With Ramadan two months away, many people are already preparing to welcome the beautiful and blessed month, whether that’s by meal planning, making up missed fasts from the last Ramadan, or trying to wean themselves off coffee.
But for mothers of young children, many are wondering how they will get through the long, hot, summer days of fasting, sans coffee, with (sometimes wild) children who are on summer break. As a mother of a three year old and a ten month old, I can’t help but reminisce how Ramadan used to be before kids.
Pre-kids on the eve of Ramadan
You call your friends and family and wish them a happy Ramadan. Since you have time to dedicate to other things besides kids, you manage to read two chapters of the Qur’an, and also have time in the evening to listen to an emotional lecture by Suhaib Webb on the blessings of Ramadan. And then, as the ideal eve of Ramadan goes, you manage to go to sleep early with your alarm set for the first suhoor (breakfast) of Ramadan.
Post-kids on the eve of Ramadan
You try to write a “Ramadan Mubarak” on Facebook, but get distracted by your 10 month old baby trying to eat the candle you were planning to light up for for the fanoos (Ramadan lantern). In an attempt to engage your kids (Translation: get them to stop eating candles), you try reading It’s Ramadan, Curious George to them, but you (perhaps wisely) decide it’s better to skip a few pages so you can put the kids to bed early in order to get a head start on reading Qur’an. If you’re lucky, you complete your two chapters; and if you’re really tired, you may unwittingly be knocked out before the second chapter begins.
Pre-kids during suhoor
The alarm goes off and you can’t wait to go downstairs and have suhoor with your family. Foule (fava beans), scrambled eggs, oatmeal, fruits, and your mom’s dates with milk. Did I mention the coffee? Yes, the coffee. You eat in peace and quiet while making supplication and sipping on some coffee. To top it off, you chug down water before the athan (call to prayer).
Post-kids during suhoor
Who needs an alarm when you wake up several times a night to tend to your kids? After moving your three-year-old back to her room for the third time during the night, and rocking your infant back to sleep, you slowly make your way to the kitchen to try to figure out what to eat in the seven and half minutes you have left to eat. Fruits, a protein bar, and a cheese stick will do. You drink tons of water before the athan and can’t wait to go back to bed in order to get another hour of sleep–but of course, your kids wake up and are ready to start their day. With lots of energy, no less.
Pre-kids during a typical Ramadan Saturday
You wake up at noon, and feel great. The night before, you stayed up late at the masjid for night prayer (qiyam al-layl). It’s 12:30 when you finally roll out of bed, and decide to finish some work you needed to finish. After that, a trip to the mall sounds like the perfect way to get a head start on Eid shopping. You make plans with friends for iftar (breaking of the fast), but first, you take another luxurious, wonderful late afternoon nap. Later, you meet your friends at your favorite restaurant, and have a great time, and lots of food, then head to the masjid for more night prayers, and read the Qur’an.
Post-kids during a typical Ramadan Saturday
You wake up at 6:30 am to your toddler crying that she wet her bed. You beg her to stop crying, because otherwise she will wake up the baby, but too late! Baby is wide awake, and baby, upon hearing baby’s sister’s cries, decides to join in full force with some of baby’s own. You make breakfast for your little ones, and wonder why it’s only 8 am. You count how many hours of fasting you have left. Your husband wakes up, and he watches the kids so you can nap for a while, which you are thankful for. There’s a FIFA game today, though, so you know he’s going to be waking you up so he can watch. You wonder what to make your kids for lunch. Organic hot dogs and bananas will do today. It’s only 3:00 pm and you decide to take your kids to the park. Big mistake. It’s 90 degrees out, your infant needs a diaper change (and your diaper bag is empty, seriously?!), and your toddler throws a tantrum because she doesn’t want to leave, and also because she can’t be a pony, or have a unicorn. You go home and force everybody to take a nap and decide to go to the masjid for iftar since there’s no dinner at home.
Pre-kids during taraweeh
Taraweeh time! You arrive early and spend some time talking to the aunties at the masjid about how beautiful Ramadan is this year, and it’s already flying by so quickly. During break time, you make a quick coffee trip to refuel on your favorite frap or latte, and get back just in time for taraweeh. After completing taraweeh, plus additional prayers, you head back home with a major faith-boost from the beautiful duaa (supplication) the imam made at the end of the prayer. Ramadan is such a breeze.
You convince yourself to attend taraweeh for the first time this Ramadan.
“My kids won’t be part of the crazy crew of little ones running around the mosque,” you (naively) think. You pack a cute little “My Ramadan Bag” tote for your kids with quiet activities likes books, stickers, and puzzles, and snacks that aren’t messy, because you’re model mom. Your kids love it for the first three minutes. Then your toddler sees little Suleiman and Fatimah going around bopping everyone’s head like Little Bunny Foo Foo while they’re in sujood (prostrating in prayer), and naturally, decides to join them in their game of “Duck, duck goose.”
You try no to panic and focus on your prayer. “It’s okay. The masjid is supposed to be a welcoming place for kids,” you think, as you try to remember what rak’ah you’re on, while simultaneously glancing over at the other sisters, also praying, to see how many are side-eyeing you because they’re clearly annoyed by the game of “Duck, duck goose” happening around them. Meanwhile, you’re also trying to keep an eye on your infant to make sure he doesn’t spit up in his auntie’s Chanel bag he just grabbed a hold of when no one was paying attention. How many prayers are we supposed to do again?
The reality of life
Having children, whether it’s one child or a houseful of little ones, can be challenging, but at the same time such a beautiful blessing.
The month of Ramadan is a time where we are truly tested on our levels of patience and willpower–but, when you’re a mother, especially to young children, it’s an even bigger test of your endurance to make it to the finish line.
Although it may sound like life is so simple before children, let us be reminded that they are the future of our faith, and the blessing that Allah (SWT) has bestowed upon us to make our family complete. Ramadan would be a little less exciting without the surprises they provide us. (And the impromptu games of “Duck, duck goose.”) Remember, we always seem to appreciate things a little more when we have to work for it–and children definitely make us work for a successful month of fasting.
Not to mention, motherhood is an ever-evolving–and beautiful– exercise in sabr (patience). And Allah loves the patient.
May Allah bless and reward all the mothers out there this Ramadan who will face long summer days, chaotic routines, and no time for suhoor coffee. I’ll be thinking of you (and making lots of duaa for us) as I drink my hot cup of java on the first suhoor, hopefully with more than seven and a half minutes to spare before the athan.