Thursday, 27 July 2017

Extract from The Mum's Diary

This is a short story I've written which is part of a bigger story. All characters are fictitious but might bare resemblance with some people.

Day 1
It’s 1 a.m. The kids have been asleep for a long time now. I should be too. I’ve been trying. I told myself it’s time to go to bed too but it’s been more than 2 hours since. The house is quiet as usual. It is the time of the day/night that I used to enjoy; the few hours where there’s no shouting, no fighting, no rush, no homework, no chores, the house is clean and quiet and when I could enjoy the sweet silence.

The same silence now that I dread; I wish it wasn’t night, I wish they didn’t have to go to sleep, I want to hear the shouts, the fights, the arguments. The silence is starting get eerie, it’s the sort of loud silence that you can hear even when there’s nothing to hear. 
I try to read a book, get past the first few lines and decided it wasn’t doing any good; I don’t care about whether the character wants to move somewhere else because the grass is greener. She’ll eventually figure out it’s not as green as she thought, then reality will hit her and throw her down once again, and she will have to start all over again and it won’t be heading anywhere as usual and if it does, it’s all fantasy as in real life nothing as such happens.

Anyway, the book was a bad idea to start with; so I move on to look for a good film to watch, nothing is good enough - there’s not a good horror, not a good thriller, I don’t like fantasy, the romcoms make me sick, the chickflicks are fake, just absolutely nothing interesting. Maybe I should go back to watching ‘Women who kill’ I thought, I used to enjoy that. So, instead I try to find a film that I used to enjoy before, put it on, but I already know all the scenes and even though I watched this a million times before and loved it, now it seems boring and I fast forward most of it. 

So far, it’s only 2 a.m. Nothing much has changed. So I get up and decide to pray a bit more, maybe God will listen to my prayers and bring some meaning to life. So I pray, and pray and pray. It’s only 3 a.m now. I’m tired of praying. I’m not sure if it’s just a physical tiredness or there’s more to it. But who cares!

I crawl back into my bed, the same bad I’ve been spending days and nights on that badly needs to be sorted, the bedding needs to be changed , there are creases all over, but I don’t care anymore; that just means additional work: more washing, more tidying up, more getting stress over why this side of the bedsheet is not being tucked properly and why it’s longer than the other side. I don’t want to do it, I refuse to contemplate about beddings and bedsheets.

It’s 4 a.m. now. I hear a muffled noise, it’s my own. How long have I been sniffling? I have no idea - time and day doesn’t matter anymore. We are passed that stage. Actually I don’t even remember what day it is anymore. I’ve started to wear my watch 24/7 so I do not lose the notion of time as well. I forgot too many times in the past few days what day and time it was - I was doing the wrong thing at the wrong time; I forgot it was time to pick up for school, I forgot it was swimming day for the kids, I forgot I had an appointment - forgetting seems to be the new black! I want to remember the little things that needs doing, not the things I have been trying to forget. But the old memories are like a stubborn old man, they are not ready to leave to make place for the new ones. It’s like, they made it a point to block any new ones from entering their territory - they rule and they will carry on ruling.

So now it’s actually 5 a.m, a ray of hope - the day is about to start. I’ll be so busy that it wouldn’t matter anymore. I won’t have any time to ponder over my uselessness. Just another 1.5 hours, and the kids should be up and there should be enough noise and mess in the house; which I will hate but which I will also love. It’s like having a bitter-sweet relationship. I hate the mess, I hate the noise, but maybe that’s what keeps me sane and give my sleepy and inactive brain something useful to do.
Tick Tock Tick Tock. Just waiting for the little voices now - anytime it will be there!

Finally, they are awake, I can hear them talking about coming into my room and discussing if it’s a good idea or not. They have to tread carefully at the moment, they have been walking on glass - any wrong movement from their side and they can end up in trouble even when they didn’t call for it.

A little knock on the door, ‘Can we come in?’ asked a little voice.

