I’ve been asked numerous times where the idea of the Muslim Mom Network (MMN) came from. I’d love to say it was a grand, noble vision of serving my community, but truthfully my reasons for launching this Google group were purely selfish. I was a new, struggling mother – often times lonely, tired, and insecure. Friends, family, the media and even our faith tend to focus on the joys of motherhood—and there are many; however, its darker side is often swept under the rug.
Rarely do we candidly acknowledge the side that keeps one guilt-ridden and up at night. Before giving birth, much of the focus is on baby names, nurseries and onesies, but few warn you that the price of membership into the institution of motherhood will often leave you estranged from your former self. There are the physical trials—nursing, sleep deprivation and the physical exhaustion. There is the worrying – about the right food, the right discipline, the right education, and whether everything you say and do will create the next great thinker or scar your child for life.
But perhaps the most difficult part of motherhood is internalizing that you are responsible for raising another human being in a way that will please Allah and serve humanity. The fear of failing at this all important task can be paralyzing, leaving a mother to second guess even the smallest of parenting decisions.
As modern day mothers in America, we now have a job that had once been a community effort. Today, you’ll rarely find a grandmother who lives with her grandchildren or an uncle down the block. In times past neighbors, teachers and relatives shouldered some of the responsibility of teaching your child right from wrong; there was a communal stake in the upbringing of each generation. Today, extended family are scattered far and wide and your values may be very different from those of the surrounding community. Because these support systems have fallen away, parents are on their own, expected to masterfully wear all hats at all times.
Over the years, as the virtual group has rapidly grown, I’ve observed one facet of motherhood that is routinely overlooked—a mother’s ability to see their children in the struggles of others and the resulting outpouring of empathy and effort to do anything she can to help. MMN tapped into this reservoir of compassion by launching Project Mpower to support existing charities and organizations. We have collected books written in Arabic to help the Palestinian Children’s Relief Fund start and stock a library for children who have come from abroad.
We regularly support WAFA House, an organization focused on providing social services for domestic violence victims, therapy. We recently gathered over 100 boxes of brand new coats, blankets and winter gear for Syrian refugee families through an online registry. Our efforts are small in scope, virtual in nature, but always, our hopes are to alleviate the burden of others.
I hope that even more forums and resources like ours are created to bring women and mothers together. In the meantime, we have our virtual village, and I invite anyone who would like to join us. Our paths may be different but our ultimate destination is the same – to raise happy, healthy Muslim children, and to support one another in our efforts to please Allah.
Hala Amer is the founder of the Muslim Mom Network (MMN). She currently spends her time homeschooling her three boys, occasionally writing for Grow Mama Grow (a Patheos blog) and Al-Madina Institute and doing volunteer work. This post was originally published on Altmuslimah, which is not affiliated with Altmuslim.