بِسْمِ اللَّهِ الرَّحْمَـنِ الرَّحِيمِ
I was relatively new to the parenting world until, well, my children started growing up. In particular, when my oldest started acting mature and ladylike almost overnight.
The awaited and cherished transition of your child from a baby to someone who can actually have a proper conversation with you, happens so fast that it’s actually quite overwhelming.
And the appearance of the lovely, hitherto-nonexistent, silver-grey hairs above your ears also reminds you that the beautiful journey of life is passing by faster than you think!
Anyhow, you find yourself morphing into an “aunty”. There is something so inherently quirky about this moniker, notwithstanding the underlying cultural personality that it implies. And to add insult to injury, it is sometimes distorted to be irritatingly pronounced ‘ainty‘ instead, and that too by local men who are no more than 10 years younger than the said ‘ainty‘ they are addressing.
Jokes aside, sometimes, in social settings, I find myself in that circle of “aunties”, you know, the ones who believe that without marriage and motherhood, a woman’s life is totally worthless.
The ones who talk only about how many children other married women have popped out, particularly the married girls aged 20-40; how many single girls are left in their circle to pity about being still unmarried; and the latest divorce scoop that generates even more pity towards the bechari who just got dumped by her husband (even though she was the one who willingly left him!).
Sigh, yes, aunties. If you are a female aged above 25 and do not (yet) have a husband or a son, you better steer clear of them unless you want to be made to feel like your existence is absolutely useless (not to mention very “unfortunate” a.k.a “budqismat“) here on earth.
Hey, you so-called “bechari“, go turn around and run the other way! :)
Anyhow, what I am beginning to realize more and more, much to my dismay, is that despite being a mother and an official 36-year-old Pakistani “aunty” myself, I couldn’t be more different from most of them, in particular, in my attitude towards parenting and raising children.
We should probably leave the topic of how different I am from them in my attitude towards single women and divorcees too, for another post, insha’Allah.
To start off, I am a mother, alhamdulillah, by full personal will and choice. I said it. There are three human beings currently living on this earth for whom, Jannah lies under my feet. I know that.
It is with that knowledge in my head that I am writing the points below, with the hope that other mothers will take heed and hopefully not do what many parents are unintentionally doing to their children.
Focusing on Their Rights More Than Their Responsibilities
When a parent, especially a mother, focuses more on the rights they have upon their children, instead of the huge Allah-given responsibility on their shoulders for their children’s upbringing, well-being, character-building, and moral training, they are definitely making a grave leadership mistake.
And by responsibilities, I do not mean those related to physical-work: such as providing children their food, clothing, healthcare, and admitting them into good schools.
I mean, the moral responsibility of raising them as conscientious Muslims.
Unfortunately, most parents nowadays focus their parenting efforts on fulfilling only the first three levels of Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of needs for their children: food, clothing, shelter, and education.
It is Allah’s immense favor upon us parents that He hides our early parenting mistakes and mishaps from our children, by removing those early childhood years’ memories from their brains.
Most of us, consequently, do not remember many details of our childhoods before age 6-7. That is due to Allah, the Hider (السَّتَّار), hiding our parents’ shortcomings from us. We do not remember if we were breastfed or bottle-fed; how soon and in what way we were potty-trained; whether we were bathed and changed on time or not; and what our eating habits were, before age 6-7.
All of us mothers know what havoc our home lives are like with several children under the age of 7 in our homes. Allah hides from our children the memory of their first fall, the first (and probably only) time we lost them in the market, or when we forgot to pick them up from somewhere and they waited alone for two hours.
Allah makes them forget how and when we force-fed them as toddlers until they vomited, or the nasty diaper rashes they got when we fell asleep without changing their diaper because we were too tired to, and had fallen asleep before we could do it.
Our children don’t remember the many mosquito bites they got on their chubby arms and legs because we forgot to put on the mosquito repellent before falling asleep. Nor do they remember how often we let them go to bed without brushing their teeth because they fell asleep in the car on the way home from weddings/parties that we forced them to attend late, late at night.
No, sir. Our children don’t remember our new-parent mistakes do they? Allah has hidden them all from them, much to our benefit.
Yet, after we mothers cross 50, we seem to forget ourselves how difficult those early years of popping out and nurturing babies were.
At least that’s how it seems when we sit in the company of younger women and lecture/tut-tut them, without being asked, about making the slightest parenting mistake!
It is when we approach age 60 that we start to act like we are entitled to the utmost good treatment from our children, as their mothers.
It is true: we are, but please get over it already, ladies.
What about our responsibilities?
What about the grave mistakes we made along the way, the results of which – in the form of adult children who mistreat us – we complain about to anyone who is willing to lend us a sympathetic ear?