I have been waiting for this. ‘Yes’, I said but there was still no enthusiasm in my voice. Maybe I should fake it, and show them that I do want them around.

Kisses and cuddles, just what I needed and the little ‘I love yous’. There’s something magical about a child telling you they love you - because you know that they are the only people who really mean it. Kids are not scared to show their emotions, and being able to experience a child’s love is an amazing blessing that I should be thankful for. But I’m not.  I’m just an ungrateful being who can only see the negatives in everything. 

So they hop into the bed and start to fight about wanting me to be right by their side or which side of the bed I should be facing. Now, I’ve had enough. I don’t even want them in the room anymore. It’s getting too loud and I’m missing the silence of the night. So I shoo them off to their room telling them I’ve had enough of them arguing over everything and to leave me alone! 

Alone! - a word that means nothing yet everything.

The morning has started, so I will keep busy, there’s breakfast time, washing, getting ready etc. There’s no time to waste. We have to get there on time. We need to rush through everything even though we are actually early. I’m just looking for a reason to shout at them now. Why are your shoes still not on? Where’s your hair clip? Any excuse is good for me to have a go at them at this point. 

‘I’ve told you to get your school bag, didn’t I?’ I shouted
‘But you never took it out of the car!’ the older child says.

Indeed I haven’t. When was the last time I actually did some work with her or listen to her reading books? I couldn’t remember - all I know is it’s been a while. What do I even do when I’m home? 

I’ve told her to read a book to her younger sibling everyday and she does - so I don’t even need to keep an eye on her reading. All I have to do is make sure the are fed, they quite like cereals anyway so that does the job some days. But I’ve been trying lately to cook different dishes, to re-invent myself - maybe If I make good enough food, it will turn into some sort of hobby and skill. But other days, I can’t be bothered to even get the cereal box out.

So I drop them off to school. The rest of the day is easy, being spent between doing some actual work and staring at the ceiling. Maybe I should do something interesting, like go running - but it’s raining as usual. How about making new furniture with the pallets - this is something I enjoyed before, not a really good idea since it’s raining outside and working inside means more mess and more cleaning.

It’s almost pick up from school time, but I forgot cos I was too busy staring at an empty ceiling, so now i’m running late. But I end up there just a few minutes later.

So we set off for home. 
‘Where are you going?’ asks the children.
‘Home, where else?’ I replied. 
‘But it’s Wednesday today.’ says the older one.
‘Damn it! I forgot again!’

So a quick U-turn, one of many nowadays and back to where I should be heading.

Finally home and dinner time. I dish the food - I sit down and eat with them, they are busy telling the things that they did today and I have no idea what they are talking about- it seems like they are so far away , all I can see is their mouths moving but no sound coming out.

‘Is that right mummy?’ the little one asks.
‘What is right?’ I ask.

So she starts all over again, and I still can’t hear it. I’m gone now, I’m very far in my mind.

‘Is it right?’ she asks again. ‘Mummy!’ now she is getting annoyed.
‘Yes, it’s right,’ I say. I don’t really care, it probably is wrong but who cares what’s right or wrong. They’ll figure out as they grow up. I am not always right and I don’t know everything so whatever answer I give yes or no it wouldn’t make a difference to them.

‘You said we can have ice-cream today.’ says the older one.
‘Did I?’ I try to remember but it’s pointless, I can’t remember most conversation nowadays cos I’m not even participating in them.

Anyway, they can have ice-cream if that makes them happy and they don’t expect anything else from me.

‘Can we watch something?’ they ask.

Of course they can, that’s what they have been doing every day now - wasting their time watching useless stuff cos I can’t be arsed to acknowledge their presence, I might as well buy a TV and a tablet like all those parent who use them as babysitters!

