I really wish I could be a better mother but I just don’t know how… I want to talk to my kids differently, but I just keep defaulting back to being a yeller.. I feel like someone pushed the fast forward button in my life and I don’t know how to slow it down… I feel dead inside, like I have zero emaan left.. There are so many things I wish I was doing, I wish I could change, but I just don’t have the time or the energy right now.
Sound familiar? I am in the business of talking to mothers and I can’t tell you how many time I have heard these words come out of a mother’s mouth. I have to admit I can’t tell you how many times I said these words myself! I truly believe that mothers have the power to change the world. They have the potential to be a great army of fighters, aimed at mobilizing change, beginning with their own children. And yet, when I look mothers around me, I see exhaustion, fatigue and women living on the brink. Most are not living their best self and most do not live up to their greatest potential.
In this article, I’d like to explore how we can change – how we can begin living our best so that we can be the best mother, wife, daughter, sister and most importantly, slave of Allah subḥānahu wa ta’āla (glorified and exalted be He). I would like to offer you some practical advice on how women, especially mothers, can become more effective in their roles, through one easy step.
Why Do I Need Mindful Me Minutes?
Me time. We all need it, and yet, there never seems to be enough of it. Thus is the life of mothers! We live our lives knowing and wanting more time for ourselves, and yet this action item inevitably finds itself at the bottom of our massive to-do lists. Unfortunately, there are always more important things that need to get done.
What if I told you that 10 minutes a day of doing nothing is more important than any other ten minutes that you spend doing a chore or ticking something of your to-do list? Would you believe me? That, by investing in just 10 minutes each day, doing nothing, in the company of yourself, you could actually increase your productivity for the rest of the day? That by spending those same 10 minutes each day just thinking for yourself (or not thinking!), you could alter the way you think for the remaining minutes in the day?
Could 10 minutes be that significant?
Let’s break down why we need mindful me minutes:
- It allows us to form our own view of the world. In a world full of noise, silence is priceless. We live in a time of increasing social media, constant in our ever busy lives. As it increases, so too does the need to have some silence. To live with just our own thoughts. Indeed, how will we form our own thoughts if we don’t have some quiet time to figure them out? Being alone, even if just for a few minutes, allows us to figure out what we think. We can work through our own problems, decide what is important, or perhaps talk ourselves down from high stress situations.
- It inspires creativity. John Updike, a Pulitzer Prize-winning author said “Ideally, much of my day should be, in a strict sense, idle, for it is often in idle moments that real inspiration comes.” It is in these moments – these moments of solitude – that ideas around born.
- Alone time is a time of rest for the brain. When you sleep, your body takes a break and heals itself. When we do not get our required amount of sleep, our bodies become ill from overwork. Our brain needs a similar break to rest, which comes in moments of solitude. Being alone allows our minds to recharge from the intense workout it gets throughout the day, allowing it to function better.
- Solitude changes your perspective. It helps you to take a moment to step back and see the big picture. Having alone time allows you to stop and determine the importance and scale of life’s different hurdles. Once you start again, you take life more slowly.. deliberately.
So, we have established that alone time is important. But that doesn’t take away the impossibility of getting it when you’re a mother, right?
The truth is, every mother can collect minutes for herself somewhere in the day. We all are guilty of being ‘sloppy’ with our time. There are moments in the day when all the kids are occupied and we use that time looking at a screen versus looking within. Or better yet, what happens when our kids are in bed? Do we stay up under the guise of ‘me time’ but really use that time to stare at a screen?
Ten minutes a day devoted to yourself will help you align the rest of your day. When you realize that each day contains 1,440 minutes, perhaps it will be easier to find those 10 minutes somewhere.
What Should I Do in My Mindful Me Minutes?
The question we need to ask ourselves is, what constitutes ‘me time’? I would argue that many of us think we’re taking time for ourselves each day, but we are filling it with things that make it ineffective. So, what are the do’s and don’ts of good ‘me time’?
- Do not look at screens. Technology is not allowed!
- Do look at books. Books and reading provide the ultimate form of relaxation. But no electronic readers! If you want to read, go to a library or bookstore and get a good old fashioned book.
- Do pray! Prayer is amazing mindful me time! Allah subḥānahu wa ta’āla (glorified and exalted be He) scheduled mindful me time for us 5 times a day, mamas! It’s unfortunate that we don’t think about salah this way, but we should. This is our time to refocus our thoughts, refresh our brains and remind ourselves of our ultimate purpose.
- Recite Qur’an, memorise a few ayaahs and perform dhikr. Connecting with Allah subḥānahu wa ta’āla (glorified and exalted be He) in this manner will soothe your soul.
- Try to be alone. Our energy changes with the presence of even one person. This is not to say that you do not want to relax with your husband, but being alone will free your mind of external distractions. Explain to your spouse and family about your mindful me minutes – you could even encourage your husband to give himself 10 mindful me minutes, and take turns to watch the children while you each take out this precious time to reframe your mind.
- Do be mindful of your me time. This is the key to making this work. You must be aware that this is your time to refocus. I can find mindful me minutes at the gym or driving in the car, as long as I think to myself, ‘this is my time for myself’. If not, these minutes will pass without any of the previously mentioned benefits.
- Just sit and do nothing. In a society that values busyness, doing nothing seems lazy, perhaps even wasteful. Doing nothing is good for your mind, so don’t always feel pressured to do something during your mindful me time. Sometimes you need to give your mind space to breathe and rejuvenate.
- Use this list to do something different in each of your “mindful me minutes”. This way, you ensure that your mindful me minutes do not become dull, which can lead to distraction.
Utilizing “mindful me time” each day becomes a muscle that we strengthen each time we practice it. Ideally, we want to become like our beloved Prophet Muhammad ṣallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him), who was frequently in a state of reflection and dhikr. Indeed, he ṣallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) tells his companions, “Let not your tongue cease to be moist with the remembrance of Allah, mighty is He and majestic.” [At-Tirmidhi] This constant dhikr allowed them to center themselves, to remember their place in this world, and to remember that their ultimate goal is to serve Allah subḥānahu wa ta’āla (glorified and exalted be He).
As mothers, sometimes we feel as though our busyness is an insurmountable hurdle in taking time for ourselves. If we don’t take these important moments for ourselves, we will continue to drown in our to-do’s at the expense of our emaan. The Qur’an says “Indeed, your wealth and children are a trial” [Qur’an: Chapter 64: Verse 15], so we need to make sure we are in a strong mental state to succeed at this test. Despite how busy are lives are, we should never forget all those who came before us, how much they accomplished while frequently making time to reflect.
Suddenly, 10 minutes doesn’t seem like very much, does it?