Should Husbands Attend Their Wives’ Labor?

Here’s a thing I wrote for OnIslam.net:

“It’s bad for him to see you like that,” was the vague reasoning that potential care providers explained why my husband would be banned from the birth of our third child if I hired them.

When I responded that he had already seen my first two labors (and obviously he had been able to continue to reproduce, if that’s what they meant) I was shrugged off, the practitioners’ policies remained firm.

Ultimately my husband and I prematurely left our temporary residence in Morocco and returned to the US to have another homebirth. Later I would learn that barring men from attending their wives’ labor is a common practice in many Muslim-majority countries, though for varying reasons and none being evidenced-based.

Will it traumatize him?…

Please read the rest here.

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Having A Large Family

Muslim Mummy

While Muslim Mummy is away, I wrote a not-so-little guest blog post musing on having a whole bunch of kids:

It surprises me how many Muslims respond negatively at my having a large family. Worse is when they nearly reprimand me, demanding to know if I am “done” at six kids. I thought we all knew this one:

Wealth and children are an adornment of the worldly life. But the enduring good deeds are better to your Lord for reward and better for [one’s] hope. (Surah Al Kahf: 46)

I’m not into name brands. Having kids is mything. Well, I have a few dunya-ey things that I really like to do, but raising my pack of kids is my main thing and not only do I give it a lot of my time and consideration, I do it pretty well and get a fair amount of satisfaction from it. Alhumdulillah. Over the years I have found that there are a lot of benefits (not just for me) to having a big family. Here are just a few:

  • Learning to labor

Parenting begins with birth, and if you are birthing your own kids you may not realize what a crisis modern birthing practices are going through in the US (and just about everywhere) until you are actually in labor…

Please shoot over to Muslim Mummies to read the rest. And then get all wrapped up and inspired in her Project 365 posts.

Link Love: Breastfeeding 101 for Sexual Assault Survivors


I’m really glad to have been a part of this conversation with Aaminah Shakur and company for the The Toast and also just for all the support and healing I have had through such convos. Check it out:

“…It took years for me to figure out that a lot of my struggles as a new mother were directly related to my history as a sexual assault survivor.

One of the unanticipated difficulties was breastfeeding. Eighteen years ago, when my son was born, breastfeeding was not quite as supported in my city as it is now. Just this year an ordinance was passed in support of public breastfeeding, so you can imagine the atmosphere nearly two decades ago!

…How sexual trauma can come back to us during pregnancy, childbirth, and postpartum varies. Our reactions are not uniform, and there are many possible reactions a survivor might have that are not readily seen as related to a history of trauma. We often live with shame, guilt, and isolation because we do not realize trauma is the root of our issues. When we struggle to breastfeed but cannot articulate why, it is also difficult to get the appropriate support. Lactation consultants, postpartum doulas, and other support providers should be better educated in sexual trauma and prepared to help parents with such history recognize if that may be what is causing difficulties.”

Thanks Aaminah and all, read the rest here.

Thank You Maria Zain

 

As I have been putting together an archive of Maria Zain’s articles for SISTERS magazine, many of them are pieces I am already very familiar with. Maria and I shared several similar passions – homebirthing, homeschooling, deen-centered parenting, balancing family/extended family with personal and spiritual obligations, sex and sexuality with an Islamic point of view, and even a fashion frustration with Islamic clothing designers’ negligence to cover pregnant and breastfeeding moms.

When I started as an editor at SISTERS in 2011, Maria was one of the professional, highly skilled and conscientious writers already on board who made my job a cakewalk. Her articles nearly always came in well polished and needing little editing, masha Allah. Over time we developed an easy working relationship, in which she could pop off a quick one liner idea to me about potential articles and I would often respond with an enthusiastic “Yes!” and brief suggestions to avoid this and that as we likely covered them, while maybe considering addressing this or that. The final piece would then be submitted covering a good scope of ideas, introducing me (the first reader) to new ways of seeing and often giving me a few (always needed!) giggles.

