Advice to moms of young children during Ramadan
Motherhood and guilt go hand in hand. Many women feel that as mothers they are never enough. They notice all the myriad of ways in which they fail their children while not giving enough credit to everything that they do well. Many woman feel the pressure to be and do everything not only for their children but at work and in the home. They push themselves to a breaking point. And when they inevitably fall, they are riddled with more guilt!
In our last Ramadan series interview Erica talks about the importance of looking after yourself and being gentle with yourself. Mothers don’t have and should have try to be superwomen. Erica is a Muslim convert from America married to a Pakistani. She lives in the UAE and works in communications.
How did you involve your children in Ramadan when they were little?
I used to have my kids make decorations for the house. Usually this would be paper lanterns and also decorations of masjids, which we would then hang up and stick all over the walls. We would also make a Ramadan countdown calendar together. We would cross off the day that we completed every night. And at some point I started making each day a pocket, which I would stuff with candy and then they would enjoy a candy every night.
What are your best memories of Ramadan when your children were young?
I really enjoyed the arts and crafts part of Ramadan when the kids were young. Now we don’t do any crafts and I buy all the Ramadan decorations from the store. I could tell the last two years (my boys are 13 and 10 now) that making decorations became a chore rather than a fun activity. I also have fond memories of reading children’s books about Islam and Ramadan to them.
What advice would you give your younger self or a young mother today about celebrating Ramadan with young children?
Do not push yourself more than you can handle. Your own health is priority so that you can be there for your family. I read once that 10 minutes a day of truly quality time with your kids is better than hours of your time where you are obviously run down and exhausted. So try to set aside 10 minutes when you’re feeling pretty awake and active to do something fun with the kids, but don’t push yourself beyond that if you aren’t feeling up to it. Honestly, as a working mother, being with my kids while I’m fasting is more draining than being at the office. So don’t be too hard on yourself; it is very difficult to fast and take care of kids!
How has observing Ramadan changed over the years in your family?
Now that my kids are older, we are able to delve deeper into the Quran and Islam. We spend more time watching lectures and reading the Quran out loud. This is a really enjoyable part of having the kids grow up. And now they can help more with the preparing of iftar and with doing chores around the house that is also related to preparing for iftar and suhoor and cleaning up. I can tell that now they see how much work their parents put into it and they are happy to start contributing as well.
What would you like your children to take away from their childhood experiences of Ramadan?
I hope that my children can look back on their childhood Ramadans and remember how their mother tried to get them into the spirit by doing activities, coloring, reading books, and more. And I would like that they pass on the same traditions to their own children.
Matleena Vanhanen is a licensed Counselling Psychologist with over 20 years of experience working in Europe and the Middle East. She has a practice of couples and individual therapy at the MapleTree Center in Dubai.