptance, there may still be discomfort or disappointment, but there is also the potential for internal peace and calm. There is knowing that He is in control. And that He is building us. Here is a poem about acceptance that I wrote.

Acceptance and Spotting The Good

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Photo credit: Roberto Whittaker

After acceptance, maybe we can go further and see if we can find the beauty or upside of this . You don’t wanna nap? I wanted to read and write, but it’s cool, Allah chose this so wahey, no nap means early bedtime = more Mummy solo time in the evening. Wet bed and, therefore, a wash needed in the morning? Cools, alhamdulillah: hows about we wash your whole body and hair, instead of just the needed parts, and then, no bath or wash tonight? One less thing to do in the evening, ka-pow!

Bed is wet and I need to change the sheets? Might feel long, but I accept: I’m gonna change it knowing I can change this specific bed later than I’ll change the rest of the family beds. So bed changing will be quicker this week. Uh-huh! Noticing flowers, and not weeds, as a bracelet from The Hands Free Revolution read. It’s good for our internal peace, and happiness…and sense of lightness as people.

Sometimes, noticing the good takes effort and doesn’t always come straight after something we dislike happens and that’s a-okay. I wouldn’t force myself to feel this but I’d try. If we’re still in the midst of disappointment, just accepting and being kind to ourselves is great, and then, we can move to spotting the good later if/when we can or when a situation that illuminates it arises insha’Allah.

So whilst not always easy, the more we do it, the more we can remember and strengthen that Qadr-accepting, Allah’s plan trusting, beauty and opportunity noticing muscle and mindset. And then peace and contentment become more frequent abiders in our internal world (more of that please, ameen!)

Acceptance and Problem Solving

Acceptance also paves the way for problem solving. When we resist, we are stuck. And that doesn’t feel good. Acceptance, and being patient, doesn’t mean that we don’t try and change whatever we can. It just means that we start with acceptance, and then from that place of internal calm, solution what we can.  This can feel empowering, because the very situation at home that may have depleted us, made us feel less than optimal, can leave us feeling empowered if, after accepting, we are able to plan for what we’ll do next time, should it reoccur.

The Prophet SAW said “A believer is not bitten from the same hole twice” (Bukhari/ Muslim)

“If you don’t like something, change it. If not, change the way you feel about it” – Dr Maya Angelou

Changing After Accepting

One weekend, the kids and I would be out on three evenings in a row. The first night in IKEA was all good, but the kids were tired as it was way past their bedtime. So it was a bit up in the air when we got home. As we were off routine, I felt a bit disoriented as to where to begin, so I felt a bit resistant to get bedtime routine going.  Same type of thing happened the following night at a family dinner. All this was making me come off all controlling and ordering and we were completely doing the ‘I’m the parent, get yourself moving and I ain’t got time to entertain your whines’ routine [though, I’m the one who didn’t help you and prepare you to succeed at this!].

So it helped to accept that what was happening didn’t feel good for either me or the kids; I acknowledged my humanness, and thought ‘Ima prep for tomorrow night, insha’Allah, fam!’. So the next day, for the late family lunch, I prepped pyjamas for both boys and took them with me. I took some dinner for them, as well.

I thought we could leave around/just before their bedtime, but that I’d give them their dinner there, and pyjama them both up for bedtime before we left my cousin’s home for ours. I thought my younger son would most likely fall asleep in the car, knowing his sleep timings, and with pyjamas on and dinner done, that was a-okay with me. So that’s what I did.

And because of the loose plan, when we did leave slightly after bedtime, I was fine, and not resistant to helping my kids if they were slightly overtired or struggling. When we got home, we helped the boys to bed alhamdulillah and I don’t remember details, but it was a smoother, more internally peaceful experience. But it all began with acceptance.

Don’t Project The Challenging Moment Forward

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Photo Credit: Roberto Whittaker

It can be helpful to remember to ‘not project the moment forward’ when it’s challenging. Which means that if we find ourselves in such moments, we choose not to believe the thought that says that just because this was a challenging moment (I’m knackered, I lost it, I’m disengaged), the rest of the day, or the next day, has to be impacted negatively by it. No. If we choose to be bold with those thoughts, whisper up a du’a, and just experience and witness these thoughts and the moment now, it may not necessarily be the case that we will be impacted negatively by it beyond the now.

