An Exploration of Sacred Parenting and Education

Unforseen Gifts by Farah Benhalim

In Uncategorized on May 15, 2012 at 12:42 pm

I feel incredibly honoured to have five children.   I haven’t always felt that way though.  As much as I hate to admit it, I didn’t necessarily want children when I had them.  I felt pressurized by family expectations and I, being a dutiful people pleaser back then went along with it.  I was the best mother I could be, perhaps too good of a mother, because deep down lingering inside I felt the guilt of not having spent years yearning for the children Allah had given me and the last thing I ever wanted was my children to catch whiff of the fact that they weren’t born of a burning desire to have them. I almost felt envious of people who planned their children.  In my head they always seemed happier than me.  I’ve always wondered if I would have made a better mother had I “planned” to have my children. Would I have been better prepared to deal with all the sacrifices? Would I have accepted my children more wholeheartedly? Would I see them for the jewels that they are, instead of something that got in the way of completing my education and having a full time career? If I had wanted my children, would I see them more as a joy, than a test?  I guess for years, I’ve been riddled with this guilt and recently I decided to do something about it.  It happened very spontaneously actually.  I was looking at my children, admiring them, thinking of all the joy they have given me and especially thinking of all the amazing lessons I have learned from them and thinking of all the ways they have made me a better person, a more whole person.  At that moment I asked myself, do you want these children wholeheartedly? And the answer was a resounding Yes, yes, yes, yes, and YES!! It was as if I had somehow within my spiritual imagination created a recommitment ceremony, very much in the same way that couples recommit their marriage vows.  Subhanallah, within seconds, years of guilt had been lifted and I felt amazing.  In addition, this process somehow gave me a feeling of empowerment where previously I had been a passive participant.  Before I had passively accepted becoming a mother and now I felt in a position to accept or decline my motherhood.

I am writing about this because I’m know I’m not the only one who has had children thrust upon them or had children when they didn’t feel one hundred percent ready to. Examples of such do not only fall on the young passive female, but perhaps even on the older woman who feels pressured by the fear of getting too old and having children before “it’s too late”. Having said that, does anyone actually feel completely ready?  Don’t most people feel niggles of inadequacy before having children?  I actually remember crying when I found out that I was pregnant for the fourth time.  I felt overwhelmed and felt that I would be unable to cope with further responsibilities, that it would be impossible for me to be a good mother.  But I look now at my little Fatimah and out from those foolish tears sprung out the most joyful, gleeful girl I know and she is the light of my life. It just goes to show that Allah is the best of planners and He knows in his infinite wisdom what we really need.  As each of my children grow I see the unfolding mystery of what they are enlighten my eye and the secret of why they were given to me never ceases to amaze me.  And it is through my children that I feel the overwhelming love of the Divine.  They are the Divine gifts, which I could have never given to myself but that which was bestowed upon me. Since recommitting to my children, I have found being a mother so much easier and more joyful. Interestingly, I have also discovered that my children never prevented me from achieving my personal goals; it was in fact my passive personality.  I’m now completing my education, planning for a career, allowing myself to enjoy non-mumsy hobbies and enjoying motherhood more than ever.  So, if you didn’t want children when you had your children, ask yourself now that you have them, do you want them? Pretty scary question to ask yourself, right?  I’m not advocating that women should have children when they really don’t want to, but what I am saying to all those mothers who have had children when not feeling completely ready is that there is a way out of that guilt and a way into empowerment.  I do believe that life and death are in the hands of Allah and that if you give birth to a child, that child is written for you.

  1. Farah, your posts always leave me teary-eyed. Children are Divine gifts…

  2. Mashallah Farah, you must have had some angelic prompt to write this right now…I have been wondering how much my own reticence at becoming pregnant (especially with my second, right when I was first splitting up with their dad – we stayed together for two more painful years because of the pregnancy) has influenced her character. One night I felt so bad about my own anger and sadness at the apparent irony of this synchronicity that I started whispering to Cavebabe while she slept: ‘The world welcomes you, the world welcomes you, the world welcomes you’. Perhaps it was no coincidence that she seemed so much calmer afterwards. I think I was unconsciously preventing her from really settling as I still had regrets and couldn’t understand the meaning of it all. Of course I adore both my children, no matter how much I get grumpy and tired and wonder when I will have some time to ‘be myself’ – what a teenage concern! Aren’t we all being ourselves through all the difficulties? Aren’t the difficulties bringing out this real ‘self’? It’s hard to let go and allow the truth to come out in its own way and not our own, but that’s the best way in the end. I think it’s a good exercise to use on ourselves too: try telling yourself one day ‘You are welcome in the world’. Perhaps we are all carrying a bit of that heaviness too.

    • Thank you so much for your beautiful reply. I felt really scared to post this because I thought I might get judged for having (five!) children when I didn’t feel completely ready. It is not easy to share our secret burdens to the world, but your sharing of your story is so increadably touching – because I’ve been there myself. And Yes, I have the same “teenage” concerns as you do. I did lose myself in motherhood – and I’m kind of glad I did – but now, I’m also enjoying creating a little space for myself where I can repelenish myself and thereby give more. And I’m also starting to realize more than ever that whatever our age, it is importantto nurture ourselves in the same way that we nurture our own children.

  3. Farah, I admire you for having welcomed four blessings into this world at a relatively young age. Take comfort in knowing that you have given your best years to the little souls in your trust and now that they are more independent you still have energy and drive to pursue your dreams, masha’allah!

    Medina, a big cyber-hug to you for having gone through a difficulty that I’m sure would tore me to pieces had I been the one to go through it. God is constantly working on us and He knows what is needed for our completion.

    My family is in the midst of a few transitions at the moment. As my second turned two, I mentally and dutifully prepared to make another addition to the family. However my husband suggested we wait until we get things settled down before we start conceiving– to my surprise I found myself feeling relieved, even elated at the thought of having a break from the constant nursing and child rearing (ack! does this mean I am a bad mother?)

    God willing, I have plans to take a part-time course soon and of becoming more connected with the local community in the near future. I have always admired those mothers who look forward to having at least ten children. I for one am grateful that I managed to survive with just two!

    Having children allowed me to ripen the parts of me that had been left neglected. There is, praise be to God, a sense of focus now and a deepening or a realisation of a connection to the wider universe that wasn’t there during my younger, carefree days. Indeed our children are an unforseen gift bestowed to those with an appreciative heart.

    • Whoops! Farah, I typed four instead of you having five blessings. Wow, more power to you! Alhamdulillah 😀

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