I spent many days dreaming of little laughs from freshly powdered babies; babies that would be a perfect blend of my blue eyes and my husband’s wavy, brown hair. That was in 2002 and I was still enamored with being a new bride.
I had hopes of starting a big family. I also had dreams of finishing my degree and having a career. But during those first years of settling into my marriage and my life as a new Muslim, I stayed at home, cooked, cleaned, and studied Islam.
As a new Muslim, I didn’t hang out at the mosque much. I didn’t understand what real community was about, nor did I feel comfortable there. I was often asked intrusive questions about when I was going to have kids. When I did go, I answered the procreation questions politely and hopefully- when Allah wills.
That was if the ambitious sisters who had kid(s), ran households, held down jobs, and/or were getting advanced degrees weren’t asking me, “What do you do all day? Your little apartment must be spotless!”
The condescension that dripped from their remarks couldn’t be missed. I felt as if I were nothing, as if my efforts were so pithy that I didn’t matter.
Why don’t we stop judging each other?
After a few years, I went back to school and began working. My husband and I still hoped and prayed that we would soon conceive and provide a loving home to as many children as Allah willed.
And people continued the tired line of questioning. “When will you have children???” I answered cheerfully (trying to hide my frustration and deep sadness) – when Allah wills.
With the ambitious sisters off my back now that I was “being more productive”, I began to receive patronizing remarks from the stay at home sisters, to the tune of: “It seems selfish to me when people don’t have children” or “Devoting your life to your family is so fulfilling” were statements that passive-aggressively peppered conversations.
I felt as if I was a failure at being a woman for not being able to conceive. I was made to feel as if being a part of the world outside of my home made me dirty.
Then my life changed drastically. A young mother in the Islamic community fell very ill. She was alone, incapable of caring for her daughter, and needing a Muslim family to care for the four year old. So a mutual friend asked my husband and I if we would be foster parents to the child until her mother was well again.
My husband and I very hesitantly agreed. And the questions about when my husband and I would have our own child intensified. I answered, exhausted- when Allah wills. But now that I was a wife, foster mom, student, and an employee; the criticism about my life choices also intensified. I felt as if I couldn’t do anything right.
My husband and I decided to enroll our foster daughter in the local Islamic school when it came time for her to attend kindergarten. And all eyes were on me.
If I put a fruit roll up (a sweet, dried fruit snack) along with healthy foods in my foster daughter’s packed lunch, it had to be because I didn’t care about her health or nutrition. If she acted out in class, it had to be because I wasn’t a good disciplinarian and needed to spend more time at home with her.
Every move I made seemed to be the wrong one … to someone. And, as had been the case all along, each group had their religious verdict to back them up in their judgment of me.
From a lazy housewife to a selfish career woman
If I was a housewife, some would think I was lazy and not doing enough to help the community. If I was a student and career woman, others would suspect that I was selfish and wanted to mix with men in a haram way.
If I cared for a child, worked, and studied; still others would see everything I did as inadequate, saying I should be home caring for my family.Pages: 1 2