Posted in Motherhood

Balance

Balance: a situation in which different elements are equal or in the correct proportions.

Life with Hanaan during lockdown has been great. Although sometimes difficult, I have truly settled into life at home; I’ve enjoyed spending every minute with her; being able to lay in bed in the morning, putting her to bed without worrying about where we have to be the next day, cooking with her and just taking our time with everything because we can and most importantly, not feeling guilty for going to work! As I prepare to return back to work, I can’t help but feel sad about how things are going to change as life slowly returns to normalcy. This brings me to answering the question a friend once asked “How do you balance being a mum, a wife and a teacher?”

The short answer is, I don’t. I do what I can, when I can. It is quite difficult to ‘balance’ things when you have a set amount of things that have to be done. As a full-time teacher, I work five days a week. Each morning, I leave home at 6.50 am each morning to drop Hanaan off at her childminder before making my way to work. I arrive at work at 7:00 am and leave at 5:00 pm to go pick Hanaan up from her childminder. We get home just before 6:00 pm and by 7:30pm, she’s in bed ready for the next day. After putting her to bed, I take some time to do a bit more work before going to bed myself. The routine begins again the next day and this continues to happen until the next holiday. Evidently, during the week, there is little time to do anything else but work. However, there are a few things that I do to maximise the little time that I have whilst also making sure that I fulfil all of my responsibilities to my family.

  • Trustworthy Nursery/Childminder: As Hanaan spends a lot of time at the childminder’s during the week, I find it really important that she is with adults that are trustworthy and good role models for her. I personally chose a Muslim environment because I wanted her to be in an environment that supports our morals and way of life. I also make sure that she is in a place that supports her development. Some other things that I look for in a childminder are: clean environment, low teacher to child ratio, up to date licenses, extensive experience, great references and a trial day so that she can settle in and I can see how comfortable/uncomfortable she is. Most importantly, I constantly communicate with the childminder so that I know what Hanaan has been up to.
  • Meal prep: I plan our meals for the week at the weekend so I do not have to worry about it during the week. This means that the little time I have in the evenings is spent with my family rather than in the kitchen getting dinner ready.
  • Quality time: We do not have a lot of time together during the week so I try to make sure that the time that we do have together is quality time. I spend most weekends doing meaningful and memorable things with her. I give my undivided attention and avoid doing any school work until she is in bed. I also get her involved with my chores to keep her busy whilst I work but also to maximise the time that we have together (E.g she may help me ‘spread’ the clothes) This means that some things may take longer than they should but I try to turn mundane tasks into quality time with her.
  • Early starts: I start my days (weekdays and weekends) quite early so I can get the most out of them. Hanaan gets up early too so I use her as my alarm clock. Once she’s up, I start my chores for the day so that the rest of the day can be spent together.
  • Date night: My husband’s work schedule is just as busy as mine. So, we have learnt to be more intentional about making time for each other. We pick an evening where we forget about work and just spend time reconnecting without Hanaan.
  • Maximising time: I don’t always do this because I like to socialise but I do try to make the most out of my hour lunch break. I generally work through lunch so that I have less to do later and can go home to my family. Someone also recently suggested ordering groceries online to save additional time.
  • Communicate with your manager: My manager is aware that I have a daughter that depends on me; she is aware that I have to pick up Hanaan at a certain time and so I can’t stay in meetings that run past 5pm. Speak to your manager and let them know your situation. This doesn’t mean that you’re not going to do your work, it just means that they may need to be more flexible.
  • Self care: In the midst of all the chaos and rush of the week, it is very important that I have time to take care of myself. Personally, I do this through praying and exercising. I wake up earlier than the family most days to take some time to work out and just have a moment to myself. This makes me feel good about myself and gets me ready to take on my responsibilities. It is also important to note that sometimes, getting enough sleep is self care for me! So, rather than waking up to exercise, I may just choose to sleep in! Not everyday workout!

So, there you have it – how I balance home life and work life. Do you have any tips for balancing your home life and work life? Please share them with me in the comments below.