Of course, this isn’t always the case. The moment does perhaps contribute to challenges later (you’re tired no matter what, for example).

But not projecting the moment forward really helps in halting the story in my head.  ‘Cos when we take the story as truth, I feel like we almost invite it in. But if we hear those thoughts (and oh, I do) but relate to them as an observer and think ‘okay, this just a moment and it, too, shall pass’ , I feel we have a  much better chance of it being just a moment (or some).

Not Wanting To accept: A Holiday Tale

An instance of me not wanting to accept whatever comes up. So last year, we were on holiday, and my son starts to stir in the night. He lets out one cry, tosses and turns, and then another. My first thoughts are ‘please don’t wake up, please don’t wake up’. I feel disappointment that the plan for my evening chill-out might be brought to a halt. These thoughts become pleas to Allah ‘please don’t let him wake up, Ya Allah.’ But they are not coming from a place of acceptance; I feel that pinch of disappointment and for a good few seconds, I feel myself frantically wanting the situation to be what it most certainly is not. So I notice that feeling in my stomach and I reluctantly accept the idea that I may indeed have a different evening than I had planned. I do not like it. But I (eventually!) accept whatever shape the evening may take. Because Allah is the best of planners. So internally, I relinquish control. Who knows what beauty we may encounter on this different route than planned, right? ❤ And subhan’Allah, he went right back to sleep.

Acceptance Is Harder When We’re Not Taking Care of Ourselves

I must also add, the inner work of acceptance and patience become almost impossible without regular, intentional doses of self-care; even if small. You’re trying and you’re a few hands down perhaps due to circumstances. Or maybe the day-in, day-out nature of motherhood makes it a little harder to practice. And I fall into this at times; sometimes, often.

If I do feel my cup is nearing empty, I try first to head outdoors, to do some strewing to invite play or to prepone my children’s screen time (which is usually in the afternoon) if it means I can take some time to read, to pray in peace or to journal, call a loved one or take a shower…a little shuffling around of plans is much better than a overwhelmed, about-to-lose-it me.

Asking for help, and appreciatively receiving it when we need it is a-okay, and crucial to being a mindful parent…you can’t make conscious decisions and do the inner work of acceptance from a depleted place.  And we can lovingly be the helper and offer help whenever a loved one or people we know could do with help or an empathic ear, too.

I remember asking my friend if she could come over (to just chill and connect with) once when hubs had to suddenly leave on a family emergency; and my other friend checked in on us and asked me to send her a shopping list of the stuff we needed and I appreciatively obliged. These things help.

So as mothers of young children, what can we do practically to practice acceptance?

1) Plan When Ya Can If I try to loosely plan things, and then things don’t go my way, I know it’s Allah’s plan and indeed, that really is the best plan, so I can submit easier. For example, that night at my cousin’s. If my kids got cranky or something, I would have had better internal resources to accept and deal with it because I had tried to plan their bedtime routine.  But if I hadn’t, I would know it was my lack of action that brought it about…I still have to accept that to make it better, but that was something I could’ve affected, ya dig?

2) Have some adhkaar and ‘mantras’ that help you to accept :: For me, these are:

– QadrAllah wa maa sha’a fa’ala

– Alhamdulillah

– Bismillah

– Let Go and Let God

– I submit

– I accept

– This is not an emergency (from Dr. Laura Markham)

– Fasbir Sabran Jameelaa

These are tools that can move us (not always easily) from resistance to acceptance. Sometimes, with the acceptance, can come enjoyment, and that is a beautiful gift; cherry on top, ya’ni.

3) Don’t project the moment forward This means that whatever hard time we’re having with our young kids, we try not to draw negative future conclusions from it. We do not run away with the stories that the rest of the day or week is going to be ‘bad’.

4) Spotting The Good, no matter how ‘small’. This doesn’t need to happen in the moment, and you do not need to pressure yourself to do it. But if/when we can, it’s great.

