Finding the perks

A while ago, I attended a wedding party, sans baby, and of course, everyone asked me about her whereabouts.

“I left her at home with my mom”, I told someone. “There are perks to being a single mom.” I was laughing when I said the last remark.

And in exchange for that light remark, I received a very confused stare. I couldn’t tell if this person was bothered by my comment or if they were trying to see if I was hiding my agony with my jokes. But I wasn’t joking and I most definitely wasn’t hiding any agony. 

Over the  past few years, I’ve come to realize that there are hidden perks behind being a single parent, especially in a South Asian household. 

I can attend a wedding and leave my daughter at home with my parents. They love to watch her and actually insist I leave her home. Or we can all attend together and I know that I won’t have to be glued to her side.

I can eat in peace, because there is always someone around for Safiyah to play with and talk to. 

When I visit NYC, I can explore the city while being 150% certain that Safiyah is perfectly dandy at her paternal grandparent’s place, even though she rarely sees them.

I can afford to pay for graduate school, all on my own, because I live with my parents. Bye bye, rent money. Hello, home-cooked meals and long showers.

And because so many people within our community have a soft spot for my daughter, there is always an abundance of babysitters. All I have to do is pick up the phone and ask. (But 99% of the time, I don’t have to, alhamdulillah.)

Here’s the thing. I didn’t choose my situation. But I can choose how I react to it. And I can choose how I handle it. Life won’t always go your way but if you learn how to make the best of things, things may become easier to handle. 

My friend and I were having lunch one day, mesmerized by how some people seem to have it all. 
But then, we realized something. There we were, two adult women, with a life full of responsibilities, sitting outside a restaurant on a Sunday, without having to worry about whether or not our kids were being taken care of. To an outsider, we may seem to be ones that have it all.

And quite honestly, we do have it all. Life is what you make of it and if you can make the best of it, then you do have it all. 

 

Closure

Closure is such an intricate thing. After 6+ years,  I think I finally achieved it today. As I sat with a good friend I just recently met, I relieved moments I had kept hidden for so long. And the tears began to flow, causing me to choke back on my words. But I continued to speak. And as I spoke, it felt like those enclosed pieces finally found their way out. I didn’t even know how powerful those pieces were until I talked about them.

6 years is a long time. I was an immature 22-year-old back when it all began. And it took 6 years to mold me into who I am today. Today, I feel like a butterfly, ready to come out of the cocoon and flutter my wings. It is such a bittersweet feeling, letting go of memories so intensely beautiful and vivid. But it has been a long time coming and I am excited to see where life will take me.

Today, I am ready to utter the words that would’ve destroyed me before. Today, I’m finally okay with letting go. Today, I can finally say…

…good-bye Rube. Loving you was so easy, baby. And letting go has been so hard. But I’m ready. I’m finally ready to let you go…

The Downside to Working

It’s no secret that I thoroughly enjoy working and learning how to financially stand on my own two feet, for lack of a better cliche’. It could have to do with my feminist streak but I do believe that women are more than just moms and wives–there’s so much more to them than just that. And so I try to take on a dual-role, being the breadwinner and the bread-maker.

For any mom that wants to work (without having to), think about the benefits of it. Does it outweigh the cost of leaving your kids at home? Will it make you a better person? Will it make you a more well-rounded person? And mostly, can you let go of the guilt of not being home with your children all the time? For me, work is therapy. It heals me and helps me work on characteristics, such as patience, that are hard to maintain. But there are downsides to it, as there is with almost anything.

1) By the time  I get home, I’m too tired to focus on her 100%. Alhamdulillah, I live with my parents for now and she has a lot of love around her, but as her mom, I should be doing more. I should be the one potty-training, feeding, showering and reading bedtime stories. But with school and work, time is of the essence and I have yet to learn how to manage my time. 

2) Some mornings, Safiyah asks me to stay home. “Momma”, she cries. “You don’t have to work. Stay home.”  You can’t really find an answer to this one, except “I’m sorry baby. I love you.”

3) I always dreamed of being the mom who bakes, cooks and sweeps, simultaneously. Letting go of that dream to fulfill other dreams was pretty difficult.

4) There are times when she’s sick or suffering from asthma that I have to leave her. It hurts me to my core.

5) And the hardest part is that she is okay without me. It is such a blessing that Safiyah is able to stay with anyone and be absolutely okay. A lot of moms wish that they could catch a break and I, for one, can. But it still hurts.

But in spite of all the things I just listed, the fact that Safiyah runs to the door when I come home with a smile as big as her heart soothes my soul. The fact that she calls me her best friend and tells me she loves me every day soothes my soul. And the fact that she snuggles up next to me every night and tells me to sing her “huss little baby” makes me giggle. I may miss out on a lot but there are some experiences that only a mom gets to experience. Alhamdulillah. 

