SAHM Tip #5: ‘Being Inspired’ – Developing A Reading Habit (And Seeking Reminders)

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‘Being inspired’ is about learning and growing within our journeys of motherhood. For me, this has meant developing a reading habit and also, of seeking reminders on our purpose – mainly through Qur’an and sometimes, through beneficial talks.

When I first became a mother, I wouldn’t say I was a reader. I would read from time-to-time, when life perhaps presented a challenge and I needed to gain new insight, more knowledge or skills on how to solve it. I found reading enjoyable, and the new insights exciting, but I found book reading…well, a bit hard. I was used to the ease of sitting down to watch something rather than engaging with the written word over several hundreds of pages.

In my early twenties, I read The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People and loved it. It was hard to read for me and I stopped and started over several months. Eventually, I read a few pages every morning and finished it. I did the same with David Allen’s ‘Getting Things Done’.

Post getting married and having a baby, I still read articles but I never felt like I’d be a habitual reader of books. There was a book I read, devoured actually, when I first had Mr. 4; to prove to myself that I could indeed finish books and not at a snail’s pace either (though there ain’t nothin’ wrong with small amounts when starting anything; in fact, it’s great when coupled with consistency)

Benefits of Reading, And The Beginnings Of A Reading Habit

I read a few other books around the theme of marriage, too. And it was around this time that I came across an infographic about reading that listed some positive statistics on the topic. One of the points that were mentioned on the infographic was that those that read were able to achieve more desired life outcomes, and earned a higher income, than those that didn’t. This infographic from Harpers Collins really did make me pause. ‘Til now, I had read more books but wasn’t necessarily a book reader. But I noticed that I came out enriched in some way from reading a book: by being inspired to think along new lines, or move in new grooves as such, in my life. So a little later, I began to look for more books: on topics I was wanted improvement in or books of people whose ideas I found inspirational online (I took it one book at a time).

I found it helpful to begin a list in my diary where I jotted down the books that I remembered reading in the past few years at that point. It was a new habit I wanted to develop and frankly, a new book, in some ways, made me nervous sometimes. But I began to embrace the process, though I Initially found it challenging, and then forgot the process and just enjoyed reading when the content was especially good.

My reading habit has been a means of inspiration and rejuvenation for me as a mother, alhamdulillah. I often, though not always, read at certain parts of the day (when my children have quiet time or their afternoon portion of screen time), alhamdulillah.

Reading And Personal Development

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It’s been helpful to read within the areas that I feel need improving in my life or the things that I spend most of my time doing: for attempting to optimise that area of life. Becoming more skilful in areas that need improving in our lives  can also allow us to journey towards ihsaan (excellence), with Allah’s help and permission.

There are benefits to optimising and tangible results. So if the subject of the book is the home and how to keep a ‘better’ home (cleaner, more organised, etc), the area benefits in that it is cleaner and better, and we benefit too as, with Allah’s help, our effort would have contributed to improving or fixing something. This can build our confidence in being able to remedy whatever comes up, with du’a and Allah’s permission. It can also cement a more positive understanding of tests; and being tested is one of our purposes of life:

**He] who created death and life to test you** [as to] which of you is best in deed – and He is the Exalted in Might, the Forgiving (67:2)

We know intellectually (though we sometimes forget) that tests are meant to build us, bring us closer to Allah, test our faith, allow us to grow. But when we begin to practise that *continuously* in life, with real-life practise, through embracing or accepting the tests, we can begin to generally feel like *okay, I can tackle things*, insha’Allah (we may still have our wobbles but we can begin to journey towards acceptance and proactivity). Feel less helpless. Allah brought us to the test, so He will get us through it. So, along with a proactive attitude, being exposed to books that promote improving, as well as engaging with the Qur’an and beneficial Islamic reminders, can really help us build the muscle of thinking of tests as opportunities for growth (even if we are saddened or hurt in some moments, we can still have *hope*, gain lessons and see the bigger picture, insha’Allah: that Allah is in control, so we have faith).

Reading And Ideas

I think reading also exposes us to some great ideas. This allows us to become company with those who do ideas, which is great, because guess what, good company rubs off on you (even if from the page; I’m not suggesting we become recluses by the way…though I am an introvert…but anyway, I digress!). And definitely, our ideas can take flight with reading i.e. we are very likely to experience having more of them, and being more likely to follow through. The idea of being exposed to great ideas through books reminds me of the following quote: “Great minds discuss ideas; average minds discuss events; small minds discuss people” (Eleanor Roosevelt). I know it talks about people but it feels like this quote works nicely for the author and reader, too: that there is this transfer of great ideas.

An added benefit is that being exposed to new ideas, ways of thinking or other beneficial take-aways can feel exciting and can leave us feeling empowered. And whatever fills our cup can help us to engage with our families in a better state. So we benefit and they benefit. Hence, ‘being inspired’ (by books in this case) has been a great way of being joyful for me in my role.