Several months back, SISTERS reintroduced their ‘Soap Box’ feature: Soap Box is the place for sisters to speak out on issues they feel strongly about.” This feature, though a popular one to read, is a hard one for writers to approach, as it is a fine balance between critiquing and demonstrating real social problems within the ummah versus whining about some lesser important pet peeve. Maria recently really took to the feature, addressing several issues she (and I!) would like to see taken more seriously by Muslims, and she also pitched me a few of those emotion-filled one liners for a potential Soap Box rant, which she would later tone down and round out into more… palatable articles for elsewhere in the magazine or even other publications.

As a writer myself, Maria and I had a great deal of crossover in the subject matters we both write about which easily could have made us competitive in such a small field for Muslim writers, yet it only furthered our sharing of knowledge and resources. Maria introduced me to her fabulous editor at an online publication we both enjoyed writing for, and when I discussed the pending possibility of having an unassisted birth with my sixth child, Maria brought me into a tight circle of hundreds of women choosing to homebirth without assistance due to legal restrictions on using midwives. This circle was phenomenal and supported me through my sixth and most relaxed and stress-free birth.

I often see myself as a reluctant advocate across several fronts, where I have chosen to take less popular and even (unwittingly to me) controversial paths. Maria walked many of these paths with me, though I never once saw her reluctance. When I did see her attacked, either via online comments, Facebook discussions or in private exchanges, she always maintained a calm composure and an ability to remain politely but firmly steadfast, with a grace I still hope to someday achieve.

Reading through the memorials posted online for Maria, I am well aware of the legacy she has left behind in her writing having already read so many of her writings as an editor, a peer, a person of shared interests and a friend, but seeing them anew – knowing that there will be no more follow ups, no more branching into new subjects, no more behind the scenes chats – I now know what a privilege and blessing it was to have known Maria Zain, to have had my hand held, to have been given both echoed reassurances of my own feelings and even new insights into many issues from a truly special sister. I regret that I do not recall ever once thanking Maria for all she did for me and my family.

I pray that Maria’s husband is given support and strength to carry on raising his family with a deen-centered focus and that their children know even a glimpse of the sacrifices both their parents made to protect and nurture them as Allah (SWT) guided them to do so, ameen.

Editor in Chief of SISTERS Magazine, Na’ima B. Robert, has set up a fundraiser to help Maria’s husband and family through this upheaval. Please consider sending them some support: http://www.gofundme.com/mariazain

 

Ramadan Reflections: I <3 the Moon Calendar

Pumpkin with a palm tree and crescent moon carved into it.

This Ramadan is hard. Right smack in the middle of summer, these are the longest fasts of my Muslim life, it’s hot, and the kids are home all day. Well, my kids are always home all day, but I’m sure that’s an extra challenge for most Ramadaners.

I have six children and they are currently kind of a mess. My eldest two want to just stay up all night so as to not miss suhoor and indeed they are very hard to wake for suhoor, so I suck this up. But, they also keep me awake, sometimes, and keep some of my other kids awake, sometimes. So our sleep schedules are all just a mess unlike any other Ramadan I have done. But, I love this about Islam.

See, I thrive on different. I like newness, not in the shiny package kind of way, but in the explorative “seek knowledge” kind of way. I like vastness, not just in the unlimited possibilities kind of way, but also in the internal ways- sleep deprivation can be ugly and trying in this “month of patience”, but it can also poke holes into unused places in the brain that need some stirring. I like flexibility, even though I sometimes lack it, but living the holidays by the moon calendar forces flexibility.
I grew up celebrating regularly scheduled hegemonic US holidays: birthdays, Christmas, Thanksgiving and all that/those. These holidays always came with the same expectations, same traditions, same fall outs, and so on. Great for many, but after about 20 cycles I let go of these traditions that frankly interrupted my schedule (I was a broke and very busy student), so I quit them. Let me do gifts and appreciations on my own time, I thought.

