Reframing Our Thoughts

With Ramadan upon us, there is so much weighing on our bodies and minds. To start:

  1. Here’s when I finally get to lose those ten pounds!

  2. I haven’t even finished decorating. Ugh, but the decor is sold out now so we have to make them at home. With glue. And kids.

  3. My Ramadan pajamas are too small! American kids require 2 sizes bigger, but now I can’t order them because they’re sold out, too.

  4. I was supposed to read 3 chapters of the Quran already so I won’t fall behind during the month.

  5. How can I birth control myself to screw up my period and not miss any fasts?

While these 5 items, and lists much longer than this one, are important to some moms, we want to offer a solution to these issues without being dismissive. Let’s try changing our thoughts about them. Sounds easy, but it’s anything but. The list above creates pathos only because our thoughts are arranged in such a way to make them do that. By reframing our thoughts, we can bring the peace and point of Ramadan into our minds, hearts, and bodies. To practice reframing our thoughts, we can pull two examples from above.

When I forget to buy my decorations on time, my thoughts go down the rabbithole with my hopes of ever catching up. Yet what am I catching up to? The social media accounts created to share ideas of decor and vendor referrals were supposed to be inspirational, but instead have become perspirational. We’ve come to believe that “Ramadan decoration reflects on my ability to mother my kids,” and that is a matter of fact to many Muslim moms struggling to make the holidays special for our kids.

Here’s what AWESOME: “Ramadan decoration reflects on my ability to mother my kids” is a THOUGHT. There are many more moms out here who do not have the bandwidth for decor and could care less about it. This is due to personality as well as the ages of our kids. Moms of bigs probably don’t invest as much effort in it and so don’t fall into the thought-as-fact trap that moms of littles may delve into because “OMG advent calendar and goodie bags.” ALL concerns matter, but we aren’t addressing the legitimacy of fears here. We are trying to dig into the cause of those fears and questioning the legitimacy of these thoughts that we believe so much and so often, that they become facts in our minds. In reality, they are not true. Now, if you said, “I didn’t decorate my house for Ramadan,” THAT is a fact and can be proven. What that means, though, is that the thoughts we assign to a fact will create an emotion relative to us. And it’s that emotion of despair or inferiority we feel when we look at our undecorated walls and THINK, “I’m not a good Ramadan mom. My poor kids.” Again, not a fact. It’s a thought that’s created a negative emotion that we now tumble down the rabbithole gripping yet fighting for years.

Second example: “If I miss my fasts due to my period, it will be inconvenient for me to make them up later.” A period risks missing Layl at Al Qadr, the Night of Power. I’ve known many women who’ve altered their physical chemistry trying to achieve amenorrhea (absence of menses) in order to fit Ramadan into their lives, rather than the other way around. “But all my aunts and my mom did this ‘back home.’” I won’t provide medical opinion about this, and I’m not qualified to provide a religious opinion on it. As a mom, a woman, and your blogger for the day, I feel obligated to point out that “inconvenience” is relative, and as such, it cannot be a fact. It is a THOUGHT that our periods will hinder us in some way this month. The emotion created is either impatience, fear, or hopelessness focusing on that period and what it means. And that emotion drives us to take medication, actual drugs with real consequences, to alter our natural states.

The fact is, “I got my period during Ramadan.” This is unarguable and can be proven. As such, how I feel about getting a Ramadan period is determined by what I think about it. If I approach it as a natural cycle that Allah ordained for me, I will accept it and continue my Ramadan despite it. Or I can decide “now I can’t go to taraweeh or touch the mushhaf,” and perform the baseline but persistently beneficial act of taking care of my family, but nothing above and beyond for Ramadan. As moms, we can MacGyver a last minute math project with some Google searches the morning it’s due, create a Monday school lunch like it’s an episode of “Chopped” because we forgot to shop on the weekend, and fix hems that are too long on picture day with a stapler; but when it comes to figuring out how to make the most of our Ramadan with a period, we suddenly lose our resourcefulness. We can cater to a house full of vomiting husband and mucusy kids, sporting our own triple digit temperatures and barf bag and cook/clean/function because no one else will, miss work to pick up a sick kid from school, but fasting a week after Ramadan to do our makeup is “too much.” It really matters to these women, but I have yet to find a hadeeth or ayah that says a menstruating women has little to nothing to gain from the Night of Power. Maybe a Ramadan period is reprieve from Allah, a chance to go get that afternoon coffee with a sister across town who also can’t fast this week. Or more likely an opportunity to go get all that Eid shopping done you forgot to do! Get a bottle of water and to-go lunch while you’re out there. Or now she will have the energy to stay up all night and read from a translation or make tasbeeh in the last 10 nights and get the Night of Power anyway, reaping all its rewards. It’s all about evaluating how a circumstance makes us feel, and finding out whether the cause of it is a thought we made up, or an inarguable fact. And then, what does the thought make us FEEL and what MEANING are we assigning to all of it?

In sum, this is the first of a handful of  blogs that will explore the meaning we assign to circumstances in our lives, mainly our children, since this is a mom blog. However, a lot of that work starts with evaluating our momselves and what we are bringing to the all important kitchen table. We’ve got a lot of splainin to do as Muslim moms: to the kids, to society, and to each other about what things MEAN to us. And for us. Till then.

Ramadan Mubarak.

Zaiba Hasan