5) Consider Using D.I.G Deep (by Dr Brené Brown) I sometimes know I’m resistant to stepping into my day when I’m overbinging on social media, or it’s a challenging moment and I’m tuning out. So next time, we are kind of mulling through the day or come up against a challenge, it can be helpful to ask ourselves to DIG Deep. Dr. Brown says the wholehearted get:

“**Deliberate** in their thoughts and behaviors through prayer, meditation, or simply by setting intentions; **Inspired** to make new and different choices;**Going**. They take action.”

DIG Deep can help us accept, face up to and take action on the things we would rather numb, I find.

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I hope some of these tips help, and I pray for us to have peaceful days with our children – ameen 🙂

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SAHM Tip #9: Practicing Self-Compassion

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I first read about self-compassion in an audiobook I listened to entitled ‘The Gifts of Imperfection’ by Dr. Brené Brown. One of the guideposts in the book was entitled ‘cultivating self compassion: letting go of perfectionism’. At that time, I fully needed to read this chapter and try to live by it, as I was very, very hard on myself – to the point where it blunted my progress and it wasn’t unusual for me to regularly feel inadequate.

Since then, things have changed for the better alhamdulillah, but even as I sit here to write this tip, it is first a reminder for me after a rough afternoon and evening with my preschooler. Our interactions were not great: mine were reactive, he was napless and I am on broken and little sleep, so add those together, heightened emotions, and the concoction in terms of interactions just isn’t great. And after he went to sleep, I felt the ‘feeling bad’ feelings kicking in. And the voice in my head began to run the bad mum tape. You know the one. The one that doubts if you can be a good Mum. The one that says you are failing your kids and tries to run the bad interactions in your head. And then I remembered self-compassion – which can really be a soothing balm.

I went on to read the book ‘Self-Compassion’ by Dr. Kristin Neff. It was hugely helpful in how I related to myself (with kindness and compassion and encouragement), and in how I related to my children and my days at home with them; though I still inevitably – and often – fail.

What Is Self-Compassion?

So, firstly, what is self-compassion? On Dr. Neff’s website (www.self-compassion.org), it states:

“Having compassion for oneself is really no different than having compassion for others. Think about what the experience of compassion feels like. First, to have compassion for others you must notice that they are suffering. If you ignore that homeless person on the street, you can’t feel compassion for how difficult his or her experience is. Second, compassion involves feeling moved by others’ suffering so that your heart responds to their pain (the word compassion literally means to “suffer with”). Having compassion also means that you offer understanding and kindness to others when they fail or make mistakes, rather than judging them harshly. Finally, when you feel compassion for another (rather than mere pity), it means that you realize that suffering, failure, and imperfection is part of the shared human experience.”

Self-compassion involves acting the same way towards yourself when you are having a difficult time, fail, or notice something you don’t like about yourself. Instead of just ignoring your pain with a “stiff upper lip” mentality, you stop to tell yourself “this is really difficult right now,” how can I comfort and care for myself in this moment?”

She continues:

“Perhaps most importantly, having compassion for yourself means that you honor and accept your humanness. Things will not always go the way you want them to. You will encounter frustrations, losses will occur, you will make mistakes, bump up against your limitations, fall short of your ideals. This is the human condition, a reality shared by all of us. The more you open your heart to this reality instead of constantly fighting against it, the more you will be able to feel compassion for yourself and all your fellow humans in the experience of life.”

Actualising Self Compassion in My Life

Wow. This was such a shift from how I usually thought; I knew intellectually that it made no sense to beat myself up over something that had already happened, a personal failure or some sort of perceived inadequacy in myself . But I found it so much harder to actualise this in my life. In time and with effort, I began to accept my humanness. And I couldn’t imagine what motherhood would be like without self-compassion, subhan’Allah. It means that when we fall short, overreact, get frustrated, or it gets too much, we can practice self-compassion when we remember it.

When we’re not busy berating ourselves, though the taunts of the Shaitaan to go to that place can come up, we can be a friend to ourselves; we may tell ourselves something along the lines of ‘but it happened; everybody messes up, what can we do to clean it up? And what can we do better next time, insha’Allah?’. When we can do this, as our head space isn’t consumed by berating ourselves, there’s actually mental space to think of what we can do better next time. And because of self-compassion and the breathing space that it provides, we can roll with that plan of action, knowing that if amends need to be made, we will try to do so sincerely insha’Allah, taking full responsibility where need be. And with a plan of action, we will be more likely to implement at least some of it, insha’Allah.