Then I became Muslim, which some folks claim appeals to “wild western girls” like me “who need structure and rules”. Yep, sure Islam has plenty of rules to live by, but praying by the course of the sun ensures that I am never doing those rigidly required five prayers at exactly the same time for more than three days in a row. Never under estimate the little things, like those one minute changes. Those long stretches between Thuhr, Asr and Mahgrib can provide feelings of freedom during the summers, but the shorter intervals in winter can also be a welcome relief to refocus inward.

My new holidays inch forward through the seasons, slowly bringing me out of the musalla onto the grass and then back inside again years later. The holidays may be similar in function, but that calendar is always going to tweak the form just a little, forcing me to adapt year after year and thereby, insha Allah, grow with a variety of experiences.

I hope this Ramadan will get easier, but either way we are already half way through and then it will be a few more years of seasonally hard Ramadans, then some breezier spring ones, then some cakewalk winter fasts, then my favorite pumpkin treat-filled fall Ramadans, and then insha Allah I will be dead! Or maybe my circumstances will somehow change entirely, and I will be elsewhere on the globe or otherwise within my own body – either way, should I live, it will likely be something new.

2 Horrid Ramadans & Moving Along w/ the Ramadan Battle Plan, Insha Allah

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I have been meaning to write a sort of sketch for my family of all the different ways we have done Ramadan: from just me and the new hubby sharing cream puffs out of a paper bag in front of an Italian bakery in Brooklyn to enjoying a break of a solitary iftar while the husband took our bunch of kids to the masijd, and then onto Ramadans with extended family in Morocco. I should still do that, but today I am going to write about my worst two Ramadans ever and more importantly how I hope, insha Allah, to bury that habit quick this year.

The last two Ramadans I have spent half the month alone with my six kids. I mean really alone. I have neighbors, but no friends or family within several hours of driving/flying to my home. My lifestyle is… maybe unusual. We unschool, I work from home, and our home is located in a rural village in the High Atlas Mountains of Morocco, where life is very in touch with the land, clean-living and fairly hard work. Alhumdulillah, I am not out digging in the earth and tediously caring for farm animals, but I still do work (which can be long hours if I don’t watch myself), plus the homeschooling and lack of any help for half the month… you get the idea? Also, that forced ‘clean-living’ thing means no availability of processed foods, which I know you all are trying to avoid, but you do know how time consuming it can be to prepare suhoor and iftar with ZERO processed foods, except for roasted coffee beans and granulated sugar- thank God!

Anyway, where my last two Ramadans really fell apart was that I spent way too much of my already compromised time worry about and trying to get some cooperation from two of my six children. We’ve all missed a suhoor and know from experience how horrid that can be, right? Who would want that for their kids? Their hormone messed-up kids who sleep at odd intervals for unpredictable lengths? So with these two basically trying to sleep through Ramadan (and when they were awake bemoaning not having a dishwasher! Oh noes, they have to do dishes, but actually exert more energy fighting their mother about it than doing them!) that left me to deal with my other small children during the day, feeding them throughout and then maybe towards the end of the day I got some help with preparing iftar (fairly simple, but remember ALL from scratch except for our bread that I buy from my neighbor) or maybe not- it was just a mess, with my ibadah being heavily affected by my exhaustion and … anger. *Here is where you don’t bother to advise me about discipline measures and whatnot, because I have had enough of a headache with all of this and really thank you anyway, but I won’t bother with how you think I should maybe handle it, because I already tried many things and here is the conclusion I have come to:

This year I am bringing the focus back to ME (modeling behavior, they call this). Firstly, I am not going to bother myself with these manchildren who should know well enough how this Ramadan thing works. They are welcome to participate or not at their own paces. Don’t worry for them, they haven’t missed any fasts in years (or tarawih prayers) and I doubt they would start cheating now, but really let’s not bother directly with them. Secondly, I did FINALLY get some hired help, which I should have done long ago as I know logically I cannot do it all, but I guess I have some kind of glitch. So, alhumdulillah someone will be coming in for up to two hours a day to tidy the kitchen and help prep the food for me/us to cook later. I enjoy when hubby and kids come into the kitchen with me in that final hour of fasting to whip up a spontaneous iftar and again, all are welcome to join me, but no pressure, no extra exertion. RBP II

The most important thing I am doing is returning to making my ibadah come first, foremost and be nearly the only thing I see during Ramadan. I want to read the whole Quran and pray my tarawees everyday! Something I don’t remember doing at all the last two years. The main way I am doing this refocusing is that I got myself a copy of the Ramadan Battle Plan and am using it! Insha Allah.

