Sometimes I wish I was her. The perfect mom. The one I see when I’m dropping off my girls to preschool. She’s so put together, in her trendy outfit and make-up expertly applied. Wearing those cute high heels I saw at the mall the other day. The ones that were so hip, so expensive, so wrong for me.
She’s gives a perfect kiss to her perfect kid and is off to work at her important job, making some sort of contribution to society. She walks off with such confidence and assurance, KNOWING she knows what she’s doing.
I saw her at the grocery store too, with both perfectly behaved toddlers riding in the car below as she stocked up on her organic produce. She’s going home to cook a delicious meal from scratch made only with the best ingredients for her family, who will devour everything she makes with huge smiles on their faces. She’ll tidy up the house and do some laundry, but not before engaging in some sort of activity with the kids.
I bumped into her at the masjid over the weekend as she was dropping off her kids to Sunday school. MashAllah, even her little ones know the Arabic alphabet and are already reciting many surahs from the Quran. She’s going to volunteer some time to help out with the fundraising dinner while organizing the sister’s committee.
I think of her as I trudge through my day. Jeans and sneakers as usual. Dropping off kids, running errands, picking up kids. Am I doing enough? Will it ever be enough? Am i pushing too hard? Did my little one start preschool too early? Do I have too much scheduled for my older one? I pushed them out into this world, and ever since I’ve been pushing for more from them, and myself. To do more, to reach for more, to be more. Are they going to think that I was never satisfied with them? Or just with myself?
In addition to the backpacks and sippee cups, I carry a lot of baggage with me: insecurity, guilt, and shame of not being the perfect mom. I know that there’s no such thing. We’re all doing the best that we can with what Allah has given us. Nothing more or less than we can handle. Some may hide it better than others while others may glow in the radiance and acceptance of it.
Maybe there’s a mother out there who sees me and (mistakenly) thinks that I have it all together while I’m thinking the same thing of her. We’re all in sisterhood of mothers.
We moms are handed a new situation every day and are expected to handle it with grace and discipline. My kids surprise me moment to moment with their pure love and generosity. And jealousy and tantrums and everything else in between. I don’t care if my daughter doesn’t know the difference between brown and black, but I’m proud that teacher called her “very kind’. The one constant in our lives is our sincere and unwavering, and yes, imperfect, devotion to each other. I want the girls to look back on their childhoods as one long, endless summer that makes them smile just thinking about it.
At the end of each day, when the girls are finally asleep after a day of giggling and coloring, and fighting and screaming and hugging and kissing, I look down at my feet. I think to myself, ‘man, I need a pedicure’. Then I look again. Jannah is beneath these feet. If Allah can have so much faith me, I believe I can have a little in myself. Everything will be ok inshAllah.
Saba Ali Arian
Saba Ali Arain is an amateur circus performer; juggling two wonderful little girls and a loving husband while whistling a happy tune. She lives with her family in Oakland, NJ.