So they watch until it’s bed time. But I want to do something different today, so I choose a film we can all watch together - I’ve been told it’s a good film. It’s about this little girl that is super intelligent and is being raised by her uncle after her mum passed away. Something which according my twisted mind is suitable for little kids to watch. But I forgot how sensitive my eldest is, she’ll cry at anything even a cartoon - so there she was in tears when the girl gets taken away and put in a foster family. So I cry along with her - not sure what i’m crying for. Maybe I’m sad for my child, maybe I’m sad for the little girl in the film, maybe i’m sad for the uncle for losing his ‘daughter’, maybe I’m sad because I just happened to be a sad person. I’m not sure but it felt good to hug her and cry.

So it gets to bed time again and the eerie silent night starts all over again.

Day 2 
Repeat of Day 1

Days 3 
Repeat of Day 1

And so on

The end.

Saturday, 22 July 2017

Single mums battling stress and depression

I have never met any single mum who hasn’t had to battle with depression at one point or another in life. It’s a free gift that comes along with single parenthood. This is not my story but the story of single parents in general and of a lot of other categories of people.

As single parents, we have become accustomed to solely rely on ourselves, partly due to having been let down and partly due to pride. It’s having this constant pressure to prove to ourselves rather than others that we do not need anyone and we are more than capable to do everything by ourselves; that we have everything under control and all is well.

Let’s be honest, nobody has all their shit together, we try our best, but we are bound to fail at times or the other. We know it, and we understand it. We know we have good days and bad days like other people, but sometimes the bad can be overwhelming, it can makes us feel like we are failing in every aspect of life. We know in reality it’s not true. We know that we are not complete failures but unfortunately we have set high standards for ourselves, standard which when we fail to meet at times can feel like having devastating effects on ourselves ad those around us, in particular the people we love and care about the most, mainly our children.

Everyone deal with problems differently, some withdraw as a mean to find strength within, some are able to ask for help and find support in others. We are all different, and our reaction to stress tends to be different depending on our personality and experience. Dealing with stress is not the main issue, it’s when this stress take over your life, in particular your family life. 

From observing and discussing with single mums, I realised  a lot of suffer find comfort to suffer in silence as we are not used to asking for help or relying on others; when we find ourselves in a place where support is offered, we start to have doubts whether it’s genuine, it’s a show or it’s pity.

One thing we really have a hard time to accept is the fact that often we are made to feel consciously or unconsciously as this pitiful creature, with a ‘horrific’ past that needs to be saved and supported because life has been too hard on us. We are not looking for pity and the last thing you can offer us is this ‘I feel so sorry for you’. We do not need that, we’ve made it without you feeling sorry for us, we would rather you just offer us your companionship than support; we are more than capable of supporting ourselves and we have done a good job so far without your pity. Sometimes, all we need is knowing we can talk to you about anything, without you throwing your sympathy in our face. 

We are the role models for our children, and when things start to go haywire, our first reaction is how are the kids processing it. For example, when we are dealing with stress or depression, we might have the best of everything in life, yet it feels like we have achieved nothing-  our children may be doing everything in the world that makes us prude of them, and we genuinely are but somewhere in our mind, we have a battle going on about the other things we are not able to give them; those little pleasures they are seeking, when are unable to provide it make us feel like failures.

One of my friends kids have recently started asking a lot of questions about their absent father. This can be quite stressful if you do not hold the answers to certain question, especially as she explained that her children were now trying to find father figures in other people; linking her to men they think will make their family complete, and even asking people to marry their mum. As a single mum myself, I can understand how frustrating that is, it adds pressure on her to find someone to give her children a ‘normal’ family life - something she knows she cannot do by herself - she would never be able to fit in the shoes of a father no matter how hard she tries. She is bound to fail in this area. Moreover, marrying single mums is another subject in itself- how many men are actually whole-heartedly ready to step up and foot the bill of a ready-made family? Little things like that, which is not in our control can add on to the already ongoing emotional, physical and financial pressure we face on a daily basis.

