QI Personals

On Motherhood II

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When the day expires and we prepare ourselves for bed, I often reflect on this verse: “They worked for him what he desired, (making) high rooms, statues, basins as large as reservoirs, and cooking cauldrons fixed (in their places). ‘Work, O family of Dawud (David), with thanks.’ But few of My servants are grateful” (Saba`, 13)

اعملوا آل داوود شكرًا وقليل من عبادي الشكور

An interesting word pairing, isn’t it-—ʿamal and shukr, work and gratitude? Folded in their marriage is a message to be lived: give gratitude to the Giver of your skills by expending them in His favor. Simply put, recognize your talents, hone them, and employ them to serve His deen; anything short is a manifestation of ingratitude. That’s easy, right? It’s easy when you’re taking aptitude tests and advancing your education, your career, your independence, and building your volunteering resume and orchestrating your life on ambition and self-made schedules. Once upon a time, it was easy. But when circumstance breaks both ambition and routine, and this verse springs into consciousness, it can sometimes bring guilt upon any new mother.

(A letter to mothers)

Dear mother,

Since his birth, a new voice has taken hold inside you, and it reeks of motherhood mediocrity: “My efforts now are enough.” You repeat this mantra. You look to no goal each morning (how can you?). You convince yourself that you are comfortable. And so you sway with the hours of the day, fulfilling one mundane task after the other, and you are comfortable. Wash this dish. Fold those clothes. Burp the baby. Ad infinitum. At some point, though, your eyes extend toward relics of a past epoch-—an old planner, last year’s vision board-—and you remember a previous you. You are younger. You toil with your talents and polish them to near perfection. An artist sculpting stories with words, ambition imprinting its vision along your brow, and you, expending what talents He gave you in His service.

…until you are thrusted into motherhood. It is at that point that you are forced to surrender your tools; to shed skin; to drop paper like dead seeds; to watch your ink’s harvest shrivel and die in time because you are too busy carrying your baby to keep your pen in hand. It’s easy to fear fallow talents and to worry about ingratitude to His gifts, but, my dear, try to remember: you are the mother of a child now. His birth will not blight your work.

You are the mother of a child, and he, too, is a masterpiece waiting to be written.

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