A Letter to Mothers without Partners
In the first nine months of my daughter’s life, she was a very needy baby. I hardly had any sleep and her constant fussing drove me up the wall. I could barely hold on to my sanity while taking care of one little baby, with my husband’s help. I remember thinking that single-parents must be superhuman or something. And then I became a single parent and I understood just how plainly human they (we) are.
I’m writing this because I’m tired of waiting for scholars or people of knowledge to talk about how to be a good parent when you’re a single parent. They barely acknowledge that we exist, and those who do speak about single parenthood make it sound like the worst thing in existence, as though our children can only turn out to be mediocre people (at best). Without any regard for our circumstances, they often insist that we must immediately partner-up so we can be a whole family again.
I’m not writing this letter for single moms because anyone else needs to read it. I’m writing this letter because I need to read it:
First, know that you are just human.
When your body feels like it is going to break because of exhaustion and when your heart feels like it can’t simultaneously house the feelings of love, pain and stress – know that you are just human. It’s okay to be frayed. It’s okay to not always be able to relate to other parents who live in nuclear families. Sometimes it’s okay to not ask for help. But it’s also okay to ask for support from your friends and families. It doesn’t make you weak, it just makes you human. And that’s what you already are.
You are not a superhuman being, and you don’t need to be. Allah (swt) created you as a human knowing that humans often do not realize their own strength…
When Prophet Muhammad (saw) lost his beloved son Ibrahim, he held is small body in his arms and said “The eyes send their tears and the heart is saddened, but we do not say anything except that which pleases our Lord. Indeed, O Ibrahim, we are bereaved by your departure from us.”
Then he turned his face towards the mountain before him and said, “O mountain! If you were as sorrowful as I am, you would certainly crumble into pieces! But we say what Allah has ordered us…”
The human heart is just a small, fragile piece of flesh. We are fascinated by superhuman features in stories and movies because we think these characteristics would make us better and more capable creatures. But with faith and patience, our hearts and bodies are able to carry the kinds of weight and pain that would cause a mountain to disintegrate.
Your steep mountain of pain and longing and sleepless nights are not unknown to Allah.
Glad tidings from a Lord who is Generous and Kind and who will not allow a single deed of a believer to go to waste. Every moment you carry your child, feed her, clothe her, teach her, drive her around, discipline her and endure her difficult words and actions, you are being rewarded.
When you hide in the bathroom and cry because you are angry and upset but you don’t want your child to see, or when you are so frustrated you almost raise your hand to strike your child but you stop yourself because you want to be merciful – then, glad tidings from a Lord who is more merciful than you.
When you are faced with people who don’t understand why you can’t seem to get your children to bed on time, or potty train them at lightning speed, or help them get exactly perfect scores in every subject – glad tidings from a Lord who understands while others do not.
Glad tidings to you from a Lord who multiplies the good deeds of His servants. And if you are carrying the weight of two parents, even though your legs are about to buckle from the pressure and your voice is getting permanently hoarse from speaking and teaching and asking and reprimanding…Allah (swt) will surely multiply your deeds in a way you cannot quite imagine.
And there’s something else. Whether you are a single parent by choice or not, you have become an opportunity for others to get closer to Allah (swt).
If you are a widow raising orphans, those who are kind and supportive to you and your children will have their reward with Allah:
The Prophet Muhammad (saw) said: “one who looks after a widow or a poor person is like a Mujahid (i.e. one striving) in the cause of Allah, or like he who prays throughout the night and fasts all the day.” There are also many similar narrations of those who care for orphans and how they will be in the company of the prophet in Paradise.
Even if you are a single-parent by choice, those who help you are actually helping themselves:
The Prophet Muhammad (saw) said: “Shall I guide you to the best (form of) charity? It is to provide for your daughter when she (returns) to you (because of divorce or other circumstances) and has no one but you to provide for her.”
Not only will Allah (swt) multiply your righteous deeds in caring for your children, but your family has now also become a potential source of good and reward for your extended family and entire community. You are entitled to having their help when you need it. Whether or not the people around you realize this is a different story.
And if they don’t realize it, then seek the help of Allah (swt). If He helps you, no one can bring you down.
Finally, be where you are. You are parenting alone right now and unfortunately a lot of people who write and teach about parenting don’t understand this concept. They don’t want you to be where you are. They want you to be where they think you should be: in a nuclear family household, at all costs.
But you must be where you are. Do what you can to seek out the balance and stability and mental health that is so necessary for yourself and your children. Do what you can to be that pillar of strength for your children. Tomorrow, things might change. But today, you are here.
Make here the best it can be.