What’s key here is that I personally feel I couldn’t have done any of it had I listened to the whisperer that wanted to keep berating me. It’s good that the errors don’t rest well with our hearts; these are signs that we want to heed so that we may, whilst in full acceptance and nurturing of our humanness, see the flag and begin to adjust. But to almost indulge in our shortcomings – that doesn’t produce any productive action for me; it just makes me feel bad without making any changes because ‘oh no, I’m so bad’ – and that would be kind of letting yourself off the hook, I think. As that wouldn’t be facing up to our actions, taking responsibility for them, making amends where need be and moving on: which, I think, requires far greater skill and maturity.

The Three Components of Self-Compassion and How I Use Them in Motherhood

Self-compassion has three core components: self-kindness, mindfulness and common humanity. The one that serves me the most in motherhood is self-kindness.

When I overreact, or I hear myself speaking harshly and critically, I immediately try to go self-kindness. I sometimes forget to, or my inner shame voice seeps in, but whenever I can, I go to self-kindness. So when I sometimes tell my son something harshly, perhaps set a limit, and my annoyance is apparent in my voice, I have a few choices (some of which are not helpful, but are indeed tempting, and which I have indeed done in not-so-great moments): a) I can blame him for it, even if only in my thoughts; we all have unhelpful thoughts but I mean I could choose to unhelpfully linger in and believe such thoughts; thoughts such as ‘he was out of line, so really he started it; my action was a reaction to his!’; b) I can begin to toy with the thoughts that I am a bad Mum or wallow in some Mum guilt (eek, aren’t those both oh-so-tempting and oh-so-unhelpful) c) I can kind of just ignore it, though when we do something we know we could’ve done better, it doesn’t feel good, and that discomfort is there until we own it, make amends and/or make tawbah d) I can begin the thought process towards cleaning it up, which starts, for me, with self kindness, and acknowledging my imperfection; taking heed of the ‘I shouldn’t have done that’ pang’.

The Prophet (SAW) said ‘All of the children of Adam sin/make mistakes, and the best of those who sin are those who repent’ (At-Tirmidhi). So, what now? Follow up a bad deed with a good one, insha’Allah, which in this case would mean saying to my son: “Hey, I’m sorry honey, that I spoke to you unkindly; it wasn’t your fault honey, I was just feeling overwhelmed”. And then think about what to do next time if a similar moment arises, so that I don’t snap or lose it again.

Prophet Muhammad (SAW) taught us on this same topic when he said:

“Have consciousness of Allah wherever you may be, and follow up a bad deed with a good deed which will wipe it out, and behave well towards the people.”(At-Tirmidhi)

Common Humanity in Trials and Motherhood

Another facet of self-compassion that I find helpful in motherhood is that of common humanity. It is remembering: ‘It isn’t just me. Everybody experiences some level of suffering in this life; of testing. Every mother has likely felt this way, had this thought or experienced this at some point’. Experiences of sleepless nights, testing times, losing it or feeling pinches of guilt from time-to-time. This really makes you feel like you’re not alone, and Yaa Rabb, this is the truth.

Allah says: “Verily We have created man in toil.” [Al-Qur’an 90:4]
So Allah tells us that man, all humans, were created in toil; in struggle. We are all tested. Common humanity in this regard can allow us to have compassion for other people because we remember “We’re all part of a whole” (that of humanity); and when we ‘use’/remember common humanity in a hard parenting moment, it can move us to make du’a for ourselves and others; for us all to be helped and forgiven.

Allah, Most High, tells us: “Indeed, your wealth and children are a trial.” [Qur’an 64:15]. Shaitaan tries to pull the isolation agenda on us when we have testing moments, but our trials are in fact what unite us, not what separates us. How we respond to those tests can perhaps be said to be what separates us.