Among some of the great getting-started things in the RBP is this goal setting and visualizing. Though I felt a bit cynical writing about my “Ideal Ramadan” after the last two, like the plan reminds: “And your Rabb says, “Call upon me; I will respond to you.” (Surah Al-Ghafir verse 60). And that’s it right there, that is my plan for Ramadan to call upon my Lord! Insha Allah.

I am doing The Plan along with a bunch of my cohorts from SISTERS Magazine, (the magazine for fabulous Muslim women) and you can read more about our experiences on the SISTER Family Blog or by following our SISTERS Team Does the Ramadan Battle Plan Facebook page.

Get your blessings! And me He accept our fasts, yours and mine, amen.

 

 

Antique Moroccon Coin and Glass Assemblage Necklace

BeadsLast month I spent a week in Essaouira on the southernish shore of Morocco. I went for the purposes of respite from the bulk of my kids (just took the 10 and 12 year old boys), to do some annual household shopping and especially to do some business related shopping, meaning beads! Essaouira is a great little town with lots of yummy places to eat and loads of traditional, artisanal boutiques. We stayed in a quiet little spot in the medina, only leaving it for a couple of brief trips to the beach and the grocery store, which had a really disappointing tea selection, but we thoroughly enjoyed their little bakery and cheese selection.

I hit up several jewelry shops finding a great selection of old and newer Moroccan silver beads, including some lovely inlay Tuareg beads and cute casted reproductions of old Amazigh (Berber) and Yemeni sterling charms, along with some of the ‘real deals’. I also found some very old and heavy silver beads from the Sahara which my oldest daughter was immediately drawn to and I have decided to keep in the family. Actually, I am meaning to make myself a necklace commemorating/celebrating TWELVE YEARS of breastfeeding my six babies and will likely use those in it. blog II

But my best finds came from a silversmith who let me dig through several buckets he had of old and sometimes broken bits and pieces. I got bits of necklaces, head dresses, earrings and even an old filigree bracelet. I’m hoping to make some assemblage necklaces with the findings like this one I have made for my mom, who I am pretty sure doesn’t read my blog. Mom, are you out there?

The pendant is the top portion of an old Moroccan coin and glass earring- real glass, not the commonly found plastic ones which are still pretty. I added the crystal briolettes and reshaped the earwire into a bale-loop (I couldn’t bring myself to trim it at all). Also from the trip are the old cloisonné beads at the sides. Not sure if they are Moroccan-made or rolled their way to here from some other starting point. My mom had some lovely cloisonné pieces when I was a kid and so I always think of her when I see some. I snagged these with her in mind.

The chain is partially some chain mom had given me a way too long for me necklace of, so I hacked some up to work into this and added my favorite textured slightly oxidized chain there at the bottom center. The faux-second/shorter strand is some tiny rolo and more of the handwrapped red and some blue crystals that I also used on the other strand. I love how the Karen Hill Tribe Thai ‘wrap’ or ‘swirl’ beads nearly blend in where they connect the two chains together- and they also blend into that one cloisonné that has huge openings.

blog IMy mom is a bit of a sneak who likes to dress up a solid colored t-shirt with some fancy adornment, like a silk hand-painted scarf, to wear to work on non-casual days- and she totally gets away with it! I am sure this piece will be another to distract people from realizing that she is wearing her Hanes For Women in the office 😉

These are a couple of the other pieces I am currently playing around with. I haven’t found out anything about how old or where that sweet turquoise inlay/cloisonné-ish comes from, but the other is a traditional  Serrouchen or Haddidhu neillo work piece usually worked into really elaborate necklaces or headdress pieces. I have a few other pieces from the trip already worked into necklaces and bracelets in my Etsy Brookolie shop as well as a collection of vintage Amazigh/Moroccan rings I will be adding to this week. mom 003

Adorn and make on!

