Thursday, September 22, 2016

The Joys of Motherhood

The reason that Jannah lies under the feet of mothers isn't because it's easy or because our 'feminine natures' simply incline towards it.
The reason Jannah lies under the feet of mothers is because it is one of the most painful and unpleasant jobs in the world.
From pregnancy and its assorted conditions - everything from morning sickness to gestational diabetes to depression so severe that it leads to suicidal thoughts or impulses - to the first few months of sleep deprivation, the agonies of breastfeeding, post partum depression; from the toddler years of having a child drain you of your bodily fluids, waking you up every night and at monstrous hours of the early morning clawing at your face or screaming for inexplicable reasons (and no, children don't only cry because they're hungry, sick, or need a diaper change; very often they cry because they want nothing but your undivided attention for absolutely no reason other than to sadistically test your sanity); to the years when you must spend each day grimly trying to educate them and raise them as well-mannered and respectful human beings despite their insistence on acting like ungrateful brats...
THAT is mothering. That is the daily reality - and it is not to be glossed over or shrugged off or required for us to hastily add, "But of course I love my kids and it's very rewarding."
For some people, sure, motherhood is fabulous and all they've dreamed of from life. And that's great... for them.
For so many others, especially Muslim women who have had it drilled into them that motherhood is their ultimate spiritual accomplishment, it is absolutely not fun. You don't get a daily spiritual rush or spiritual growth on a regular basis simply by keeping your spawn alive. You just don't.
So please, for the love of God, can we stop romanticizing motherhood?
It has become so painfully cliche in talks and lectures and workshops to celebrate motherhood, to revere it, to speak about every woman's maternal instinct as a gift and blessing from God and that being a loving mother is how we shall earn His Pleasure... to the point that when Muslim mothers do finally break down and confess that there are days, weeks, even months that they hate it with a passion - they are vilified for being unnatural or damaged or corrupted, they are told that they are less than good Muslim women, that they are severely lacking in faith and fitrah.
Enough of it.
Our motherhood should be celebrated not only in terms of the perceived "joys" and "beauties" of having children, but because of the sheer agony of it. Our pain needs to be recognized and acknowledged in terms of more than "your kids can't pay you back for even one contraction from labour." Such phrases lose meaning when in the next breath, mothers are berated for not being absolutely perfect, for not being sacrificing more of themselves (for either their children or their husbands), for wanting *more* from their lives than motherhood.
Jannes lies under the feet of mothers not because motherhood is wonderful, but because most of the time, it's not.
And there is nothing wrong with saying that.


I find it fascinating that there are people (often, Muslim men) who feel incredibly threatened by women who choose to speak honestly about their experiences, whether those experiences are regarding marriage, divorce, motherhood, or otherwise. To me at least, it seems as though there's a terror that once more women realize that they *can* speak truthfully & openly about their realities, that they'll no longer feel as pressured to endure oppression, injustice, or even just unhealthy social attitudes that have been constantly enforced.
With motherhood especially, it has been almost a part of our "Muslim culture" to tell women that their worth lies in their fertility, & that their honour comes from (solely) being mothers. The implication is that outside of maternity, we have no real worth or honour - the concept of a Muslim woman existing as an individual with her own sense of 'izzah & karam is nonexistent.
Curiously, a woman - a mother - who decides to speak about motherhood as anything other than the greatest (and most flawless) experience of her life, is seen as insulting or cursing motherhood, & is herself made the target of vilification. After all, how dare she destroy the carefully cultivated fiction that has been force-fed to Muslim women, with significant effort placed on tying their self esteem to motherhood!
To speak of motherhood openly is not to deny its station of honour in our Islamic traditions - if anything, it emphasizes to us *why* Allah has given mothers such a significant status in His Sight.
We're not being rewarded for sunshine & roses, we're being honoured for the pain both, physical & emotional, for the strength that is required from beginning to end, for all that we find ourselves sacrificing - for His Sake.
To speak of the brutal experience of motherhood is not equivalent to insulting it or putting it down. It is to acknowledge that it is a Jihad of its own, that every mother is a mujaahidah whose war never ends, that Jannah is attained by the blood, sweat & tears that we shed.
I for one will not lie, to other women or my daughters. Motherhood is not easy. Motherhood is not for everyone. Yet should it be decreed for us (because, contrary to what many people imagine, it is not always a choice for women), then know that it is a brutal, painful, agonizing, noble position of honour & responsibility.
Motherhood is not merely to conceive & to birth, but to raise, to love, to suffer, to endure, to seek Allah's Pleasure every step of the way.
Women do not need to constantly reassure men that we "love" motherhood (loving our children doesn't automatically mean that we're thrilled with all the grit and grime that accompanies it).
Men have no right to tell us that a baby's first steps or words make it "worth it" or somehow make up for everything we go through. Those moments are blessings, but they are not the reward itself. To be frank, many mothers can't even remember those moments later on.
There is literally only one thing that makes it worth it: Jannah.
And that is precisely what we are promised, if we are able to keep sight of and work towards the end goal of our entire existence - the Pleasure of Allah and His Reward.

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