I locked the bathroom door and slumped onto the toilet, clutching my head in my hands, sobbing uncontrollably.
Please just stop! Please just shut up!!!
My children had been embroiled in the mother of all sibling feuds for what seemed like forever. The screaming and crying had reached epic proportions and I just couldn’t take it anymore.
Why is this so hard? Why does it hurt so much?
Why did I have children in the first place?
I know that I’m not the first mum in the world to have thought this, but I felt so bad. This not so fleeting thought had left a pain in my heart that stayed with me for most of the day.
I tried to snap out of it. I went to pray, but when I got on my prayer mat, the tears started flowing again. Tears were cried on and off throughout that day.
Being a practicing Muslim and, I hope, a fairly decent person does not make me a perfect parent. I’ve realised this over the course of the numerous times I have lost my temper and scared my children by shouting at them. I’ve screamed at all my children. I’ve lost my awareness, my compassion, my calm…a lot. Each time I regret it. Each time it frightens my children. Each time, it feels like my relationship with them is being chipped away.
I felt so ashamed to admit this to myself let alone anyone else.
So what do I do?
I had enough awareness to know that there were a few ways I could go:
I could try to ignore it and move on.
I could drown in self-imposed shame and beat myself up about it.
I could face it with compassion and learn and grow.
The premise of my faith is Love. Loving for others what you love for yourself. Loving for the sake of Allah. Kindness and good manners were encouraged by The Prophet, peace and an abundance of blessing be upon him. He said, “Respect your children and treat them with good manners.” I had wonderful intentions as a parent and never imagined how difficult it would be to keep my cool when my children pushed my buttons. I realised that if I don’t take care of myself, I have nothing to give. I realised that I had to look inward for the answers. I realised that I had to give myself a break and understand that my parenting is a work in progress, not the work of perfection.
But the biggest thing I realised was the number 1 mistake, I can guarantee we all make too…
What is it?
We move through this experience of life believing that as soon as XYZ happens, we will be happy.
As soon as:
– We get everything on the ‘to do’ list done
– Our children stop arguing
– We have more money
– We have more time
We will be happy/content…
And so on…
We search for happiness in things, stuff, even our children and there is no doubt that there is happiness in this, because Allah (swt) says in surah Al Kahf:
‘al-malu wal-banuna zinatul hayatid dunya’
‘Wealth and children are [but] adornment of the worldly life.’
But the problem is, these things are temporary. Our children grow up and live their own lives. Our wealth comes and goes but we spend a lot of time trying to keep hold of both and controlling what we do with them. In reality neither give us absolute happiness. In reality there is no lasting, pure happiness in most of what we seek.
We think we need the stuff, the things the children to make us happy but that feeling is always temporary. We tell ourselves that we will only be happy once we have XYZ or when we’ve achieved certain goals but those things are in the future.
Allah (swt) informs us that actually happiness comes first.
Happiness doesn’t come when you’ve attained those things,
Happiness is already here with you, inside you, and all you have to do is uncover it.
Allah the Most Merciful, the Most compassionate has given us our very own formula for happiness right now. Not in the future, not dependant on the things we have or what we achieve but right here and now and it all starts at the beginning in Surah Al-Fatihah
‘Alhamdulillahi rabbil alameen”.
‘All Praise and Gratitude is to Allah, the Lord of the worlds’
Giving gratitude is the secret to happiness. When we are praised and shown gratitude for what we have done, we feel happy but expressing gratitude invites us to think about what we are grateful for and to whom. Believing that all praise, gratitude and thanks is due to Allah (swt), requires us to see the blessings in our lives, for we cannot be grateful for something unless we recognize it.
This is the key to happiness. Recognising the blessings we already have in our lives and being grateful for them. True happiness is not found in the creations. It’s not found in the accumulation of things. Wealth and children only bring about temporary happiness but when we search for it, believing that’s where it comes from, then we are surely missing the very blessings we have in life right now. True happiness is not the result of having those things or doing. True happiness is giving gratitude and a state of being.
So we don’t have to fake it until we make it.
We don’t have to do incantations or morning chants or affirmations.
We just need to count our blessings, literally, and give intentional gratitude to The One who gave them to us.
Through this understanding, I am insightfully aware that we are only ever one grateful thought away from being happy and happiness has always only ever been an inside job!
By Farah Halabi
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