~Brooke

 

SISTERS TalkBack! “The Housewife’s Lament”


As the SISTERS’ team was getting ready to print the October issue I caught a glimpse of one of my favourite writers’, Zainab bint Younus, article, “Forgotten Heroines: The Housewife’s Lament.” In my usual state of feeling overwhelmed about my own housework, I quickly lapped up the article hoping for some pearls of wisdom, a boost of inspiration or maybe even some sort of camaraderie in similarly fatigued arms. What I got was mad. I spewed my irritation at my co-editors who told me to “write a response!”

A few days later, Zainab bint Younus separately pointed out some other rhetoric in the September issue that she felt needed critique and correction. An ‘Ah-ha Moment’ happened and we realised that instead of quietly dismissing these bothersome things, we needed to open up this space – “Talk Back” – in which both readers and writers can discuss things published in SISTERS Magazine that they feel uncomfortable about or are downright wrong in some way. So let’s begin this feature with how I felt about the “The Housewife’s Lament” followed by Zainab’s response.

[Brooke Benoit]: When I got to the portion of your article about Fatima (radhiAllahu ‘anha) where you quote the following hadith, I was disappointed and then upset that you used the story in the same way I so commonly see it used in other articles, advices, blogs and so on.

Here is a translation of the hadith:

“Narrated By Ali : Fatima went to the Prophet complaining about the bad effect of the stone hand-mill on her hand. She heard that the Prophet had received a few slave girls. But (when she came there) she did not find him, so she mentioned her problem to ‘Aisha. When the Prophet came, ‘Aisha informed him about that. ‘Ali added, “So the Prophet came to us when we had gone to bed. We wanted to get up (on his arrival) but he said, ‘Stay where you are.” Then he came and sat between me and her and I felt the coldness of his feet on my abdomen. He said, “Shall I direct you to something better than what you have requested? When you go to bed say ‘subhan Allah’ thirty-three times, ‘alhamdulillah’ thirty three times and ‘Allahu akbar’ thirty four times, for that is better for you than a servant.” (Bukhari)

In “The Housewife’s Lament” you say that “… the Muslims had won a battle and, as a result, had captured several prisoners and other spoils of war,” you then go on to describe Fatima (radhiAllahu ‘anha) as asking for a “maidservant” to provide her with some domestic relief. This is how I commonly see this hadith used to dissuade women from asking their husbands to hire domestic help when actually that is not what Fatima (radhiAllahu ‘anha) was asking for.

Just as in the translation above, “slave” and“servant” are used interchangeably (as they were nearly the same during the time of the Prophet (sallAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam)) even though they have very different meanings to us. She was asking for a slave, to own another human being who would – under kind treatment or not – work in Fatima’s home without a choice. That is something quite different from hiring someone and I think a much, much more important point than whether or not women are being lackadaisical with their approach to getting their own housework done.

I agree with you, of course, that Fatima (radhiAllahu ‘anha) is an excellent example (if not The Example) of how a woman can earn her blessings via caring for her family, but I think a larger point to this particular hadith is overlooked. As an example to the Ummah (all of the Muslims) the Prophet (sallAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam), who was actively pushing for Muslims to manumit slaves, did not want his own daughter to hypocritically go against his activism. He did not want her to have a slave and oppress another human being for her own benefit. Patience is better than that kind of shortcut.

Something I worry about is the way this hadith is often used to support the Super Muslimah role – to make women feel like they are being whiny and unappreciative about how much work they have to do and how much help we do have (via modern appliances and other conveniences). But, in my experience, I don’t know any of these spoiled women we hear about who have a servant for each child and do nothing but watch serials in between trips to the mall and salon. I’m sure these women exist, but I don’t know any personally and I don’t think they are the average SISTERS reader.
Nearly all of the women I know earn an income in addition to caring for their home and balancing those responsibilities is a real burden on them and their marriages.

