Originally published: 27/12/2015
So there are days when I wake up or situations occur at home and I feel…done. In my personal situation at the moment, it is because my little one is teething and he wakes up in the night and then stays up; very, very often. And the boys are also a little unwell – runny noses, deep coughs, and a painful rash. So when my little one does go to sleep, he will cough, and then cough some more, and then wake himself up from the coughing, and then we have to start all over again with putting him to sleep.
At other times as Mums, perhaps we have a lot on or perhaps we haven’t taken an intentional break or me-time for a while that you kind of run out of steam (I do not advocate this! I advocate self care; intentional, even if little). You feel done.
So when your day is just super demanding or your patience is wearing thin or you feel negativity trying to seep in, I find that one of the best ways to begin to counteract all these things and begin to find internal peace (and to just feel more…centred, as opposed to disoriented) is with gratitude. Shukr (gratitude/thankfulness) to Allah. I have found personally that in order to be patient, I must be grateful. This is for all of life, but I find I use it a lot in my context of being a Stay at Home Mum.
This morning, I tried to put my baby to sleep three times for his morning nap, and it just wasn’t happening. It felt like it took forever. My three year old was in the living room waiting for me; I had put on a show for him whilst I tried to put his brother to sleep. And I was beginning to feel frustrated, notice my tiredness, and… messy, as I couldn’t get ready in the morning. When my little one eventually did fall asleep, I quickly got ready and then explained to my three year old why I took so long and then said to him that I would write for about 5 minutes and then we could play together. He agreed. I felt I needed this time because as the morning, as well this whole recent period, had felt demanding for me, I wanted to take those five minutes to write down all the things I was grateful to Allah for. To see all the abundant good there always is, and to take my mind off what I was finding frustrating and to focus on what was working, what is working. This doesn’t mean things still don’t bother us at times – and we’re allowed to feel those feelings. It just keeps those things in their rightful place as minor – on the days that we can manage to reframe it (hey it doesn’t always happen for me!) Gratitudes simply allows me to shift my focus and tap into the bigger picture.
So I got my phone and opened my gratitude app and wrote. I tried to write down every ‘little’ thing that I enjoyed, felt blessed to have and just generally felt grateful and positive about. Subhan’Allah, that day, my feelings changed quickly: I began to soften and feel at peace; my gratitude writing had softened me, loosening the prior knot of frustration. I noticed that I wrote down so many things and still had so many that I wanted to add. Which brings to mind a verse from the book of Allah. And it is this:
“And if you should count the favours of Allah, you could not enumerate them. Indeed, Allah is Forgiving and Merciful.” (16:18)
Subhan’Allah. Indeed, His blessings and favours are many. Gratitude and counting our blessings allows us to focus on the good in our lives, and to relate to the world and those around us from a place of “what I have is more than enough and I am thankful for it”. This, I find, breeds contentment and an internal peace. I remember once hearing somebody once say ” what you focus on expands”. Absolutely, I think, when I read that. Particularly when you focus on all that you are grateful for: you just find more to be grateful for.
That morning, I felt so much better when I wrote down all that I was grateful for. I related to my day in a much better way. I turned back to my toddler in a much more tender and less frustrated state. When we can’t change our external circumstances at times but do manage to change our focus, how we relate to our outer world then also shifts for the better. That day, I still had very little and broken sleep, tons of things to do, messy spaces to be cleaned, and two children who weren’t in optimal health to care for. But internally, a lot had changed. My focus had changed, and that now changed how I related to my external circumstances.
When I started this note, I wrote about how gratitude is a good place to start when you’re having one of those days where you just feel like you don’t have much to give. And then I stopped writing. That night, when my baby woke up a few times, I remembered these very words. So as I picked him up, I thought “alhamdulillah, that he isn’t staying up in the middle of the night, which he could do, and does sometimes do lately”. And I immediately felt better, and more importantly, at peace and present with my baby, alhamdulillah. Prior to gratitude journaling that day though, spotting the good in that particular situation either wasn’t happening.
Of course, we won’t always internally accept situations easily or quickly, let alone move to spotting the good. Sometimes, we need to feel our feelings and the reframe doesn’t come quickly and that’s a-okay. But with practice and when we can manage it, it is something that can really help with life with our littles.
So what can we do to develop gratitude as Mums?
Actionable Steps in Implementing The Tip:
1) Get a gratitude app or a notebook/ diary and *regularly* write down a few things that you are grateful to Allah SWT for. (Everyday is great. Or perhaps start off with once every few days). I have an app on android called ‘Attitudes of Gratitude Journal’.
2) *Especially* on the days or moments when you are feeling out of sorts, write down the things that you are grateful to Allah for. That morning, for me, my gratitude list begun with the make up that I had just put on. Might sound trivial, but it made me feel good, so I was thankful to have it.
3) Make sajdatu-shukr (prostration for thankfulness) a habit; it is a sunnah of the Messenger, PBUH. How? By making sajdah to Allah whenever something that you like happens.
4) If you have time to sit after salah, and you do your tasbeeh, tahmeed and takbeer 33 times each, then after every salah, bring to mind one thing, that you are grateful to Allah for when you are repeating “alhamdulillah”. I personally don’t do this much now, with very young children, but I have benefited from it when I did.
5) You may also want to thank Allah in moments of tests. Ask Him for help, but thank Him also. I find it can help in keeping in mind that Allah is there; He is always watching, and He has decreed whatever is happening in our lives (and we pray beautiful growth will stem from it, ameen). Which is a soothing balm, and can shift our internal state to accepting our situation and owning it (and dealing with it quicker, and growing through it insha’Allah).
6) There is a specific du’a amongst the adhkhaar (words of Remembrance) of the morning and the evening which translates to “O Allah , whatever blessing has been received by me or anyone of Your creation is from You alone , You have no partner . All praise is for you and thanks is to You.” I will place the transliteration of this du’a at the end of this piece (one word of which changes depending whether you say it in the morning or in the evening). What is a ‘wow’ moment for me is that it is stated that whoever says this du’a in the morning and evening has completed his obligation to thank Allah for the day. Subhan’Allah, making this habitual could be a way that works for us to stop, take a moment and be grateful, twice a day, every day.
I will end this tip with a part of one of my favourite verses in the Qur’an; that talks about gratitude:
“And [remember] when your Lord proclaimed, ‘If you are grateful, I will surely increase you [in favor]…” (14:7)
I hope some of these tips help, insha’Allah. And I wish you lovely days with your littles 🙂
© WAA, 2015
Transliteration of the du’a mentioned in tip number 6: Allaahumma maa ‘asbaha bee min ni’matin ‘aw bi’ahadin min khalqika faminka wahdaka laa shareeka laka, falakal-hamdu wa lakash-shukr. Meaning: O Allah , whatever blessing has been received by me or anyone of Your creation 1 is from You alone , You have no partner . All praise is for you and thanks is to You. 2 Reference: 1. When you say the dua in the evening, you should say: Allaahumma maa ‘amsaa bee…: “O Allah, as I… enter this evening…” 2. Whoever recites this in the morning, has completed his obligation to thank Allah for that day; and whoever says it in the evening, has completed his obligation for that night. Abu Dawud 4/318, An-Nasa’i ‘Amalul-Yawm wal-Laylah (no. 7), Ibn As-Sunni (no. 41), Ibn Hibban (no. 2361). Its chain of transmission is good (Hasan), Ibn Baz, p. 24.