I wish we could have a support system in place for Muslim single mums, where some of the pressure can be taken off them. Certain things are not always practical, such as going for counselling, it’s additional pressure, who looks after the kids when you go? Or suggestions such as go to the gym, really? when does she get to do that unless she can afford to pay for the creche.  It’s easy to tell her make me time for yourself, but how is she supposed to do that? Only other single parents understand this and unfortunately the pressure is so high on each of them that at times it becomes difficult to support each other.

I cannot offer any practical advice to any single mum in that position but I’d just like to remind you, you have been there before, many a times and you will be here again many a times - just remember that whatever you are doing, someone else is completely relying on you and you need to be physically and emotionally available and strong for them.

Wednesday, 7 June 2017

I am a muslim and I am not a racist but I wouldn't marry a black guy!

Assalamu’alaikum dear readers and fellow bloggers,

I had taken a long break from blogging, probably more than year; I got busy with life, work and kids but inshAllah I want to re-start blogging or at least blog from time to time about issues which I think should be discussed.

My topic will touch a number of subjects, in particular, racism in Islam but I will also look at other things, such as single motherhood since this actionmum blogspot!

Firstly, I want to give bit of background about my upbringing which will probably explain why I failed or still cannot get around certain issues I found that majority of muslims prioritise. I was born in a practising family, with very limited cultural input; obviously we dressed according to our tradition, ate our type of food etc, but there was not any mixing of Islam with cultural beliefs or tradition. It has not always been the case for my family, before my birth ; my parents were pretty much cultural muslims, they did things because their parents were doing it without any understanding of why it was required and if it was required at all. Alhumdulillah, they both wanted to learn and Allah guided them. By the time, I came along, I never got to see the traditional/cultural side of them. My parents did not attend family gatherings where certain unislamic things were practised or things which they considered bid’ah (innovation) or where shirk was practised although good ties were maintained with family and friends; so I was pretty much ignorant about cultural muslims.

Growing up, I pretty much had a very simplistic approach to Islam, which was all based on Qur’an and sunnah. Obviously being  a teenager and myself, I was not a perfect or an almost perfect practising muslim, and had  and still do have my shortcomings which is from my nafs. May Allah reward both my parents for their guidance. Ameen.

I grew up in a multicultural society, we were the only muslim family in our area, and honestly we loved it. I hated the idea of living in a muslim only area. I was lucky enough Alhumdulillah to have friends from all shades and colours, from different nationalities and backgrounds. I even went on to study at a catholic secondary school, as my parents wanted me to be in a school where discipline was at the heart of it, and faith schools are known for being strong on discipline. During my years at secondary school, I mainly had non-muslim friends, and the very few muslims that did attend the school were not much practising or belonged to more cultural families. Till date, I am still in touch with my secondary school friends, muslims and non-muslims and so many have had such a beautiful journey, some of them, their lives have taken a u-turn and it’s amazing to see how they have all become stronger and better in different ways.

My point is, growing up, I never thought I had to choose my friends based on their ethnicity, nationality, religion, sect, caste, social status etc. I had no clue how important this is actually among muslims, please bear in mind I said Muslims and not Islam. My parents never discouraged me in anyway or talked down about people who were ‘different’ to us. For me, if you accept someone, you accept them fully as they are.

I then moved to a European country for further studies. This was my first contact with the muslim world without my parents involvement. When I came to the UK, I knew things were going to be different, I was to live by myself but I was also to make the right choices and uphold the trust my parents have put in me. Again, I was not always on top of everything but I tried my best. The city I chose to live in and study was mainly a ‘white English’ city; so finding common grounds was going to be hard. The university was chosen by many students for it’s wild nightlife. Let’s just say, it was famous across UK for getting drunk and clubbing. I didn’t struggle to make friends,; everyone on my course was ‘white’, my flatmates were all ‘white’ and they were all non-muslim. I just did not have much in common with them. Their favourite hobby was to go clubbing obviously and get pissed. By that time,  I had made friends with 2 practising Christians, who were not against the idea of sometimes going out for a meal. So, basically that was my social life.