I think the average SISTERS reader is more likely to be someone who is already doing too much and feels guilty that she can’t do more and be like the respectfully endearing Fatima (radhiAllahu ‘anha). I’m worried that while you may have meant to make true housewives feel better about their roles, which can be painfully monotonous and demanding, I think this common misrepresentation of this hadith contributes to inappropriate and damaging guilt. The message is that Fatima (radhiAllahu ‘anha) of all people could have had a little help around the house, but she chose to help her husband save some dirhams instead and drudged on by herself – but that’s not entirely true. Sure, he would have had to feed a slave, but he would not have been paying wages. I really see this hadith being about not oppressing people more than being about humbly accepting household drudgery.

[Zainab bint Younus]: First of all, I’ve got to say that I love the idea of Talk Back! Hearing feedback and constructive criticism is great for any writer who is desperate to know what their readers are thinking. I love this opportunity to be able to discuss anything that my readers find disappointing, irritating or flat out terrible.

With regards to The Housewife’s Lament, it’s part of my series titled “Forgotten Heroines”, which aims to re-examine the lives of the sahabiyyaat and women of Islamic history through a different lens: one which is directly relatable and applicable to Muslim women in every situation of life. My first few articles have dealt with very dramatic themes so far – coming of age, women pioneers, true love and (my favourite) how a villainess became a heroine.

My own life is far from dramatic and, one day when I was struggling to write my next FH article, I thought about how I didn’t feel like my life matched up to the standards of the exciting women I’d written about so far. These women were all very inspiring, yes, but what about women like me – housebound mothers who, quite frankly, don’t have the luxury of pioneering anything or saving the world (yet)? I thought about which sahabiyyah best fit this role, as most of my reading and research has currently been focused on women who performed great feats and found the story of Fatima (radhiAllahu ‘anha).
To be honest, I hadn’t bothered re-reading her story for a long time because it wasn’t as exciting as the others. And that’s when I had my aha! moment. Out of the four women promised Jannah (Asiyah, queen of Egypt; Maryam bint ‘Imran; Khadijah bint Khuwaylid and Fatimah bint Muhammad), only Fatimah’s adult life was, shall we say, unremarkable.

This was what really inspired me to write about Fatimah – the feeling of kinship with a woman who was surrounded by other women whose lives were, in comparison, full of derring-do. Thus, my usage of the commonly quoted hadith was to show that her life was as monotonous as that of the average housewife and that it was not shameful for her to feel sick of it all or ask for help. The fact that she took her father’s advice and resorted to tasbeeh instead of domestic help is merely an illustration of the type of inner strength (which is what I intended to be the focus) that caused her to be one of those who were guaranteed Jannah – what I personally found to be inspirational.

I also understand and agree with your frustration over how this particular hadith is often used to make women feel guilty or ashamed of themselves. My own raging feminist spirit loathes such tired and reinforced interpretations of ahadith. My intent in quoting this hadith was completely unrelated. Though, as I now re-read my article, I can see where I should have used stronger language to focus on my main point; that one doesn’t have to be a world-famous academic or infamous revolutionary in order to be considered strong or worthy in the Sight of Allah.

I found your take on the hadith to be extremely interesting and certainly a valid one. I appreciate you bringing it to my notice, as I’d never thought of it that way before (and I love learning about the deeper dimensions of ahadith and their meanings)! You never know, it could wind up featuring in another FH article in the future, without the typical interpretation attached to it!

Read the original article that inspired the talk back in SISTERS’ October issue!

Brooke Benoit has been working from home for nearly 15 years and recently took her own advice about outsourcing by hiring someone to cook a hot, delicious meal for her family several times a week.

Zainab bint Younus (AnonyMouse) is a young woman who finds constant inspiration in the lives of the sahabiyyat and other great women in Islamic history. She hopes that every Muslimah is able to
identify with the struggles of these inspirational women and follow in their footsteps to become a part of a new generation of powerful Muslim women. She blogs at http://www.thesalafifeminist.blogspot.com.

