By Aliya Vaughn
When I stand on the Day of Judgement, I know Allah is not going to ask me why I didn’t clinch that deal, get that promotion or reach that six-figure salary. Yet before becoming a mum, this is what I strove to achieve, as we are nurtured to believe that this is what is important. By the time my children came along I realised there was more to life than just having a career. Being a mum is the most important job in the world, despite being looked down upon by most people in society. There is no salary, the hours are long and relentless and the thankless tasks can be monotonous and unsavoury. Not surprising then that Allah places great importance on the position of the mother and rewards her highly for raising future generations. Its no easy task though, and is fraught with worries. My mind is always focused upon my children: What are they doing? What influences are they being exposed to? Have they got the strength to resist all the temptations and distractions out there? Did I do a good enough job laying down the foundations of their faith and was it enough for them to be able to go out and face the big wide world on their own? This amanah (trust) is a huge responsibility.
A modern mums’ guilt
During their primary school years, I dedicated my time to home schooling my children. Later on, my circumstances changed which meant I had to go out to work. In theory, I knew the kind of tests that accompany a working mum, as I’d read plenty of articles from working mothers who lamented the hardships and heart aches. But now I was going to experience them for myself first hand. So, what’s my verdict? Well…there’s a lot of guilt!
What is guilt?
Guilt can be overwhelming but it is not necessarily a “bad” emotion. It just means that we care. Guilt is our conscience telling us something may be wrong, which may or may not be justified. So how do we separate real and justified feelings of guilt from those that are not?
Sometimes, we compare ourselves to other mothers and feel guilty that we are not doing enough. There is nothing wrong in this, if we use it as a healthy guideline to do better. The danger lies in drawing unrealistic comparisons and beating ourselves up over it.
We are not all the same and Allah doesn’t expect us to be. So long as we keep doing our best within our own capacity, this is all that matters.
Guilt is sometimes projected upon us by judgemental people with high expectations. People who project guilt, may be deflecting attention away from their own shortcomings or are secretly jealous and want to sabotage other people’s achievements by making them feel they’re not doing enough. It can also be used to control and manipulate. Encouragement should always be offered with love and support and not to make another person feel guilty. If the person is not as described, then there might be an element of truth in what they say and perhaps we should take their comments on board and try to find solutions.
Guilty feelings can initiate positive action and change
No one wants to feel guilty for long, so guilty feelings help push us to find solutions to our problems. Guilt only becomes a problem in itself if we allow ourselves to be consumed by this negative emotion without doing something about it. In other words, we fail to act. Even if we haven’t got all the solutions figured out, we can make dua to Allah for His guidance and direction and this is action in itself (not to be used on its own though)!
“O Allah, it is Your mercy that I hope for, so do not leave me in charge of my affairs even for a blink of an eye and rectify for me all of my affairs. None has the right to be worshipped except You.” Sources: Abu Dawud No# 5090; Sahih Ibn Hibban No# 970
What causes guilt and how can we change it?
If the reason for our guilt is due to negative emotional reactions such as anger or stress, or negative behaviour or actions like lashing out, then we need to change our own reactions from negative to positive. What ever the reason for guilt, it is within our own capacity and control to change it.
For example, if I feel guilty for being stressed, I need to find ways to alleviate my stress. I may not be able to change my husband or my children’s attitude or behaviour, but I can change myself and the way I react in situations. Less stress means less guilt. Perhaps my solution lies in better stress management, better time management, better organisational skills, better parenting skills or even looking at the way I manage my mental, physical and emotional health.
Feelings of guilt are brought on by a number of factors and will differ from person to person.
* Know the factors that cause your guilt.
* Know whether or not your feelings of guilt are justified.
* Find solutions within your own control to overcome the factors that trigger guilt. Only you will know what will work for you in your own given situation.
My tips for a modern-day mum:
1) Be a good role model – children imitate from a young age so be sure to set the best example. If you love Islam, they will learn to love Islam too and whatever you do.
2) Be gentle, loving and kind. If you are harsh and judgemental, they may turn away from Islam.
3) Be balanced. There’s a time for this and a time for that. Work is work and home is home. So, switch off from work mode and temporarily come off your mobile phone.
4) Always eat together with family. Meal times are a time for re-connection.
5) Be your child’s friend and companion. Spend time to talk and understand what they are experiencing in life. Listen and only offer advice when needed or necessary. Ask them what they think about their own situation and what their possible solutions are and then cater the conversation accordingly.
About the author:
Aliya Vaughan has been a Muslim for 23 years. She lives in the UK with her husband and six children. She is a qualified life coach and author. She has recently published her award-winning children’s story ‘A Race to Prayer’ with Kube Publishing.