If it takes a strong marriage to build a strong family, then it takes strong people to build a strong marriage.
But how do we know if we are strong, what does strong mean and what makes us weak in the first place?
On the journey to find my best-self and parent from a place of strength and patience, I’ve been challenged (like you) with some pretty heavy tests. But I took each one as an opportunity to learn and grow, and now I’m sharing what I’ve learned the hard way, to help you.
Are you ready to learn and implement the 4 secret skills of strong parents? Keep reading, transformation awaits you.
Self-awareness literally means slowing down, reducing the noise and chaos in your life and becoming more mindful so that you can be more in tune with your feelings, thoughts and body.
This is especially hard because we often distract ourselves from the difficult things we are feeling and facing by filling our lives with mindless things like TV, shopping and socialising. But these things fill our minds too and leave little room to think through our problems and triggers.
I talk about this a lot, but for good reason. If you have no idea why you’re feeling the way you are, what you’re feeling or are clueless about how to fix the problems you’re facing, you must stop, slow down and pay attention to your:
- Energy levels
I can’t drill this home enough. Without being aware of what triggers your emotions whether tears or anger, you can’t begin to help yourself.
Feeling exhausted and dissatisfied regularly is a clear sign that your life is not balanced. When I talk about self-care, I don’t mean a date with Netflix once the kids are in bed or a shopping spree whilst mum babysits.
Nope, that’s not true self-care.
That’s an attempt at balancing out your busy and stressful days by doing a mindless activity that makes you feel temporarily relaxed and happy. I don’t blame you for thinking it is. You’re doing what you know – what everyone else does.
But without going too much into the curious popularity of ‘netflix and chill’ and ‘retail therapy’ messages, have a quick think about who is really benefiting from having us think that ‘binge-watching’ and shopping hauls are the best way to balance out motherhood or life in general?
“But it works!” I hear you cry. Yes and no.
A bit of escapism through a masterly crafted TV series allows our minds to switch off from the difficulties of life and gives us a sense of thrill and pleasure. Our bodies rush with dopamine making us feel relaxed and happy. The same goes for shopping. No one can deny the satisfaction of a new outfit or handbag etc.
But it’s a temporary feeling. Once the experience is over – the series ends or you turn off the TV, or the novelty of your latest purchase has worn off, dopamine is no longer rushing through your body and so your body begins to crave it. And that’s why you continue to drop your kids at mums to go shopping even though you know you don’t need anymore stuff, or the only thing keeping you going through the day is knowing once 8pm comes, your kids will be in bed, and you can finally chill in front of your latest Netflix addiction. (Yes addiction.)
This is not self-care. And I’m pretty sure no one can argue with me at this point?
That includes the needs of your:
And it means crafting your day (yes everyday) to balance out those needs. So that before long you will have no NEED to crave Netflix and have no NEED to keep shopping and buying the latest trends.
Sounds like freedom right? It is. You should try it, and watch how the stress and exhaustion begins to crumble away.
But how can you nurture, train, teach and discipline mini-human beings if you don’t know what they truly need or how to give it to them? And how can you do all that if you have lots to work on yourself at the same time and don’t forget your marriage too.
This is where self-development comes in. You mustn’t think your educational days are over. But rather understand that life is a continuous journey of learning and improving.
As part of your self-care, make time to read, watch, listen to and learn, all about parenting, relationships and general understanding of people (read: psychology) from both Islamic sources and cross-cultural sources. There is much to learn. And these are things we were strangely never taught, yet the most important and foundational elements to our success in life!
Educating yourself (and you don’t need to necessarily shell out sums of money to go on courses etc) is the greatest form of self-empowerment. And it will give you a long-lasting sense of satisfaction too, (not just a temporary dopamine fix,) especially when you see the fruits of what you apply to your parenting and marriage.
I’ve said it before, but I’ll say it again because it’s so, so important.
Most of us have not been raised in entirely healthy environments, neither were our parents or grandparents, because for decades, or centuries even, the world has been drastically geared towards capitalism and profit.
This means that the priority for most families is money (read: careers) rather than building strong healthy families from which strong healthy people can grow. That’s why the world is full of dysfunctional families trying their best to stick together (because by the mercy of Allah, he made that our fitrah).
But because neither you nor I are entirely healthy people, we have formed unhealthy habits and traits which most of the time we have absolutely no awareness of.
That’s why I highly recommend every Muslim who is experiencing difficulty and can’t understand how to solve it without running away from said difficulty, to see a Muslim coach, therapist, councillor or psychiatrist.
But I know it’s not always so easy to get professional help.
If you can’t, and there are many reasons for that, taboo being one of them or financial constraints, then the next best thing is to go back to step 1 (above) and start helping yourself.
Whichever path you take, professional or self-help, you will need to start ‘talking’ to yourself if you truly want to transform into a strong person (and parent).
We all have an unspoken (and often spoken) narrative in our heads about ourselves. Invest in a trusty journal and begin a habit of dissecting your thoughts, feelings and triggers on paper. Coach yourself, console yourself, rationalise for yourself, cheer for yourself and problem solve too.
If you suffer from anxiety then getting a grip of your thoughts and mentally talking to yourself as if you were an ideal big sister/mum/best friend really does wonders too.
You are capable, you have power. Just choose it.
Establishing these 4 skills and making them into habits will truly transform your life. Things will become clear, you’ll be empowered to take control and your parenting, marriage and relationships should start to bring your fulfilment and happiness from which you will no longer have to run.
May Allah bless you on your journey in this world and make you from those who He is pleased with – because once you take care of Allah, He will take care of you.