This article appears in the March 2014 issue of SISTERS Magazine, the magazine for fabulous Muslim women

Mothering Mondays: Maybe It’s A Convert Thing or How Brooke Got Her Sparkle Back

Turqcarn
Carnelian, turquoise, fine and sterling silver charmed bracelet.

Have you heard the one about the convert who accepted a recited surah for her marriage? Or a promise of hajj or a complete set of Sahih Bukhari? If you know me, then you know how disinclined I am to make generalizations, however in this instance it is only converts to Islam who I know waive decent mahrs or accept token 14k gold sets from Macy’s or maybe a Ben Franklin (100 US dollars) as their complete mahr. Here is where I will caveat that this post is about me, me, me- another reflection for the #motherhoodproject, so while he is entangled in my mothering mess- this is not meant to be a reflection on my husband.

I was one of those converts. I got a Gucci watch and a 15-speed bicycle for my mahr. My teen now rides that bike and my tween is coveting the watch. Back then, I (haughtily) didn’t even wear gold, so silver didn’t make much sense for a wedding gift anyway, but then a strange thing happened on the way from the marriage negotiations to the onset of motherhood less than a year later- NO jewelry was bought by or for me. None. This is especially odd considering I worked in a boutique that sold lovely handmade/designer jewelry. And I did use to wear jewelry all the time. I’m sure I had no less than four earrings in my head when I met my husband. So what happened?

I don’t know. I can’t go back and ask my newlywed self, though I suspect she expected her new husband to buy her shiny things (and he likely assumed she would get her own since she was so picky and did work in that boutique). And then while she had picked up some new, more feminine clothes, after being married, she also almost immediately began buying maternity clothes and then ridiculously adorable things for her first born. Of course not only did my mommy-martyr gene activate during pregnancy, but honestly, mobile babies and delicate jewelry are a bad mix. I have had earrings snatched from my lobes and necklaces ripped off my neck by the teeniest of hands. And I couldn’t even find a groove to regularly wear bracelets: get dressed, put on bracelet, take off bracelet to make wudu for thuhr, get distracted by toddler attempting to climb on toilet or crying at the bathroom door and forget bracelet…  I hear this giving up adornment is a common mommy problem.

But then again, I know other Muslimah moms (not converts) who I visited after they gave birth and several where decked out in sparkly and shimmer- some newly gifted to them for having said baby. Again, I can imagine my husband offering me a bit of jewelry after one, two or three births, but I can also see myself waving off the suggestion, “No, no. The baby needs a dresser. And a carseat. And…” Or a jogging stroller, which I have had a few worth the cost of some decent jewelry and would have preferred anyway to something sitting untouched in my non-existent jewelry box.

And then, finally, I recall an offer! I stopped working when my third child was barely a toddler and my husband took up extra work selling Indian-style silver jewelry at a weekend summer market. He was going to get me a little something, he said. I was long overdue, and this was just my kind of thing, so I eagerly waited. And waited. And then I got tired of waiting and decided to get myself something, like I used to do.

Somehow, while searching through Ebay, I found myself staggering the isles of “loose beads” and instantly in LOVE with a strand of faceted Chalcedony briolettes in a daydreamy shade of fairest sky blue. Not only had I not made any jewelry in several years, I also had no idea what one did with a briolette and I didn’t even like blue. Still, 3-5 days later I sent a child out to my roadside mailbox to retrieve my new, not-quite jewelry.

Then the weirdness got weirder. By the end of the summer I had set up a little studio for myself, mastered basic wire-wrapping techniques (I had made jewelry when I was younger), and read through dozens and dozens of resources about how to sell on Ebay- and I was selling- but still, I had zero new jewelry! Of course the husband didn’t bother to bring anything home after I filled the house with strands and strands of precious and semi-precious gemstones, and I was making fabulous one-of-a-kind things, but I didn’t keep any for me. Nothing!

This I blame on some kind of warped sense of humbled aesthesis mis-based in Islam. Have you heard the one about the ungrateful women who were shamed and tore their jewelry from their bodies, throwing it all into a collection for charity? Even with all the contradictory advices to beautify, beautify, beautify one’s self for one’s husband, I just could not bring myself to be one of those greedy, wasteful women who lavishes upon herself.