Do the people think that they will be left to say, “We believe” and they will not be tried?
But We have certainly tried those before them, and Allah will surely make evident those who are truthful, and He will surely make evident the liars. (29:2-3)

Self-Kindness in The Things That Feel Hard for Me

I use self-kindness in many areas of my life (coming back to editing this piece a year or more after I initially wrote it and I realise how much I need it). I used to use it at Fajr time when that voice kicked in; the one that tells you to snooze for the third time. “This feels hard for you. But why don’t you put just one foot in front of the other. Slowly does it. Use the bathroom. Okay, next step. Open the tap. Make wudu. Done. Alhamdulillah. Walk to the prayer mat. Say your takbeer. Pray. Complete. Alhamdulillah”. My self-kindness voice helped me pray many a Fajr salah when I was newly postnatal, alhamdulillah.

Self-kindness also helped me in doing activities with the kids and taking them out more during the week.

So, in our motherhood journey, how can we use self-compassion to assist us? (My tips will be based around how I have used self-compassion in my day-to-day life)

Actionable Steps In Implementing The Tip

1) Try Self-Compassion! Next time you fall into a situation where you feel you’ve messed up, speak to yourself kindly and see how you feel. Try harsher too…Observe: how does the kind voice make you feel? And what about the harsh one? The kind one could be ‘This feels challenging for you, my dear. What do you need right now? Why don’t you try and ask Allah for help and do *blank*? How can we fix it?’ The harsh one might sound like ‘You’re always doing that! That’s dumb’ etc. The harsh voice feels…heavy for me (no good deeds stemming from that place). As Dr. Brené Brown says: ‘talk to yourself like you would talk to someone you love’.

2) Remember that as insaan (humans), falling is inevitable; getting back up is optional. We should strive for ihsaan (excellence). And accept and work with our nature (we are imperfect) rather than against it. Unless we are just shrugging our mistakes off altogether, without regard for Allah, ourselves and the feelings of others, there can be beauty and growth in them, if used productively.

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3) Use Self-Compassion When You Mess Up (and When You Make Repairs). When we naturally fall off the high road, let’s nurture ourselves. And also use self-compassion to make a repair. Here’s how:

a) Accept the mistake. Then, douse the inner critic with a kind voice,
b) Ask Allah for help
c) When we have some headspace, think of where we went wrong (e.g. I waited too long to enforce a limit so I got annoyed)
d) Come up with something you can do differently next time insha’Allah, and set the intention to do so (e.g. set the limit earlier so I can hold the limit with kindness and empathy, and feel calmer inside – as opposed to flustered).
e) Make amends and/or tawbah if the situation calls for it.
Finito!

4) Self-Compassion in Hard Moments: In hard moments where things feel intense, it can be helpful to pause, be mindful of how you feel, and ask yourself what you need in that moment. Dr. Laura Markham says give yourself even 5 minutes of what you need. So if it has been super demanding all day and you find yourself feeling flustered, you could ask yourself what you need: is it a cup of tea, pouring your heart out in du’a, reading for 10mins, calling or messaging a loved one? Or, as Dr. Laura says, if you can’t fill yourself up in that moment for whatever reason, make a promise with yourself that you will as soon as you can/when the kids go to bed.

5) Self-Compassion and Ibaadah (Worship). I talk about self-kindness when wanting to establish certain worship habits like reciting the book of Allah every day here, in the subsection entitled ‘creating ibaadah habits: self kindness’.

6) Self-Compassion in Letting Go Of Some To-Dos When Necessary. On the days where it’s been uber testing, it can help to drop expectations for the next day, especially if there isn’t someone else to help much during the day. And by that I mean the next day is about the essentials and nurturing ourselves so we can shepherd well insha’Allah; not doing from a place of ‘must do this, must do that, must do it all’ – at the expense of ourselves and our wellbeing. But rather, taking the opportunities to do whatever we can whilst being mindful of our wellbeing, too.

So in busy/demanding seasons also, it may help to give ourselves permission to let certain things go (for me: elaborate meals in this season of home educating with young ones, for example) or to seek help in some way.

I hope some of these tips help insha’Allah, and I wish you khair-filled days with your lovelies 🙂

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Does self compassion mean letting ourselves off the hook? nope; you can check out why here and see if it resonates for you.

You can test how self compassionate you are here.