When we see the negative results of our early parenting negligence in our (now) adult children, do we seek Allah’s forgiveness for the mistakes that we made as a parent when you were younger?
Do we admit to Allah that we neglected our obligatory duties first, as a parent, at least sometimes? That we made grave mistakes? That when our children were young and dependent upon us, and at home with us everyday, we often dumped them, against their will, with maids, nannies, and drivers in order to make our own lives easier?
Or do we perhaps pretend that we were perfect? That we fulfilled all our parenting duties with aplomb?
Which is perhaps why we seem to focus all our attention, now, on how much our children owe us in terms of kindness and good treatment, instead of how much we fell short in our responsibility of raising them according to Allah’s pleasure.
A mother who is humble, and who constantly seeks forgiveness for her sins from Allah will:
(i) Never focus just on her rights upon her children, much less publicly call them out for not fulfilling them (even if they aren’t), and
(ii) Never publicly chastise other young mothers when they see the latter making mistakes that Allah will eventually cover in time, such as force-feeding a baby, unintentionally dropping a baby, or (gasp!) giving the baby something out of a packet instead of what they cooked from scratch on the stove themselves.
Treating Children Like “Trophies” for Personal Glorification
“Age ___. Has a ______ (awesome-sounding trio of alphabets) degree from ______ (super duper college or university). Living in ____ (prestigious foreign location). Working at ______ (impressive-sounding company) as a __________ (covetous job title).”
Sigh. When will we mothers stop listing a set of acquired, physical credentials and attributes as a description of our children whenever we are introduced to others at social gatherings?
Will we ever? Can we ever?
Do you even remember the time when your son or daughter was just a wonderful little bundle of joy whom you loved unconditionally, without the added titles in front of his/her name?
Do you remember when she was just 7-year-old Maria? Or 4-year-old Zain?
Why does the passage of time make a parent talk about their adult son or daughter as if they are selling a piece of merchandise?
“100% pure cotton. Wrinkle-free. Iron on medium. Wash with like colors only. Do not wring. Tumble dry.”
Actually, one of my reasons for adopting the unschooling route is, that I don’t want to reduce — yes, REDUCE — the worth of my children to a set of physically acquired, worldly qualifications and credentials.
I get so miffed at the way I see adult sons and daughters being discussed in social settings, that I inwardly resolve not to do that with my own children once they are older, insha’Allah. May Allah guide me to remain true to my words. Ameen.
Even if my children garner many admirable achievements to their credit, and I pray that they do, I hope and pray that I do not become one of those mothers who lists those achievements in front of others as a measure of their child’s worth.
Which is what brings me to my next point:
Taking 100% Credit for the Good in Their Child, But Blaming the Bad on Other Factors
When a son or daughter does something extraordinary, in particular, if he or she succeeds at any level in the field of “education”, guess who comes forth in front of everyone as the receiver of credit?
Yup, you’re right. The parents.
Now, don’t get me wrong. Which parent wouldn’t love to tell the world about how awesome their child is? I know I would (although I do not).
But what I am talking about right now is, when parents willingly take credit only for their offspring’s positive achievements, yet shy away from taking any blame or responsibility for their negative actions or failures.
That is not good.
A son frequenting drink-and-dance parties/nightclubs with friends? Oh, it’s his friends at school who are taking him there.
A daughter discreetly left Islam to become atheist after going to study at a university abroad? Oh it’s the bad university environment around the poor little innocent girl that is responsible for that.
A son got into a gang fight and broke his nose (as well as another boy’s ribs)? Oh it’s his bad friends who dragged him into it, he didn’t even want to be there!
A daughter doesn’t know how to cook yet? Oh my poor baby girl is only 35, what can you expect? It’s her mother-in-law’s constant taunts and criticism of her culinary skills and Hitler-like control of the kitchen, which prevents my baby girl’s inner domestic goddess from coming out! I mean, she does know how to make tea and boil an egg though. Give her some credit!
There are many, many young boys and girls whose parents have no role to play in their achievements whatsoever: they become what they do totally without their parents’ contributions.
Just bring to mind Prophet Muhammad ﷺ.
Using Their Children for Personal Benefit, According to Need
I know, I know. There are Prophetic narrations or ahadith that clearly state how a Muslim man’s or woman’s children are the pure earning of their hands, and they can take benefit from them, as well as use their wealth, as they please.
However, deliberately using one’s offspring to glean a particular personal benefit according to circumstances, and using discriminatory, dishonest and unfair tactics to do so, is blameworthy and definitely not a good thing to do.