I then came across, some people who were originally form my country but soon realised, I was better off keeping my distant from most of them, and basically I only got along with 1 Hindu girl and she didn't drink, she didn’t date and we had much more in common than the rest of the people I had met so far.

After a while, I came to know, there was a uni mosque; so I started going to the mosque to pray and also in the hope of making friends. Never did it cross my mind  how hard it was going to be to make muslim friends. My first year at uni was miserable in terms of making muslim friends. I realised that most people tend to hang around with people from their country of origin or belonging to the same ethnicity group as them. I mean people would say hello to you and be friendly with you when they see you, but that was about it, nobody was interested in becoming your friend for real. I almost gave up on making muslim friends then, I had managed to only make 1 muslim guy friend and that was pretty much about it. Now, I know it might be like omg, it was a guy etc. I was a tomboy, so having guy friends was never an issue to me, I pretty much thought of myself as a guy, and I’m sure, my friends who knew me back in the days would certainly agree with this statement.
So, after attempting to break through different ethnic groups at uni, I decided it was not gonna happen.

My second year at uni, was much better, there was a lot of young girls who joined uni, they were my juniors but they also wanted to practise the deen, so they used to come to the mosque , as we used to call it, the den. Those girls had something similar with me as they did not belong to any group, basically we used to call ourselves, the rejects. We used to laugh about it, but nevertheless, it was also stating  an important fact. Some were mixed-raced and thus did not belong to a group, others were asians born and bred in Arab countries, so the didn't have anything in common with the Arabs or asians, some like me, did not have anyone form their country of origin, or their parents country of origin, some were reverts, in a nutshell, we did not belong to a majority group. 
Uni was basically, my first exposure to racism among muslims and how you can become an outcast in the muslim community.

‘You are good enough to be an acquaintance, and I’ll call you my friend but you are not good enough to be part of my circle.’- Moi, I believe that was really the motto.

Following uni, there was talk about marriage and all, and obviously at that point in my life, I was not sure what I was going to do next, it was hard to find a proper job due to recession , I was considering studying further, but i was not completely against the idea of getting married if I met the right person. By that time, I felt so strongly about the whole racism in Islam thing, cos I would interact with people and realised how narrow-minded they were - they had to marry a person from a particular country of origin, of a particular shade, of a particular ethnicity, of a particular caste, of a particular nationality, of a particular sect, of a particular social status, of a particular educational level, of a particular profession etc etc. I realised that people have missed the whole point about marriage; people should be married for 4 reasons, and we agree on that, but there was one reason that topped all the others: that was virtue and deen!

I remember I was so annoyed, I even started a group about interracial marriage on Facebook to change people’s mentality- I was crazy maybe, but I thought through discussion about the religion and through hadith and Qur’an, I could change people’s mindset. I started to see the stigma attached to non-white reverts ( I am sorry but white reverts, you do have it easier than the rest cos of your skin colour), to people of darker skin colour, to people who were not arabs or asian- yes! I mean black people. There was so much fuss over such petty things, when we were only meant to be striving for akhirah. I remember discussions with friends, and they put it down to personal preference or just pleasing their parents. I still believe it is not personal preference, it’s all this bullshit people have been fed through colonialism and their own belief that the fairer skin is better, or that we have better hair than them etc. I never had any issue with someone’s skin color, educational level, social status, caste, nationality etc; my parents taught me from early on, if someone is good enough to be your friend, then he/she is good enough to be part of your family. I knew my family won’t have any issues if I decided to marry someone ‘different’ as long as that person is a muslim. So I purposely looked for people who were ‘different’, as a single woman ( never been married before)  and a virgin, I considered people from all backgrounds: white reverts, black reverts, asian reverts, divorcees, single parents, people form African origin, people from Asian origin etc, born muslims who have committed zina but repented, people with a disability. I did not see why I should look down upon someone who had a past, who has a particular skin color, who has kids; for me the only way they would excelled themselves was in the deen.