Till next time,

-A

Posted in Motherhood, Religion

Worries

“And say to the believing women that they should lower their gaze and guard their modesty; and that they should not display their beauty and ornaments except what must ordinarily appear thereof; that they should draw their veils over their bosoms and not display their beauty except to their husbands…” (Holy Qur’an 24:31)

Eight years ago when I made the decision to wear my hijab, there was a certain worry that came with the decision; I lived in a society where very few Muslims existed and out of those Muslims, none of them wore the hijab full time. I already stood out as a black girl in a predominantly white community. So, as you can imagine, wearing my hijab was not the easiest decision. As anyone would, I worried about how people would see me and relate with me. However, it was a decision and a way of life that I had thought long and hard about and I was ready to commit to, regardless of society’s views.

Fast forward to a couple of months after having my daughter… My mum returned from Nigeria with various gifts for us including the smallest hijabs for my daughter. I thought they were the cutest things, especially as they made her chubby baby face look even chubbier. I also saw it as an opportunity to introduce the hijab to her at an early age hoping that when she came to make the commitment at a later age, it would be much easier for her than it was for me. Just like every mother, I wanted to set her up to succeed in every aspect of life and it felt good to think this was another step towards achieving that. As far as I was concerned, it wasn’t any different from emphasising the use of ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ at a young age so that she hopefully grew up to be courteous.

Every time we went out, I’d dress my daughter up and made sure she had a matching hijab to her outfit. At the time, I didn’t really have a lot of places to go aside from the familiar places within the Nigerian Muslim community; mosque, visiting family and friends. These places were my safe haven; they were filled with people who knew the true meaning behind the hijab and understood my intentions for my daughter without me having to explain myself. And just like me, they all thought she looked cute in her hijab and liked the idea of getting her accustomed to it in the hopes that it’d make life easier for her.

Things changed when I ventured outside of my safe haven. That morning, we had a doctor’s appointment and as usual, I got my daughter ready making sure that her hijab matched her outfit. As I parked the car and struggled to get the car seat out of the car, I couldn’t help but feel like I did eight years ago when I first left my house wearing a hijab. I was worried. I worried about how my baby might suddenly be viewed because she was dressed differently. I almost wanted to take it off but this was an important step for me. This was a step I’d hope that my daughter would take one day. If I was too scared to take it myself, how could I expect her to do the same?

To my surprise, everyone that came in contact with her saw just how amazing she was (and still is). They saw what I saw; a beautiful and smiley baby girl. Those that commented on her hijab had nothing but positive things to say about it. Like me, they appreciated the fact that it matched her outfit and actually thought she looked ‘cute’ in it. They especially loved the little diamantes that were attached to it. I immediately felt at ease and all my worries were almost forgotten.

However, every so often, due to different reasons, these worries come crippling back and I cannot help but think about my daughter and her hijab. Now at almost 3 years old, the hijab has become a part of her. Although she doesn’t understand the meaning behind it, it is something she is comfortable wearing and chooses to wear most days. I hope that when she comes to the age of understanding that it is something that continues to be a part of her. But with that hope, comes the question; when does she stop being a baby, a person and instead, becomes a threat because of what she chooses to wear on her head?

Till next time

-A

Posted in 5 THINGS, Culture, Motherhood

5 things that grind my gears! Motherhood edition!

Sometimes, we say things to others without thinking about how they might feel about what we have said, the state they’re in, what they might be going through e.t.c. So, I decided to address some of those things in a new series I’m calling ‘5 things that grind my gears…..’

To start us off, here are 5 things that grind my gears…. Motherhood edition!

  1. Why is this child so skinny? Aren’t you feeding her? 

What I say : *Laugh* I’m feeding her ma

What I want to say: Excuse me ma, all babies don’t look the same! I feed her when she needs to be fed and I don’t need you questioning my abilities. Also, not that it is any of your business, but she doesn’t stop eating. She eats throughout the day and on some nights gets up for her nightly fix of Weetabix/Bananas. Please mind your business.