For example, a man and his wife are in good health and spirits, but they are feeling a bit tired of the relentless soaring summer heat in their country, and pining for a vacation abroad in a place with milder weather.
They promptly invite themselves over to the home of one of their sons, who is living in another country with his wife and child, and ask him to send them their tickets, intending to ‘visit’ him for several months, without asking first if their long visit will be welcome or not. They want his wife to serve (cook/clean for) them and take care of all their needs while they are there, such as taking them out for shopping and recreation whenever they want, while they enjoy the company of their grandchild.
Two years down the road, that same son’s wife is hospitalized long-term because of a high-risk pregnancy condition, and needs someone to take care of her older child. The season is winter, with the temperature several degrees below zero. Her house hasn’t been cleaned for weeks and is a mess. Her husband (the son) is jobless, low on money, and sinking fast into depression due to single-handedly taking care of his wife and child 24/7. His child is acting up and misbehaving due to all the stress. His savings have been all but depleted.
This time, the same son asks his parents to come over for a few months, for support and help, and to bring some money with them. But this time, they know that it definitely won’t be a vacation for them: they will have to chip in, with money, support, and physical work. And that this won’t be easy to do during the long, snowbound, “white” winter months.
Promptly, the parents, who are still in good health and spirits, decide to stay put where they are, with their other son, whose life is going smoothly (sans hardship) and who is not in need of their moral or financial support.
The son and his family in the other country who are going through hardship, will just have to learn to deal with their problems on their own, they conveniently say. They make up a flimsy excuse for not going, and thereafter ignore his appeals for help. They also stop calling him for fear that he’ll ask them for more money.
Such parents should fear Allah regarding their children!
And for those readers who are assuming that no parents are like that; that all parents are equally selfless and sincere towards all their children, well, take this from me:
I KNOW people who are like that; who have used their adult children for personal gain when the latter were doing well, but then dropped them promptly like a hot potato, as soon as the same adult child needed their help.
May Allah save us from ever becoming such selfish, gain-centered parents, who treat their adult children only as personal leverage according to the circumstances in their own lives at any particular time.
Disclosing Their Child’s Negative Traits or Behaviors to Others
The last leadership mistake made by parents that I want to discuss, which indirectly causes harm to their child, young or old, is when they mention their children’s misdeeds, negative habits and bad qualities in front of others, in a whining and complaining manner.
This of course doesn’t include the times when a parent seeks justified counsel and advice from trusted experts and wise people regarding the upbringing of their child, in which they are facing genuine problems.
This is not what I am condemning here, because it is a perfectly acceptable thing to do, given that it is done discreetly and privately, as an amanah instead of a public debacle.
All parents, including myself, often face challenges in their children’s upbringing, due to which they need to seek advice from others whom they respect and admire as mentors. There is nothing wrong with doing this, as long as it is done discreetly and with the fear of Allah in their hearts.
What is blameworthy is talking badly about your child (young or old) in public, and complaining about their negative behavior to others as a habit, or just to vent your frustrations as an exasperated, entitled parent.
Parents often do this to gain sympathizers and supporters on their side of the conflict with their child, and as a passive-aggressive emotional blackmail tactic to coerce their rebellious/recalcitrant child into submission to their demands, which might or might not be justified.
Parents who thus use their authority to gain power and control over their child, by airing their laundry in public, need to fear Allah and remember that what goes around comes around.
If you don’t want your children to mention you negatively; and to complain about you to others, after you have become old and weak (when they are the ones with more authority and power), then don’t dish out this behavior towards them right now, while they are young, weak and dependent, and you are in complete authority over them.
In Islam, all leaders have been granted tremendous rights: those of obedience in all ma’roof matters (those which are according to Allah’s pleasure), utmost respect, good treatment, and reverence.
Whether a Muslim leader’s role is that of khalifah, imam, mother, father, husband, teacher, or judge, they should never forget that this extra high role involves big responsibilities and duties in this world, and based on their performance of these duties, it will entail either an easy or a very difficult reckoning (process of questioning and accountability before Allah) in the Hereafter (Akhirah).
Let us all take a critical look at how we are accomplishing our role as leaders, especially those of us ladies who are the shepherdesses of our husbands’ homes and children.
Perhaps I might not be able to reach the niche of Pakistani “aunties” aged 50+ with my writings (as most of them don’t read English articles on online blogs, heh), even though I get to interact with a lot of them in social life, but I do hope and pray that by writing self-checking blog posts such as these, I can improve myself as a parent first, and also be able to advise the few readers of this blog, to not allow themselves to morph into entitled, discriminatory, unfair, and unjust leaders – who misuse and exploit the authority that Allah has granted them through their positions of leadership, in order to obtain personal benefits in the short life of this world.