I recall watching a rather amusing video some months ago in which candidates were interviewed for the toughest job in the world. The “Director of Operations” was required to work 24/7, be constantly on their feet, continuously attend to, and sometimes stay up at night with their “associate”, to have wide-ranging skills for completing a multitude of tasks, to work extra on holidays, and to complete all this with a happy disposition. All this for no pay. The astonished interviewees were then informed that this is a real job, the job of mothers.
Whilst it was for the most part an entertaining way to remind people to appreciate their mothers on the occasion of Mothers’ Day, the video got me thinking about my own role as a mother, and how, in fact, to see the role of motherhood and homemaking as a career in itself can be useful.
Some time ago, a father wrote a blog post, demonstrating that for all the services his wife provided in her homemaking, from laundry to cooking, childcare and more, a conservative estimate of the salary she would earn for this work was over $70,000. Yet homemakers, day-to-day, often do not appreciate the value of what they do. They see their husbands out at work, getting tasks done, completing projects, being promoted and receiving their pay checks at the end of the month. Yet what they see for themselves is a never-ending war of attrition with the dishes in the sink, the laundry hamper and the crumbs on the floor. They repeat the same tasks, day in, day out, and with each subsequent child, have less and less time to themselves. Some days just getting to bedtime without having ‘leaked’ when sneezing, and everyone having been fed is the measure of success.
However, the work of homemaking and motherhood is so important! So much in our deen attests to this, and there are a multitude of articles and blogs one can read for inspiration on this vital service for humanity. A way for a homemaker to practically boost her confidence in this regard, is to start seeing her role professionally, not just saying this as a thought to herself, but in a completely serious, tangible way. Here are some practical steps on how this can be achieved:
Write out your job description
Get out a pen and paper (or type it up if you like), and write down what it is that your job entails. Go on, I’ll wait. Just as with the “Director of Operations”, what are the roles and tasks you need or want to fulfil? What are the necessary and desirable skill sets this requires? Getting this down on paper will allow you to really see and begin to appreciate all the things you do (and also give you space to aspire to greatness…).
Make a homemaking binder
Do you have all sorts of ideas for your homemaking floating around in your head without a place to call home? Are there lots of slips of paper and assorted notebooks scattered around the house containing all the things you need to keep in mind when running the house? Why not keep them all in one place! Enter the homemaking binder. With sections for goals, schedules, to do lists, finances, meal planning and whatever else takes your fancy (including that job description you just made), you can really get on top of things. A quick web search or Pinterest will give you heaps of inspiration.
Get ready in the morning
Who shows up at work in their pyjamas? Well, maybe at Google or Facebook where people have pool tables instead of desks, but on a serious note, you will feel immeasurably more productive when you get dressed and freshen up in the morning. Ideally, try to be up before the kids (you wouldn’t want to turn up at a meeting after the client would you?). Having even ten minutes to collect yourself physically and mentally before the action kicks off, will inshaAllah mean you reap the rewards for the rest of the day by feeling great.
Have routines and schedules
It’s quite easy for time to get the better of us and for us to simply float through our daily tasks, but our deen holds us accountable for our time. The wise Imam Ghazali mentions in his book, “The Beginning of Guidance”, that spiritual blessings (barakah) descend on our time when we assign specific activities to specific times. Try to keep fixed morning and evening routines, including times for worship. Make (manageable) weekly or monthly plans for cleaning so things don’t build up, and keep records of things that happen weekly, monthly, and annually, including family traditions. When the day-to-day becomes routine, we have more room to think of new things we’d like to work on.
Make time for CPD (continuing professional development)
Having written your job description in step one, you may notice that there are numerous areas that you feel you could be improving as a homemaker. Like many other careers, this role is largely learnt “on the job” and so it is natural to be on a continuous learning curve. We should actively guide the direction of this professional development. Make a list of the things you want to work on, and keep this in a specific section of your homemaking binder. It may be cooking more from scratch, taking a parenting course, learning how to keep things clean without using nasty chemicals… whatever it may be, make goals for the future, and make specific, measurable targets to aim toward, so that you can slowly but surely achieve them.
Discuss your role with your supervisor
Your supervisor (ahem, husband), although not your boss, is there to make sure things at ‘Home HQ’ are running smoothly, and to give you moral support. If your work is overwhelming, discuss it with him. Try to make sure you are both on the same page regarding your work. Strive towards a joint vision for your family – you could even write it down and put it in your binder ;-).
Treat the delegates exceptionally well
Imagine that an important client has called, telling you that he is sending some foreign delegates to your country. It is your job to receive these delegates and to prepare them for their activities, including teaching them your country’s language and customs. These delegates turn up, you are very excited to greet them, but unfortunately their language skills are quite poor and they really aren’t used to your customs. In fact, their behaviour is causing some difficulty for you. Regardless, thinking of the respect due to your client, and the responsibility you have to complete the job, you must patiently persevere. Well, these delegates are our children, who Allah has entrusted to us for a limited time for us to bring them up soundly. They do not belong to us, and we must be proactive in our role in parenting them, so that they can grow up to be confident, competent Muslims who can contribute to the world.
Develop a work-life balance
No-one can work 24/7. However, as homemakers and mothers, extended hours are part of the job. Living at our place of work also means it is easy to blur the lines of your various roles, and to lose yourself in it all and become a workaholic. Eventually giving all of yourself to your family and leaving nothing for yourself, will result in burnout, either physically, mentally or spiritually. Make sure to keep a sense of perspective and to take care of yourself, as this in turn will mean you can take better care of your family.
Be confident and joyful!
A big part your success in homemaking, will be defined by your attitude. When you are asked what you do, do you try to think of something to add to the fact that you stay at home? If yes, stop that right now! Exude confidence and happiness. As wives and mothers we provide stability, comfort and ensure our family members feel loved. This is our primary job. It’s far more important to have a happy, spiritually healthy family than a clean oven. Just as doctors have their bedside manner and receptionists are smiling and helpful, the role of a homemaker requires a joyful and loving disposition. If you are feeling down, force a smile, thank Allah for just one of the innumerable blessings in your life, remember that smiling is a sunnah and inshaAllah you’ll find yourself genuinely smiling in no time.
Have regular meetings with the Boss (Allah swt!)
At the end of our life, the only One we will be accountable to is Allah swt, our loving and merciful Lord. Allah has created us to worship Him, and He wishes for us to strive for ihsan, for excellence in all that we do. Having been given the great blessing of a family and home to take care of, we must strive for this excellence. Continuously connecting with “the Boss”, by praying with concentration, by making du’a and doing dhikr throughout the day, will allow us to keep this all in perspective, inshaAllah.