My dream for you

Dear Safiyah,
How I have dreams for you.
Dreams I envisioned for you
since before Allah(SWT) blessed me with a
home in my belly.

My dreams for you are not money nor fame,
but rather, finding happiness in the little things
and the strength to endure 
because life is not free from pain.

My dream for you
Is to smile and accept the way 
things turn out to be.
To raise your hands
and thank God for everything you’ve received.

My dream for you is to be content with every thing
that has happened so far in your young life,
things that are out of our control,
that neither I nor you can steer into our direction.

Sometimes I wonder, in awe,
at how much Allah (SWT) has planned for you
Because you clearly are special 
to everyone you meet.
And you are clearly special 
to the One who gave you to me.

You are my strength,
The reason for my being.
If it wasn’t for you being in my life,
I don’t know where I’d be.

How I wish you had a father’s hand to hold
and arms to run to
when he knocks on the door 
after a long day at work.
But my wishing can change nothing
Until He (SWT) decides its time,
to give you everything that 
you could possibly want.

And so, Safiyah,
as I pray for me, I pray for you.
For the two of us to have something
that’s much harder than it seems.
My dream for you, baby girl,
is patience.

A beautiful piece

Okay, y’all. Grab some tissues. What I’m about to post is so beautiful and poetic in nature that I wish I could take credit for it. But it is NOT my writing.

“Fear not Oh Children and People of Gaza; for inshallah your path to Jannah has already been paved. You were chosen by Allah for enduring years of hardship, struggle, and tyranny yet simultaneously never losing hope in Allah’s victory.

I am sorry this Ummah was disunified during your years of pain. Our hearts are with you and slowly but surely, your unrelenting patience and hope is uniting this Ummah.  You are reminiscent of the people described in Surah Burooj; and in turn, you are better than what I will ever become. But I hope I am lucky enough to meet you in Jannah.

May the air around you feel like the breeze of Jannah, may the heat there be shielded with Allah’s clouds of mercy, and may you walk proudly in this life and akhirah knowing you were an example to this Ummah.”

Simply profound.

And if anyone knows how to get this out to Gaza…please let me know.

Awkwardness

I attract awkward questions like a moth to a flame. Seriously. It’s like I’m wearing an invisible marquee that says “Ask me awkward questions.” Let me explain.

Since I have a child, it’s natural for people strangers to assume that I’m married. I get that. 

I even understand when they ask: Woah, you’re married? 

And I answer with the truth: Um,no. (I uncomfortably look away).

And then: Woah, you’re divorced?

Again, I answer with the truth: Um, no. (And so I smile, because I know what’s coming next.)

Awkwardness: Ok…you’re not married. You’re not divorced. So…

And I tell them the truth. And immediately begin to prepare for that look. You know, the “gosh-I-feel-so-bad-for-asking” look. 

And so I proceed to comfort them about my situation. And all of a sudden, the awkwardness goes away. 

I don’t mind the questions. I promise. I feel awkward because I know that they end up feeling uncomfortable. And I hate making people feel uncomfortable.

But then, there are times where the comments just do not stop:

Ooh, your man left you? What a shame.

You need yourself a good man.

How could he leave you?

These are my favorite questions. Really. They make me laugh. Remember how I said I don’t like making people feel uncomfortable? It doesn’t apply to the situations I just mentioned. To these, I reply:

He died.

Silence.Apologies..

It’s okay. I’m used to it.

All humor aside, I really don’t mind the questions. I’m very open about it. People usually assume divorce when they see me with a child but no ring on my finger. And unfortunately, divorce has such a negative connotation. Widowhood doesn’t. I’d rather tell them the truth instead of letting them assume something negative. 

 

Embracing the Career-Life

I used to tell my mom: You shouldn’t have to work. You should be able to stay at home and just be a Mom.

Those who know me, as the person I am now, will probably roll their eyes. Go ahead. I’m doing it as I write.

And my mom used to reply: You don’t get it. I have to.

Well, I thought. There’s no way I’m ever going to have to work. My husband will take care of me. It’s his job.

Fast-forward a few years.

Suddenly, I find myself telling people : You don’t get it. I have to work.

And for a while, that’s what I thought. And it was such a hard concept. Leaving Safi at home or with a babysitter made me cringe. How could I do that to her? She’s already lost a dad. And now, she barely sees her mom.

It took me almost a year to get over that misconception and embrace the fact that I am given the chance to make a living for my daughter and myself. I am given the chance to learn how to take care of me, without relying on a husband.

And now, I realize that it is my job to take care of myself.

It’s not just that I have to work. I also choose to work. I am in love with what I do. At my job, I get to be somebody that none of my friends and family reallyknows about. At work, I get to be another side of me.

And that, my friends, is how I have learned to embrace the career life. Someone once told me that if in 10 years, there’s a slight chance that I may regret not doing something now, then I better do it. Embrace the now.