  1. Your daughter is how old? What are you waiting for? You should be pregnant already!

What I say: *LAUGH* soon ma, soon!

What I want to say: I love my child and I recognise that she is a blessing. However, I am still trying to get through the fatigue that comes with carrying a baby for 9 months, the pain of contracting for over 36 hours, pushing her out and now trying to take care of her whilst also keeping my mental health in check. So, I’m sorry that I’m not inviting you to a naming ceremony yet, but I’ll have another baby when I am ready. Until then, please leave me alone. 

  1. The stress of Motherhood has really made you lose weight oo  

What I say: *Laugh* No oo, I’ve been exercising ni.

What I want to say: I have been working really hard to be a “yummy mummy”. It’s very difficult to find time to workout whilst trying to balance everything that comes with motherhood. I’ve been sacrificing much-needed sleep and pounded yam to try to keep my body in the best shape possible. I understand that I may not look like your idea of what a mum should look like and I appreciate the fact that you recognise that I have lost weight, however, I do not appreciate you discarding my hard work and making assumptions. So, unless you have something positive to say, please mind your business. 

  1. She’s _______ old, she should be ______

What I say: *LAUGH* 

What I want to say: SHE WILL DO IT WHEN SHE’S READY! 

  1. Why is she shouting? She must be very naughty!

What I say: She’s not naughty

What I want to say: I find it quite annoying that after spending 5 minutes with my daughter, you feel fit to tell me, her mother, that my daughter is naughty. She’s a toddler and I don’t appreciate you labelling her negatively based on the 5 minutes of toddler-isms that you have seen. You don’t see her sweetness in the morning when she asks me how I slept (even though she kept me up all night). You don’t see her independence when she insists on helping me cook or when she says ‘I want to do it myself…’. You don’t see how caring she can be when she sees me upset and asks ‘what’s wrong mummy?’ You don’t notice how observant she is when she role-plays. You see a child that is ‘naughty’, but there are so many reasons why she may have been displaying ‘naughty’ behaviour at that time. So, if you do not have something positive to say about my daughter, please mind your business!

Moral of the post: If you don’t have anything positive to say, then say nothing. If you’re truly worried, find a way to pass the message on without making us feel inadequate.

Till next time

-A

Posted in Culture, Motherhood, Relationships

GUILT!!!

I have come to believe caring for myself is not self indulgent. Caring for myself is an act of survival.”

– Audre Lorde

There is a certain guilt I feel when I force myself to take a break or rest up a little. As I lay down to relax, I can’t help but feel less of a woman/wife/mother because I chose to take care of myself rather than clean the house or spread the clothes. Often, I get so overwhelmed with that guilt that I end up putting a stop to my relaxation and getting up to do whatever needs to be done. Whilst trying to figure out where this guilt was coming from, I realised this is something that is embedded in our society and culture in different ways. 

Growing up, I watched my mother and the women around me do EVERYTHING in the household. Our mothers took care of everyone but themselves. Although my mother never specifically advised me to do the same in my marital home, the expectation was set. I followed in her footsteps and tried as much as I could to be a good daughter and help out in any way possible around the house. Whenever I showed any intentions to relax or have fun, a series of questions such as “have you tidied up the house?” or “have you cooked the stew?” followed. Only if I answered ‘Yes’ to these questions, was it then acceptable for me to ‘relax’. There was a constant feeling of ‘the home needs to be in perfect order before I can relax’. 

Going into my marital home, I subconsciously carried the same pressure with me. I wanted to be a superwoman – the perfect wife and mother. I wanted to do everything like the great women that came before me. So I did. I cooked. I cleaned. I took care of the baby and everything else in between. There was a sense of fulfilment and empowerment that came from looking at the spotless house, coupled with the smell of food from the kitchen that made me feel like a good wife. I had done everything on my own. My worth as a wife was very much linked to the chores I did around the house. So much so, when I couldn’t do ALL of those things, I felt I was failing in my role as a wife. I was not enough. As you can imagine, this mindset coupled with a full time job and a baby left me feeling drained with no time to myself. I was constantly tired and cranky.

