I always thought I had to find my one thing, the pursuit or career through which I would make my contribution to Islam, society, or humanity. Taught by motivational lecturers and life-planning books that a jack-of-all-trades would never make a difference, I thought that to give my life meaning I had to excel phenomenally at one thing. I panicked in college as I looked for the perfect formula—the field that I liked, full of potential, filled with passion, that I could realistically do with kids and a career-minded, activist husband.
In grad school I questioned myself over and over again—will I realistically be able to keep up with a PhD program? Six months pregnant and incredibly distracted, I couldn’t look at one more book on the history of trade in 19th century Egypt.
Never found it, the major … or that one thing. But I think I came upon a much more practical way of planning the life of a mother. It involves breaking life into pieces and being the best you can be according to where you are and doing what you can with what you have now. There are lots of mothers out there who have careers or are able to concentrate on a talent or interest that they have, but others like me cannot seem to settle down and focus on one or two pursuits for a lifetime.
Instead, I tried planning my life out for the next one or two years, and didn’t go much beyond that. There is no way I can guess what my life circumstances will be like with more children, as a homeschooling mom, in another city, if someone in the family has special needs, or when my end will come—so I stopped planning that far ahead. I tried only choosing the most uplifiting, reward-filled, and empowering activities for the next two years, in terms of my mothering, spirituality, my skills development, and my area of contribution. Whatever I did choose, it would have to be something I would be proud and fulfilled doing that for the rest of my life (in case it turns out to be the thing or I returned to my Creator tomorrow).
I made a little map for myself, and stuck it in my wallet so I don’t get sidetracked. I’m allowed to take detours and change direction, just not when I’m discouraged or demoralized.
With the pressure relieved of having to predict every bend and turn in my future, to sacrifice the cuddly, messy demands of now for a false sense of life-cohesiveness and capsulize my dreams and interests, the possibilities are unlimited. I chart the course of my next little piece of life, knowing that the winds can change and I may decide to do something totally new and unexpected tomorrow.
In the meantime, I will try to do exactly what I want to and must for my Creator, my kids, and myself. I feel free.
by Maha Ezzeddine
Maha Ezzeddine lives in Texas with her husband and two daughters. She is a dedicated MAS worker, wannabe crunchy homemaker and part-time writer.