Qur’an and Reminders

Another way of ‘being inspired’ that has worked for me as a mother is reading the translation of the Qur’an in English. A few ayaat with reflection can work well. With stillness and pausing and pondering, The Qur’an can put our tests into perspective and allow us to remember what it’s all for (though the pausing and pondering can feel hard sometimes when our lives are a-go-go…). It is also a good way of reinforcing the commandments of Allah and beneficial for drawing inspiration for our lives. I know I need those reminders.

Watching Islamic lectures from time-to-time has been a means of inspiration, too. As I don’t listen to lectures much in the evening; a format and show that I have enjoyed is The Deen Show. As it is more of a talk show, I find it easier to take in yet it still serves as a reminder of my Lord, my Rasuul (SAW) and my purpose. And reminders can make us more mindful with our acts of worship. They can remind us, because we are reminded of our Lord, to do them intentionally, mindfully, rather than absent-mindedly (which I sometimes fall into). Another show I’ve loved is Guided Through The Qur’an. And again, it serves as a reminder for me. All these, and other forms of remembrance or ibaadaat specifically (like the adhkaar of the morning and evening, for example), have the capacity to make our day-to-day lives as mothers just that little bit more peaceful. In the sense that we remember what it’s all for. The benefit that a reminder provides – of reminding us of our Lord, our purpose, the reality of this life and the next – can help us learn to not repel the tests that come up even if they’re difficult but rather to find peace of mind knowing that He’s in control. I have my days and moments where I forget…or where I resist the tests or mentally tune out. But the reminder benefits the believer. And it’s helpful to bring to mind that the mundane everyday is witnessed by Allah, is potentially ibaadah, and that we can choose to align it to work into our bigger life purpose: through our intentions.

So how can we work in reading, reminders and inspiration, as Mums?

Actionable Steps in Implementing the Tip

1) Recite the Qur’an and/or read the translation regularly. If the morning permits, it’s the best time for me to sit and reflect with the Qur’an. Perhaps the evening may work for you: when the little people are asleep, masha’Allah. Or even in the day when they’re busy: this one is great as it is good modeling for them to see us reciting.

Set up a support group around the Qur’an, if need be. I have set up a Qur’an Recitation WhatsApp Group with a few sisters and we check in with one another with the portion and interval we have selected (one page of Qur’an, daily, for example). We just check in to say we have recited our portion and sometimes, share the verses that stood out for us, and more infrequently, write and share our personal reflections.

2) Listen to the Qur’an. Playing and listening to the Qur’an can really work (though I do this less than reciting).

3) Don’t have a reading habit and would like to develop one? Try these:

a) Use a timer. Just 10 or 15 minutes at regular intervals (daily or every couple of days: read for 10 or 15 mins and then when the timer dings, stop, say alhamdulillah and pat yourself on the back :-)). Because 10 or 15mins really isn’t long and thus, no matter how much you don’t wanna do it, you know ‘it’s just 10 mins’; it’ll be over before before you know it. And so you do it, insha’Allah. Best. Trick. Ever. And yet it really does build up. If you don’t do it from time to time, be kind to yourself, see if the strategy needs adjusting and try again. Keep going, insha’Allah. you got this 🙂

(You can also try to read once a week or so for a longer stretch of time. So perhaps read however long your day and circumstances permit throughout your week and then definitely read for a longer stretch, like 40mins, on a quieter day – or days – of the week).

b) Make a reading list. This list will, in this instance, be a list of books that you have completed reading. You jot down the title of the book you have completed reading on this list and add more titles as you complete more books. Celebrate that list as it grows, masha’Allah! Even if it takes us really long to get through books at first. The list can become redundant when the reading habit is in place.

You could also create a separate reading list where you list all the books you **wish** to read. So that when you’re done with your book, you have a list of books you can select your next read from.

c) Embrace Audiobooks. I began listening to audiobooks on Audible when I first began to read: in a bid to get the info, without the challenge of sitting down and reading. Now I do both: I prefer actual books but with two young kids, I also use audibooks to get through books quicker. You can search for and then purchase audiobooks on http://www.audible.com or http://www.audible.co.uk

You can then download an app for Audible on your phone (and/or your pc or laptop), log in, download your purchase(s) and listen away! I listen whilst pushing the boys on the buggy and buggy board. This could really work for us as busy Mums, as listening to our audiobooks whilst doing chores etc becomes an option.

4) Below are some links to some lectures and programmes I’ve enjoyed and benefitted from. The links are to episodes I’ve particularly liked, and I recommend checking out more with regards to the shows mentioned:

I hope some of these tips help, and I wish you great days in your role, insha’Allah 😃

Please share if you or someone else you know may benefit: jazakum’Allahu khairan and thank you.

 

 

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