I got rejected by many, and I rejected others for reason of compatibility and ended up marrying a white revert. My ex- husband was not as educated as me, he had a past, he didn’t have a high paid job or career,he was younger than me, he didn’t have children (though if he did, it would not have been an issue); but at that time I saw his love for the deen and that was all that mattered. I am not saying that look only for the deen, but that should be our priority. My marriage did fail, for different reasons. But, I have no regrets as such, I did istikhara before I got married and I believe it was Allah’s will, and I had my 2 beautiful children out of it. My point is, my marriage didn't go down the drain because of any of those superficial ideas that people look for when getting married, it was more to do with our personalities.

Now, as a divorcee and a single mother, I still have friends who don't belong. I have made new friends and we still fit in the ‘rejects’ category.  This now leads me to understand better the stigma attached to divorcees and single mums. Recently, things have been thrown more in my face. I have been going to the mosque regularly during Ramadan, so met a lot of other people,who would tell me how much they like me etc. And I have had discussions with my friends who are also single mums and divorcees. We had become so frustrated with Muslims; not Islam, but majority of muslims in this country follow their culture rather than the religion. I had been approached by aunties in the mosque to marry their son, until they realised I’m a divorcee with kids, my other friends have also been rejected for the same reason. Being divorcee, already gives you minus point, but being a single mum, double, triple etc your minus point depending on the number children you have. I’ve had people telling me they want to leave an abusive marriage but they are too scared to be on their own with or with our kids. How appalling is that! A person is ready to stay in an abusive relationship  for fear of rejection by the ‘Ummah’.

We forget that Bilal, the person with the most beautiful voice, was black, that Khadija (r.a) the first and only wife of the prophet (peace be upon him) until her death was higher in status than the prophet, was more educated, was more than 15 years older than him, was a widow with kids from her previous marriage, that the majority of the wives of the prophet, except for one were all divorcees and single mums and definitely not virgins ( as people seem to confuse chastity with virginity).

I just want people to reflect deeply. I am a mother of 2 mixed-race daughters, I wonder what the future will hold for my children. They have been raised by a single mum, come from a ‘broken’ family, they do not belong to any community in particular and one is fairer than the other. One day, InshaAllah I hope they find someone who will accept them for who they are. I hope I do not have to explain why certain people are ok with being ‘friends’ with us, but wouldn’t consider them as daughter-in law/ sister-in-law. I hope I don’t have to explain to my darker child, why her sister, being fairer gets more marriage proposals than her. 

Recently one of my friend told me she is suffering from a ‘disability’, she had been engaged for a year, when she found out about it. The groom to be and his family called off the wedding as they didn’t want a disabled wife/daughter-in law. My concern is, what would they have done, if she found out about it after the wedding, would they have just dumped her at her parents house? What if the situation was different and the guy was the one with the ‘illness’, would she have done the same? We look down on people because we think we are superior but all comes from Allah. Nobody chooses an illness or when they will fall sick, does that mean we have to consider those people as inferior to us?

Quite recently, I went through a phase where being fed up with the mentality of muslims, I was ready to give up on the religion itself, Alhumdulillah it didn't get that far. I have now decided to restrict my circle to people who accept us for who we are fully and not just as ‘friends’ but as family, who will one day consider to marry their sons to my daughters and will rise above those cultural barriers they have put up or their parents have put up. 

There is nothing more annoying than seeing people of knowledge or preaching knowledge, telling you all at the wonderful things about Islam, then realising, this is the same person that would never consider my daughter for her son or her brother because she wouldn’t tick her ridiculous boxes.

I hope that one day, the majority of muslims will release we are all equal in front of Allah, except in one thing and that is our good deeds.

Nobody choses any of the stuff that people give so much importance to, it was all given by Allah, except for our choice to follow the religion properly.

If you really think of people who are different from you as friends, then your actions should reflect that, and it should not be something that only comes out of your mouth to temporary please someone or to give you the false illusion that you are not a racist.
 Face it you are a racist! No need for sugarcoating.