Ramadan is a peaceful time when you can take a break from your daily routine and really focus on your relationship with Allah (SWT). The world seems to slow down and there’s no need to cook, so you have more time to read Qur’an, pray and generally focus on strengthening your iman. It is a true retreat… or a dream scenario that is far out of reach if you are a mother of a small child. Forget staying in bed for half the day and taking long sunnah naps, there’s no break from mommying, not even during Ramadhan, and fasting does become more difficult when you have to feed the babies round the clock. Does it mean you have to give up on your regular Ramadhan iman boosters once you become a mother? Well, Ramadhan will never be the same with children around, but with some extra planning and consideration you can still survive it and make it special. So, to begin with…
1. Plan, plan and plan some more – and do it way in advance. Write down your Ramadhan goals and du’as, make shopping lists and ‘Eid gift lists and plan your meals, and children’s meals, too. Schedule your sleep and rest time. Staying awake after suhoor when the children are likely to be asleep may be your best time for reading Qur’an. Also consider letting children go to bed later than usual, and nap with them in the afternoon. If you want to memorize or revise some surahs or du’as print them out and stick them to the kitchen cabinets or wherever might be most handy. Planning things ahead will give you clarity, let you use your time more effectively and cut the stress of last minute preparation.
2. Don’t worry if your plans fall through – there might be days when your baby will not let you sit and read or they will insistently tug your headscarf and sit in front of you on the prayer mat, and you will be jealous of people who get the luxury of being able to pray undisturbed. Where are the days when you could read a juz a day gone? But then, Ramadhan is not about competition or beating personal records in nafl prayers, it is about pleasing Allah (SWT). Remember that intention is key, just as the Prophet (SAW) taught us: “The reward of deeds depend upon the intentions and every person will get the reward according to what he has intended.” (Bukhari) Also, if you are breastfeeding , remember that you can make up for your fasts later on, perhaps in winter when the days are short and you won’t feel thirsty for too long.
3. Boost your iman on the go. No time to sit and read Qur’an? Baby not letting you stand up for taraweeh? Remember it’s not only through prayer and recitation that you can worship Allah (SWT), but dhikr (remembrance of Allah SWT) and du’a are also forms of worship. And you really can do your du’a anywhere (except the toilet that is) and at any time! Stick your favourite du’as in the kitchen or children’s rooms to serve as a reminder, do dhikr while cooking and feeding the children. And relax, Allah (SWT) knows that being a mother is the toughest job.
4. Think quality, rather than quantity. If you struggle to memorize new surahs with children’s noise filling the house, just recite the ones that you know, however few they might be, and contemplate them. Surah Al-Ikhlas equals a third of the Qur’an and it is a perfect description of Allah (SWT) so pondering upon its meaning fills your heart with love and awe for the Creator. Also, listening to the recitation while you are busy with your daily duties is sure to sooth your heart and nourish your soul while your stomach is empty during long summer fasts.
5. Clean and declutter your house and wardrobe before Ramadhan starts to cut down on the amount of housework you have to do during the holy month. The less things you have around the house, the less work and the more time. Consider taking a break from certain chores, like ironing – you probably have enough shirts to last you a month… A friend of mine told me that during Ramadhan her tidying consists of throwing the stuff into black plastic bags and tucking them into a wardrobe to sort out later.
6. Make meals simple. Ramadhan is not all about fasting, and it is definitely not meant to be about feasting. It’s good to plan ahead together so no one is disappointed later that their favourite dish is missing. You can treat everyone’s wishes and desires once in a while, but otherwise make it simple. Lower yours and your family’s standards when it comes to Iftar and save the finest recipes for ‘Eid days. Look for a few simple and quick recipes that won’t make you spend full days in the kitchen, and involve the whole family in the preparation.
7. Don’t forget to feed the kids. “If I’m not eating no one is eating” won’t take you anywhere as a hungry child is an angry, moody and naughty child. I know it’s easy to forget about preparing lunch in Ramadhan, but feeding kids on time will just make it easier. Again keep the lunches for kids simple: a cheese sandwich or some white rice with butter perhaps? Stock up on healthy snacks for them, such as fruit and dry fruit, cheese strings and healthy biscuits to save yourself from constant cooking.
8. Enjoy sharing Ramadhan with your children – it’s such a beautiful, blessed time. Start early by preparing some decorations for the house to get the family into the Ramadhan spirit, share a good story with a Ramadhan theme, print out or make a Ramadhan countdown calendar and get the little ones involved in the preparation of Iftar, even if it’s just putting the dates on the table.
Klaudia Khan is a Muslim writer living with her husband and three daughters in the UK.