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SAHM Tip #8: Planning An Activity

 

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Planning an activity for my elder son is something that I got into after I had my second child. I was undecided as to whether to get a double buggy for my two sons – in order to get out and about. So at the beginning, for a long time, we didn’t get out often (I couldn’t fathom that now, subhan’Allah). And yet, by Allah’s mercy, though we struggled in some ways, we really did manage alhamdulillah and even had a great time often  – which was a shocker for me.

How Activities Started For Us

In the period that we were often home, I wanted to create variety at home as we ran into boredom. This made me look into finding activities. I did one, and then another, and then built up muscle to do more with my elder son.

It needs to be mentioned here that I have since come to love unstructured play for children; play that is initiated on the child’s terms, especially with good quality, passive toys and stuff that they have around them. That they can choose from, bring out and play with and go into focus and creativity with. So I had since moved away from activities (until recently) – partly to build my children’s independent play muscle, and partly because some of my need for activities had diminished…as we began to go out a lot more and explore the great outdoors.

How We Found and Did Activities

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A Sponge With Paint – For Sponge Paint Printing

To find activities, I used to run a quick google search at the weekends for activities and explore the searches that came up (See tip number 1 for details).

I’d choose the ones I wanted to do with my elder son (my then baby, now three year old alhamdulillah, would be sleeping). I’d often pick about three for the upcoming week; enough for variety and fun for the both of us. Looking back, I notice that I’d often (unintentionally) choose based on some criterion: fun factor and what excited me, what I thought my son might like/his interests, ease of setting up and what stuff or toys we aleady had on hand to do a particular activity. We don’t need to feel like we have to buy stuff for activities; I only did when I felt like I wanted to or was excited to.

I’d copy and paste the links of my chosen activities from the web browser of my phone, onto my Colornote app, along with the activity title and the link beside it. I would sometimes title the note something like ‘Activities This Week iA’ and then be set, alhamdulillah.

During the week, it’d be a case of retrieving the note pertaining to the activities on my phone, clicking on one of the links saved, having a quick scan of it, and then proceeding to set it up or do it with my son – during my baby’s naptime, alhamdulillah. We really enjoyed it and it often felt like what it feels like when you have a good time with a loved one, doing something different, that you both experience together and connect over. I used the camera a bit too much at times, instead of perhaps taking a few snaps and just being with my son. Still, we both generally enjoyed it.

I often didn’t wanna actually run the search for the activities. I didn’t want another to-do at the weekend. But it was self-compassion (and the fact that it was quite quick!) that helped me to run the search at the weekend (‘one step at a time, dear’ self-talk).

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Sponge Paint Prints

Activities Benefits for Us (From My Personal Experience)

Activities can provide a really nice new environment (the activity) within a familiar environment (the home) in which to connect, and have a new and potentially fun experience in. As we weren’t going out much, it gave me that change of scene feeling. The times it went really well, Smiley was uber engaged, or a game or activity was really fun for both of us, or it transformed our home or the things we had in it into something completely different (like duct tape; which was transformed into a spider web across the door frame). When it went like this, I would feel rejuvenated. I remember walking past chores I hadn’t managed to get to yet and feeling completely differently than I did prior to doing the activity with Smiley. I didn’t see it with the same sense of…heaviness. I often, though not always, felt lighter and felt more able to tackle the laundry, say, without feeling done in.

Often, I’d be going into our play world of activities with a self-compassion one-step-at-a-time-dear internal self kindness talk (due to night feedings, alhamdulillah). Sometimes, it wasn’t uber fun for me and yet it served as a way to show up and try anyway. Other times, I felt uber creative and empowered and like, ‘I looove this’. The world of activity can serve as a way to change state (for me it went: from tired to excited, at times; from not-so-great to better; from well to very well indeed; from depleted to trying anyway; from excited to empowered; from okay to more alive).

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Frozen Plastic Toys (to be ‘freed’ from the ice in the bath…)

Some Things to Consider

When doing the activities, I found the following points to consider from Hands On As We Grow as a good thoughts framework. They are:

” – Allow your toddler to explore whatever it is that you give them.
– Don’t do an activity with an intentional plan, it never works out with this age range.
– Expect a toddler to be interested, leave it out for them to come back to later, or even the next day.
– Plan for them to put it in their mouth if you have a mouther.”