…I recognise it, I am working on it, because self care isn’t selfish…”

As a human being, I painfully recognised that I needed a break to recharge; I tried to take the time out. This meant allowing my spouse to carry some of the household responsibilities. I struggled. Watching him do more around the home went against everything that I had observed or had been taught by women in the society. I questioned my ability as a wife and a mother and instead of feeling relaxed, I felt selfish and incapable. I felt guilty for taking a break. I felt guilty for not meeting the expectations that I had set for myself. 

Having acknowledged that I was trying to live up to the expectations that I had set for myself in my own marital home, I am now personally trying to unlearn this ‘superwoman’ behaviour and allow myself space and time to take care of myself without feeling guilty about it. In doing this, I have also realised that it is okay to let someone else take the reins. I am slowly learning to take a step back and not feel the need to do everything. I’m not there yet, but I recognise it, I am working on it, because self care isn’t selfish. You cannot pour from an empty cup. 

Do you feel guilt when you make time for yourself? If so, know that you’re not on your own. Do you feel the need to overcome this feeling and how do you do so?

Till next time

-A

Posted in Other

I’m baaaaaaack…… AGAIN!

“Your dream doesn’t have an expiration date. Take a deep breath and try again” – Kathy Witten. 

I really want to apologise for being away for a ridiculous amount of time but I also don’t. Life has been a whirlwind, to say the least. The last time I wrote on this page, I was 25! A lot has changed since then. I am now 27 (still struggling to accept this) and living in London! I moved down here with my now 2-year-old to start work as a full-time primary teacher. At the time, my husband stayed back in Ireland for several different reasons. For anyone that is not aware, teaching is NOT a 9 am – 3pm job. I’ll do a separate post on it but it’s more of a 24/7 job. Anyway, as you can imagine, between working full time and taking care of a baby/toddler, I didn’t have time for much else including sleep. So, writing a post was not the first thing on my mind. It’s still not the first thing on my mind. But it is on my mind and has been for a while now. 

estee-janssens-2enBTsIVhUU-unsplash

To be completely honest, I was very reluctant to re-start this blog AGAIN for several reasons. Firstly, I felt I didn’t have anything to say that was worth saying or anything that anyone wanted to hear. Everybody is going through life the best way they can and we all have a story to share, what makes mine worth writing about? Secondly, I was scared of failing. I didn’t admit this to myself until recently but I was worried about how the contents of my blog would be received; Will people like it? Will they care enough to share it? Will it have the desired impact e.t.c. As well as this, I was also unsure of what I wanted to do with the blog, where I wanted to go with it or what aspects of my life I wanted to focus on. Finally, I constantly compared where I was in the blogging process to where I wanted to be. I am quite a distance from where I’d like to be and the idea of what the journey could look like scared me so much it almost paralysed me.

But then, two friends turned sisters (I am thankful for good friends) reminded me of why I started writing in the first place- It’s simple, I love to write! It’s really that simple. So instead of worrying, I decided to write. So yeah, I’m back AGAIN…. to stay, hopefully. I’m still not sure what I want the focus of my blog to be or what aspect of my life I want to focus on or whether I’ll just keep it the same as before. I’m still terrified that life will get extremely busy and I’ll lose my step and fall flat on my face yet AGAIN. BUT I am willing to push those fears aside and see where this takes me! And I really hope that you’re willing to come on this journey with me.

Till next time 

-A 

Posted in Motherhood

Labour

“of course it’s hard, why do you think it’s called labour?”- these were the words that my midwife said to me while I was screaming in pain.

My water broke around 6 a.m on a Wednesday morning. To be honest, I wasn’t sure what had happened because it felt more like a really light trickle. I actually thought it was the beginning of a period (pregnancy brain), as it was a little less dramatic than I was expecting. It took me a few minutes to realise that it couldn’t have been my period.  However, I still wasn’t sure what was happening.

