Modefa's CEO and Co-Founder Tara shares about her struggle in balancing work and other priorities from an Islamic perspective, including self-care through prayer.
I have a dua I make after every prayer, which is to ask Allah to help me to be a better Muslim, a better Mama, and a better wife. I consider these three things to be the most important things in my life, my priorities. But for some reason, I can't seem to give these three things the proper attention they require. And so for those first two priorities in particular, I often end up feeling like a failure.
My problem, I assume, is very similar to most Muslim mamas out there (or just mamas in general). . . there never seems to be enough hours in the day to accomplish everything that needs to get done. For me, however, I have another added challenge which is that on top of being a mom to two kids under 5, I'm also trying to run a business — a business that is in the midst of growth and expansion. This means all of my extra time and energy is spent pouring my heart and soul into my business. In fact, lately it seems that it has been taking up so much of my energy that it's cutting into time that I should be focusing on my other priorities.
It has been a very busy year so far for Modefa. It's been one thing after another, including Ramadan and moving to a new, larger location and now setting up our new warehouse and showroom; alhamdulilah, this all means we’re growing and having success. But Modefa has really taken over our lives, and for me personally the stress and feeling of being constantly overwhelmed has taken a toll . . . I'm not devoting enough time to prayers and spiritual growth. I'm always distracted when I'm with my kids and feel like I'm not giving them enough of my time or attention. And I can't tell you when the last time my husband and I had a real date. We have no time for family outings, let alone vacations.
So what is the point of me sharing all this? Because I'm sure I can't be the only Mama out there who feels like this. I'm sure I'm not the only one who feels overwhelmed, and guilty, and like the time is going too fast and I'm going to miss this stage our family is in.
So what can we do about this? What should I be doing differently? When I think about it, I realize that the core issue here is that I am not taking care of myself. I know it sounds strange, because most things I've mentioned here are about other people. But as a Muslim, my number one priority should actually be Allah, my relationship with my creator; my prayers, my time spent in reflection and remembrance of Allah. While it sounds like a religious duty, these things are actually about self care. I haven't been allowing myself the time to spend improving myself and my relationship with Allah. Did you realize prayer is actually a form of meditation? Done properly and with the attention it deserves, it calms, focuses, and centers you. I remember discussing with other Muslim women before that our prayers are not actually for Allah . . . yes, He has commanded them and we are worshipping him. But who is REALLY benefiting from our prayers? Does Allah really need them? We are actually the ones who need it most — we need it to feel humble, know our place in the world, practice self control and self discipline, and help us focus our attention on what should be our biggest priority.
This reminds me of a Quran verse that is quoted often:
“ALLAH DOES NOT BURDEN A SOUL BEYOND THAT IT CAN BEAR” (2:286)
I've actually heard two interpretations of this verse. The first of course is what most people think — that Allah does not give you more than you can handle. But the other interpretation I heard was that Allah will not give you a trial for which he has not also given you the tools you will need to get through it. So we are not guaranteed to successfully get through these trials — but we know we can come through them alright if we use the tools Allah has provided.
So to all you Mamas out there struggling with trying to take care of yourselves, struggling to balance work and family life . . . just remember that Allah has given you the tools you need to overcome this struggle, if you will only take the initiative and use those tools. So pick up the Quran, pull out your prayer mat, make dhikr on your tesbih, listen to that khutbah on Youtube, or that podcast on your way to work. And remember to take care of yourself in other ways too so that you can bring your 100% to the table as you try to accomplish everything in front of you! After all, how can you expect to take care of everything else on your plate if you are neglecting yourself? In order to be the best you, and give your best self to other priorities, you will need to start taking care of yourself. Especially with children, I have found that when I am stressed and overwhelmed and feeling down, it’s really hard to be present for them and give them the attention they deserve. I don’t enjoy my time with my family as much when I’m worrying about everything else.
So take care of yourself, take care of your relationship with Allah, take that “me time.” And I’m sure you will see the worry and stress and burden be lifted from your spirit. No, the work and chaos isn’t going to go away. But you will be better at handling it all. Inshallah, for the sake of ourselves, our sanity, and our families, we can all be better at doing this.