She gives the above points to consider if you are doing things with a toddler. But I would say, the first three points work with preschoolers and very young children, too. I very much agree with letting the child explore, as mentioned in the first point. And with point two, I’d generally agree. I personally understand this second point in this sense: If the game is ‘supposed to be’ a throwing game yet they wanna slide, sliding it is. That’s unless what they want to do instead makes demands on you that you are can’t or aren’t internally prepared for handling at that time: i.e. mess everywhere as opposed to confined to a table, perhaps; then it helps to gently set limits before (mess only in this area), or to let go. Whichever works and will result in us not feeling aggravated.

With regards to point three: also allow for them to not be interested or to not take to it at all. I have had occasions where they are initially somewhat/just about interested and then they leave it off. And that’s a-okay.

With regards to activity set up, we can be flexible: activities can be adjusted. Adjusted in both materials used as well as execution; how you do the activity. There was an activity where the lady from Hands On As We Grow had used paper plates on the floor to do some kind of movement activity. We used chalk that we had to draw circles on our kitchen floor as a subsitute for the paper plates and it worked fine.

So, as Mommas, how can we easily plan some activities for our children – or for us and our children to do together – if we wanted to?

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Big Laminated Alphabet Cut-Outs (For a Game of ‘Alphabet Hide and Seek’)

Actionable Steps In Implementing The Tip

1) We can look up activities online to do with our kids. Websites such as Hands On As We Grow (which I used often) and Kids Activities Blog are chock full of activity ideas. Running a general google search of what we’re after can bring up some interesting results, too. I used to search ‘easy activities to do at home with kids’ or ‘activities for toddlers/activities for toddlers at home’ for example.

Also, terms like ‘gross-motor’ and ‘fine-motor’ may be useful when we’re searching. If we’re after jumps etc, may be helpful to put ‘gross motor’ and if we want something with small movements and precision, it may be helpful to prefix our activity description search with ‘fine motor’.

2) Pinterest is a great resource for crafts, and activities. As Pinterest is really visually appealing, when a search like ‘activities to do with kids’ or ‘activities to do with toddlers/preschoolers’ is run, beautiful things come up (and I get excited!)
Handy pinterest point? You can create boards to save stuff. So we could create a board to to ‘store’ all the activities we may want to do with our children, or set up for them.

On Pinterest, I have also recently tried the search ‘Arabic alphabet crafts’, ‘Islamic activities for kids’ and ‘Ramadan crafts for kids‘ and lovely activities and crafts come up (pertaining to salah, and Qur’an and prayer mat colouring and lantern and masjid cut outs).

3) When we do find activities, we can copy and paste the links in a place like our phone or a word document…so we have a stash for when we want to do them, insha’Allah.

4) Use the activities as inspiration. They can be adjusted and tweaked. We can even use them as ideas to re-view the things that we have at home as things our kids can use to play. So, for that bit of thick string? Maybe we can tape it to a door frame with a gap at the top…our child can then throw a ball over the ‘line’/through the gap. They can play alone, with us, or with a sibling, should they wish to.

5) Use Du’a and Self Compassion. If we’re tired or it’s a humdrum type of day and we wanna try and shift the mood of the home for the better, an activity can really potentially help with that. But we might not feel like it. If we still think it would help, whispering up a du’a asking for ease and barrakah, getting our self-kindness talk on and then taking one step at a time at getting going can help: getting up, getting whatever needs to be used, putting it wherever it needs to go. A few steps into setting up or playing and the initial resistance could subside insha’Allah.

If we really are shattered or can’t for whatever reason, whipping out some play dough (or slime!), toys, or some colouring pens may work better (more on this another time, insha’Allah).

My favourite no-cook play dough recipe: https://theimaginationtree.com/best-ever-no-cook-play-dough-recipe/

My go-to slime recipe*: https://theimaginationtree.com/easy-uk-slime-recipe-contact-lens-solution/

*Slime play may not be suitable for unsupervised young children’s play; young children who are still putting things into their mouths, that is.

I hope some of these tips help insha’Allah.
And I wish you enjoyable, khair and eemaan filled days with your little lovelies 🙂

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Soft Toys Basketball Game (throw the toys from the red basket and see if you can get them into the blue basket…without stepping over the ‘line’ on the floor)