Being a parent is a blessing. It’s a joyous time. It brings light into one’s life.
But being a parent is also exhausting, emotional, lonely, and challenging.
On top of this, many Muslim parents are working through their own trauma and triggers that have been passed down through their upbringing.
One can find that it’s easy to replicate the negative cycle we were subjected to by our parents, despite vowing to do better.
We spoke to Maryam, an education consultant, and parenting coach specialising in holistic education and conscious parenting, about the difficulties of motherhood, how colonialism has influenced generational trauma, and what advice she’d give to mothers.
I thought, is this what being a mother is supposed to feel like and look like?
I used a particular phrase that I remember writing down in my journal. It was ‘I have to save my three girls’, I had to save them from whom I was becoming.
Nobody wants to openly say ‘I’m not enjoying motherhood’, because there’s a lot of shame and guilt that’s carried with that.
Sometimes when you go to family for support, they have good intentions, but they don’t understand. For them, they say ‘have sabr and it’ll get easier.’
There’s a quote, ‘shame dies in safe spaces.’
I didn’t have spaces like that at that time. I feel like it affected the quality of my motherhood experience in the early years as well as the quality of mothering I was able to give my children. Many of us repeat how we’ve been parented and do our best until we know better.
That’s why I wanted to provide a safe space for black and brown Mums.’
You may wonder what colonialism has to do with parenting.
Colonialism has incited violence and destroyed communities that have led to a disconnect from our roots and identity.
This trauma has remained in our communities and has been passed down through generations.
Trauma can leave a chemical mark on a person’s genes, which can then be passed down to future generations.
This mark doesn’t cause a genetic mutation, but it does alter the mechanism by which the gene is expressed. This alteration is not genetic, but epigenetic.
Maryam makes a connection with the need to decolonise parenting in order to begin the healing process.
‘I have an undergraduate degree in South Asian African colonial history, and I talk a lot about decolonisation regarding our parenting.
It’s been highlighted how much violence is normalised in our black and brown communities.
We have learned a behaviour which is very much rooted in control and violence. What I mean by violence is shouting, screaming, hitting, emotional blackmail and control, all of which have become normal.
We see memes about these things and we joke about our experiences, but I think it’s really sad how that’s normalised.
It’s sad because when I talk about conscious parenting, there is the feedback of ‘this is new, this is for white people.’
People think this is new, but it’s not. All these concepts and principles are from our deen.
Our parents did the best they could with the tools they had at that specific time. Two things can coexist, that they did their best, but we also still feel the hurt and the consequences of those things.
Going back to history and parenting, when you witness something violent and traumatic, like slavery or partition, naturally, those things are going to ripple down.
As people of colour, we parent from a place of tough love. We think that tough love is going to protect our children when they go out into that world. But I always argue that no amount of tough love can ever protect your children from everything that’s going on. So isn’t it better that you root your home in love and interest?’
Some feedback to this approach can be ‘should we throw our culture in the bin?”
There are toxic elements of our cultures that we don’t have to carry forward. But we have so many beautiful parts of our cultures that we can carry forward.
What we need to start doing as a generation is questioning why we do things the way we do.
First and foremost we should turn back to our deen first and not be afraid to ask these questions.
With questioning sometimes comes a lot of shame and guilt because you think, am I being disrespectful towards my parents? Am I losing my culture? Am I being disloyal? There are lots of these feelings that always come up.
Be conscious of the fact that Allah is always watching your light and is always aware.
‘Interestingly enough, we started off by focusing on homeschooling and home education. That’s when I realised, what’s the biggest thing that’ll impact your home education? It’s your parenting.
I went back to university to study postgraduate education. I studied Montessori, which is an alternative method to education, very holistic in nature and falls in line with Islam.
It focuses on nurturing the whole child and is a beautiful and unbiased approach.
That’s where my ideals slowly started changing. I started realising that there was another way.
That’s when I started seeking help, and I realised that we can actually mesh these things with our deen and culture.
Now, I have memberships, I do workshops and programmes. I run an amazing book club which happens every single week.
Nurturing learners has been around for almost six years now, and my priority is to create a safe space for parents.
In these safe spaces, we talk about everything and anything. If mums come and say ‘I felt like hitting my child today,’ there’s no shame or guilt in admitting that.
In my spaces, I emphasise that it’s not about shaming yourself if you catch yourself doing these things. It’s about taking radical responsibility, and being transparent with yourself so that you can move forward.’
‘The number one thing I would say is support. I always bang on about the village and how it doesn’t exist anymore.
Despite this, parents who are reading need to give themselves a break.
You are doing the job of 30/40 people.
It’s making us feel like we need to do everything on our own, and we can’t. That’s a lot of pressure as a parent, and it’s no wonder that your behaviour becomes the way it does.
One of the factors that influence our behaviour is a lack of support. The reason I say this is not just because of personal experience but also from years of coaching. I’ve seen that this is a big area where people lack support.
My advice would be first, give yourself a break. If you catch yourself doing things and you think, Oh, my gosh, I’m doing what my parents are doing, it’s okay. Self-awareness is key. Think about what baby steps you can take and where can you reach out for support.
Don’t feel like you don’t have to do it alone. The village may not be out there in the way it was before. I speak particularly to Mothers; I think there’s an epidemic of not being able to trust each other as women anymore.
That’s the number one thing we need to start doing. Remove the mask that we all walk around with. If someone asks you, how are you? We say Alhamdulillah, but that may not be the case, right? It’s okay to say, I’m struggling, I didn’t get enough sleep and you know, it’s rubbish. It’s okay. So I would say support is absolutely key.’
If you’re interested in signing up for 1 to 1 coaching calls with Maryam or want to know more about her services, you can find more here.