I spoke to my husband about it and we laughed at the idea of me being in labour. I soon started to contract. At first, the contractions were very similar to a period cramp. I went back to bed ignoring the pain assuming it was nothing.  However, the pain soon started to intensify. I spoke to my mother-in-law and she insisted we go to the hospital. I was hesitant to go to the hospital at this stage as I didn’t want to go in too early and be told to go back home.

I had my shower and got ready for the hospital. At this stage, I was sure I was contracting. No one had to tell me. The pain was baaaad but it wasn’t consistent. It wasn’t happening often enough to warrant me going to the hospital, I felt. Anyway, I went in and it was confirmed that my waters had broken and I was 1cm dilated. But, just like I thought, I wasn’t just ready to be admitted to the hospital. I had to get to at least 6 cm. I was advised to go home and stay active in order to get my labour going. Regardless of the situation, I was told to come back to the hospital at 11pm that night in order to be induced, as it wasn’t safe for my baby to be out of the waters for over 24 hours. I went back home, my contractions were getting more and more intense but I still wasn’t getting the expected 3 contractions in 10 mins. I felt slightly bipolar, one minute I was grunting in pain, the next minute I was eating fried chicken. I was walking up and down the stairs, trying to stay active. My contractions still weren’t consistent but the pain was starting to become intolerable. I was sure I was getting closer to pushing the baby out.

hand picture

I was admitted to the hospital at 11 o’ clock that night. Going in, I naively thought I’d be in and out by midnight. But that was not the case. My midwife checked me and to my dismay, I was still just 1cm dilated. How was that even possible with the intense pain that I was in? I was put on antibiotics for the night and was going to be induced the next morning. I couldn’t sleep due to my contractions. The next morning, I was taking into my labour room. At this stage, I was starting to feel quite anxious; labour was going to be sore. I was checked again and I was now at 2cm. The frustration. Over 24 hours later!!!  I was put on oxytocin to speed up labour. This was when it all went downhill.

Oxytocin sped things up. My contractions became more frequent leaving me with no breathing space between each contraction. The pain had been unbearable for a good while at this stage, but the lack of space between each contraction meant no time for recovery between contractions.  I was doing rollovers on the bed, I wasn’t coping. I was offered gas and air to help with the pain but it only made me feel drunk and silly. I kept trying to tell myself to ‘behave’ but I just couldn’t. My breathing techniques went out the window. I was a mess… and I still hadn’t dilated any further. Things were starting to look bleak. I was in a lot of pain and I still had a long way to go. I didn’t think I could deal with the pain for much longer. I asked my midwife if things had moved any further; it hadn’t. I was tired. I turned to my husband with tears in my eyes and said: “I cannot do this”. He reassured me that I could but I ignored him, faced my midwife and repeated those exact same words “I cannot do this”. I just couldn’t see the other side.

My midwife suggested taking an epidural. I was at 2cm and I still needed to get to 10cm. I insisted that I didn’t want to take it. I had read about several side effects and wasn’t willing to risk it. Moreover, this person and that person managed without it. I should be able to manage without it. I’m strong too. Well, this wasn’t the case and I’m so glad my midwife talked some sense into me. She basically reminded me that there was life after labour and that I needed to be able to take care of my baby. As well as that, if I was in distress, there was a huge chance that I was putting my baby in distress. And I had been contracting for over 30 hours, I was wrecked. Every situation differs.

I accepted the epidural and life was a breeze. Contractions were a thing of the past. Don’t get me wrong, I was still getting them but I couldn’t feel them. But, I felt guilty. I felt weak. I felt like I wasn’t working for it. I let myself down and my baby down. I shouldn’t have taken the epidural. With all these thoughts going through my head, I chilled and waited until my little girl was ready to make an entrance. She took her time. When she was finally ready, I pushed for 20 minutes and at 21:21 on Thursday night, my baby girl arrived.  It was only after her arrival that I realised what I had just done; I birthed a baby, there was absolutely nothing weak about that.

Till next time

-A