When I put my Ebay shop on vacation mode so that I could pack up my beads and relocate to Morocco, finally I allowed myself to keep a few things from my stock. Just a few, and still I rarely wore them since I have had a sparkle-snatching infant or toddler in my position for the last 15.5 years.  I do find it… interesting that while I hadn’t been acquiring and wearing much adornment over the years I still found a way to be close to all the pretty, pretty things. And did, in some sense, manage to build up a wealth worth of gold and silver, but on a very practical level- something I blame on my culture of ingenuity and productiveness.

Recently while preparing to reopen my shop, which I had moved to Etsy soon after our move to Morocco, but then took another vacation after the birth of baby #6… I came across some large, angular silver pieces in my stock that I realized I had really been hoarding, why else hadn’t I used them in the nearly ten years that I have had them? Because I wanted them! So I made myself a not-so-little something. And I wore it! Sometimes it ends up in my pocket after wudu sessions, but this latest toddler is a master pick-pocket and she often pulls it back out for me.

While I post pics of works-in-progess and drool-inducing beads on my facebook page, I have heard from a few moms who similarly eschewed the sparkle, perhaps for practical reasons, perhaps as another inherent aspect of mommy-martyrdom. All are converts. So I’m curious Mamas, how is does your jewelry collection grow? Or does it not?

Please follow byBrookoli on facebook for updates on my pretty, pretty handmade things. And never, ever deny yourself 😉

14 Ways To Identify If You Are A Bad Muslim Mom

Skittles
In my sixteen years of mothering I have let the pendulum swing a bit from attempting to be the Ideal Muslim Mom to… well, I’m not going to cop to how many of these items I have done/do. Inspired by this Salon article on ‘bad, slacker moms’ here are the top 14 things that some would have you believe make a Bad Muslim Mom:

14) She doesn’t feed her children exclusively halal certified. Heck, sometimes she doesn’t even double check the labels to see if the ingredients on their favorite junk foods have been recently haramified.

13) Her kids don’t just listen to nasheeds and watch Adam’s World.

12) She bars her teen sons’ friends from coming into the house any old time, because no she doesn’t want to wear full hijab while doing the million things she needs to do so that some kids can play Xbox and/or she simply wants to be comfortable chilling in her home.

11) Not only does she hide special treats just for her; sometimes she foregoes eating sunnah-style with the family and instead eats all by herself.

10) She eats standing up. Ok, we have never seen her walking around the house eating, but she has been known to lean on the kitchen counter and have a snack and/or quick meal.

9) She drinks first whenever the kids ask for a sip of her water/beverage. Drinking children’s nasty, floaty-filled backwash is not purported to be of any benefit.

8) Not only are the children not clean and perfect-looking when father gets home, but she allows her husband to change diapers, give baths and do laundry. That’s right, the Bad Muslim Mom has a j-o-b. Or she just doesn’t feel the need to do every freaking thing for every freaking person in the house.

7) She isn’t always so clean or perfect-looking herself in front of hubby. Please, the man saw her give birth. Several times.

6) When she can, she sleeps after Fajr and naps after Asr.

5) She isn’t always ready for or even welcoming to unexpected guests. Actually, she has been known to corral the children into a back bedroom and make them hush until the blessing-filled opportunity of feeding and entertaining a guest has passed by.

4) She doesn’t hide that fact that she’s on her period. That means she eats in front of family members during Ramadan and she doesn’t ever pretend to pray in front of anyone. Shoot, she doesn’t even bother to wake the kids for Fajr or suhoor during those days.

3) She doesn’t take the kids to weekend madrassa because, seriously, she can’t deal with you all.

2) She doesn’t speak Arabic.

1) She says “no” to the Good Muslim Father when he is being unreasonable or she simply cannot accommodate him cuz she’s a MOM with MOM stuff to do.

Let she who has never savored her own family-sized bag of Doritos cast first.