I REMEMBER THE day my son was born with more happiness and joy than any other time in my life. Afterward? That’s another story.
I look back upon that time of my first child’s birth with sorrow and a touch of shame. I struggled to come into my mothering in the way I always envisioned I would. For almost that entire first year, I waited for the baby to fall asleep so I could continue with my “real life”—go out, sleep, read, or do whatever else it was that I really wanted to do.
Frustration abounded, which inevitably extended to my dealings with him. I continued keeping up with my “moms’ blogs,” but with an embarrassed thought: I like reading about mothering far more than mothering itself. This part of my tale ends badly. I never did come out of myself, or the pressures I faced as a new mom that first year (or the second! I was in Cairo at the time), but the trials took me on a journey that led to better places.
My husband and I found out I was expecting again when my son was four months old. Two months later, we discovered I was due with identical twins. Three children one and under!
After I had the girls, I did the best I could to survive the first months of nursing the twins (along with my one-year old). It culminated in a whirlwind (second) year of all-night vigils and exhausted days, resulting in emotional inundation that left both my husband and I gasping for air.
By April, we had moved with the children to live with my in-laws on their wooded farm in Wisconsin’s Driftless Region, and along with the plant shoots and tree buds, something also began to stir in me. I started to learn from my husband how to truly enjoy my children by observing the inner happiness he experienced when he showed them a bird’s nest, or how excited he was to put a frog in their hands and see their consternation and amusement.
At first, I was just happy to let him enjoy it (while I relished the benefits of free time, and the fuller life the kids were living.) But he couldn’t do this indefinitely. He had taken the year off to help me through a difficult time, but he couldn’t take my place forever. Nor could I sit around watching YouTube videos at naptime, or reading celebrity biographies when my husband took the kids on a nature walk.
Was I content to be an extra in my children’s lives? What kind of day did I want for myself with these three little ones hanging on my apron strings? Was it going to be about distraction so I could have the day to myself? Or should I arrange to deposit them somewhere so I could go work during those hours?
My husband’s passion for our children spread to me. I didn’t want to be a spectator in their lives. I wanted in on the walks in the woods we lived in. I wanted to see the children’s faces as we explored the caves of Southwestern Wisconsin. I didn’t want to miss out on the kids’ first splash in the small creek down the driveway, or the expression of wonder at sitting on the back of the horse.
Despite the frustrations of getting the children ready to go outside, their lack of cooperation or disinterestedness in some activities I chose for them, I finally found my groove in creating a meaningful and full day for the children and me together from our home.
Third Year’s a…Well
To be honest, the third year was a bit of a disaster too. We were back in Cairo. I didn’t have a way of getting around the city, and I felt extremely frustrated and alone, which made me very impatient and rough with the kids.
We did, however, get into a routine and schedule of playing outside that made me see the glimmers of a fulfilling family life—no small feat for a mom and three toddlers.
By the fourth year, with Allah’s blessing, I began to hit my stride. I wish I had prayed more for patience during those years. But reading what other moms were doing aided me greatly in coming into my motherhood. I had to keep trying different things, summoning from myself new energies, and marking out ever-greater swathes of my time to make all that I was investing in my family worth it.
Seeing those flashes of a good day with the kids was key. The feeling of taking what used to be an unpleasant and inescapable responsibility and beginning to sense the fulfillment of discharging that duty with enthusiasm, creativity and enjoyment propelled me further into reading about educating children and homeschooling, made me bolder about trying new things and stronger in my commitment to put forth my best effort with the kids.
Home and Being
Home-based living, that is, functioning and living in the creativity of your own home and producing from it, provides a richness to family and communal life that society refuses to valorize, rather, has taught us to devalue as “doing nothing.” It is the social travesty of our times that we are pulled from our homes and living and compelled to spend a majority of our time “outside” in usually meaningless “wage-jobs” when what we desperately need is to take the time to reflect on the values and attitudes that have developed alongside these lifestyles.
Lately, as my husband and I search for a home, I find myself looking at the houses around the neighborhoods and places where we are considering settling our family. Is anybody home during the day—mothers, children, teenagers, elderly, young adults—as they once were? How is it that we euphemistically pronounce somebody as crazy by saying, “No one’s home,” but deem society and ourselves sane when literally most of us are not home?
I don’t mean to glorify the past, but I do want us to consider the value of being home, the real wealth and the range of possibilities that are centered around home and home-life, as opposed to our absence from it.
Even before I was married and had children, I came across a handful of really good “mom’s blogs” and loved keeping up with their few-and-far-between posts and pictures. I know my enjoyment of them was partly because that is where I wanted to be in my life at the time, but it was also because home moms sharing their very personal day-to-day experiences, struggles, thoughts, and funny stories, transferred in some way to me a glimpse of exceptional store of wealth preserved in their home-lived lives’.
This Is Me
That was more than seven years ago. Today, you can’t keep up with everything on the net written by mothers and wives, who are also homeschooling teachers, amateur photographers, artists, crafters, specialty chefs, home-based businesswomen, midwives and a whole array of other things these women are blogging about.
Where did all of this come from? I often wonder. The passion for mothering, homeschooling, cooking and baking, nursing, cloth-diapering, canning, preserving, gardening refreshes this mom who struggles to find a positive voice about intentionally having a large family and one that is home-based.
Home-based living has its trials. Both outside and inside pressures can make staying grounded a real difficulty. Financial shortfalls, isolation, boredom, and a need for validation are just a few.
My intention in this blog is to share with you my experiences, reflections, and thoughts on my journey as a Muslim woman whose first affirmation is the belief in One God and His Messenger, Muhammad œ. Thereafter, I am a mother of five children (soon to be six! ages five, four (squared), two, and one), the wife of a former ^adîth student at Al-Azhar, M.A. in history and education, hopeful homesteader, current country-dweller, committed homeschooler, beginning beekeeper, and, inshâ’Allâh, one day, a midwife.
And, in case, your fancy got going about the wooded acres, horses, and creeks, my five kids, husband, and I share one bedroom in my in-laws’ house, with their other six children who are still at home, and two more grandsons. Talk about extended living.
Lots of stories!