Written by: Kendall A. | Umm Iman
As mothers, we are constantly in a flurry of balancing our spiritual needs, parental obligations, household management, and self-care necessities, amongst other things. Finding balance in life to be present and available for all that needs to be done is different in today’s world than it was in previous generations, where “the village” was seen differently. Our ancestors led more communal lifestyles, where cooking, washing of clothes, caring for little ones, and educating older ones really was managed within a system of togetherness. In our world today, busyness has taken over as family life and the experience of motherhood has become individualized in one’s own home, rather than as a group effort. Compounded by a pandemic, social interactions and community have once again taken on a different look, leading to overwhelm for many parents.
So, how do we as mothers create ease for ourselves, so that we can enjoy motherhood, be present, and get the time that we need for ourselves?
In participating in Ayeina’s Productive Muslimat Challenge, I have shifted my thinking around time and how to meet the needs of my family in new and creative ways. Below are a few tips that I have recently implemented into our family routine that have truly opened up time and energy for me, alhumdulilah.
- Prioritize Sleep and Plan Life Around Salah: One of the suggestions that I loved from Ayeina was sleeping after Isha prayer and waking at tahajjud time, after an adequate sleep. (Sleepyti.me offers a great service where you can see what times you should wake up based on a complete sleep cycle.) Rather than completing work at the end of the day, when I am already tired, I have been trying to sleep earlier and shift my work time to the early morning. It’s also a blessing, because as I mentioned in my piece “Becoming a Family of Prayer,” tahajjud prayer is a sunnah that we are working on being consistent in. Scheduling it in so that I am well rested is definitely a huge help.
- Eat Less and Less Often: We live in a society that encourages gluttony. Yet, we learn from fasting and the etiquettes around food in Islam that self-discipline applies to eating as well. We see in the sunnah that eating less in amount per meal and less often throughout the day have wonderful health benefits. As a family, we have been moving to two hearty meals (brunch and supper), with a few light snacks in between. Using this method, we have been able to replace lunch with fruit, vegetable, dairy, and protein smoothies. Smoothies are healthy and filling, which means less time on meal preparation and more independence for the children in being able to make these for themselves as well.
- Floor Mats and Communal Plates: Another sunnah tip from Ayeina is to dine on the floor using a mat. This creates a community meal that is easy to set up and clean up after. As opposed to cleaning the table, chairs, and floors, we simply shake out the mat and wipe it down, if necessary. (We don’t use this for every meal, but using it at dinner time, after a long day, has certainly come in handy!) Similarly, when using the dining mat, using a single, large plate with everyone’s section visible also lends for faster clean up–only one dish, as opposed to several. It’s another great Islamic etiquette to teach eating from what’s in front of you as well.
- Chores and Team Work: I love to get my toddler and preschooler involved in daily chores. In line with Montessori, there is no limit to what they can do when given the opportunity to participate and practice. My children help “open” and “close” the house each night, with drawing curtains, making beds, washing dishes, cleaning tables and floors, and making sure toys and clothes are put away. I also like to involve them in meal preparation when possible. It’s a great life skill, bonding time, and helps the day go smoothly when they are involved in the daily functions of home life.
- Stick to a Routine/Schedule/Flow: I’m an organized person, so it helps me to have an idea of how each day will go. This also helps me to use my time wisely and to know when I have some pockets where I can do something that I would like to do, like read or write. Scheduling also refers to activities and things that require your time. As minimalists, this applies to more than just the lack of physical clutter in our home (which has been a huge aid in reducing our daily and weekly cleaning), but also keeping our lives less busy. We have reduced our online classes to twice a week in the same time block. This helps us to focus and be present when we are together, as opposed to constantly signing in and out of the computer.
- Bathe Wisely: We use the evening bath time wisely to soap and lotion the children before sleeping. They also put on clean underwear, undershirts, and socks beneath their pajamas. This makes the morning smoother, because they can simply remove pajamas and put on the clothes for the day. I also save myself on laundry by having them wear art smocks during meal times. These work better than bibs, because they cover the whole outfit, as opposed to a section of the shirt, thus I don’t have to do as much laundry each week!
- Quick Clean & Morning Prep: While my children no longer nap, it does mean that they go to bed pretty early alhumdulilah. This leaves me with about half an hour to do a final clean of the house before getting ready for bed myself. (I like to put my pajamas on at the same time I do the children. This helps me to actually reach my bed time goals.) It’s also a good time to set anything out for the morning that will help things go more smoothly (ie: setting out clothes for the next day, setting up toothbrushes or morning snacks, etc.) and allows me to use my early morning “me time” for things that are meaningful to me, as opposed to chores or things that can be accomplished when the children are awake.
I hope this is helpful! I’d love to hear what systems and time management strategies work for you in reducing stress and opening up time and energy!