No-one hands you a book on life, motherhood or being a single parent; it’s something you learn for yourself after muddling your way through life, learning from wrong decisions made and past experiences. I hope that this blog however, turns into my book on life for my children and anyone else who is going through what I did so they don’t feel isolated and alone. My name is Misbah, I am a Muslim and I am a single mother. This blog and all its content has been written by me in an attempt to highlight my life and struggles as a single Muslim mother.
I have been a single mum now for 2.7 years and I have learnt more in these years than in my whole life. Growing up, life was tough for me, I was a rebel who didn’t care about what anyone had to say about me; I lived for myself and did what I wanted. That, in all honesty is probably where all the problems started from; you can’t go through life being reckless and destructive and expect it to not affect you mentally. Somewhere along the line I developed a very negative attitude and was probably my own worst enemy. Enter my ex, we married young and went through a lot of problems very quickly; he was violent and unfaithful and unsupportive in certain matters. All of this had a further negative effect on me and for a while I had to see a therapist for depression, which never really helped me. Then, in the autumn of 2011 we broke up, I knew he was having an affair which he denied; and my life was turned literally upside down.
I moved back to England from living abroad totally clueless as to how to do anything; I couldn’t even fill up my car with petrol. I was depressed and on sleeping medication and barely functioning, I used to watch the clock and try to just make it to the next 5 minutes; that’s how I spent the first few months – living from one minute to the next. My family was not very supportive except my mum, they kind of expected me to just get on with it and didn’t understand why I couldn’t snap out of it – or that’s how I felt anyway. It became apparent quickly that I couldn’t stay at my parent’s for long, I was told that this was my life now and I didn’t have what it took to “keep” a man so I should just accept it. Every time the children made noise I got told off, I was expected to sit with them at all times and I wasn’t even allowed to use my laptop; ‘Charlie and Lola’ (a tv show) became my best friends.
One day I became so fed up that I willed myself to take my car out further than I had before and I drove across London myself. I know it may not seem like a big deal but to me it was because I had never had the confidence to do so; I was terrified and got lost, but I felt so empowered for it afterwards! From then on, I actively started looking for a place and eventually I found one not too far away. Living on my own was terrifying at first, there were loads of guys hanging around outside my house smoking drugs, and here was me a hijabi with two small kids who didn’t have the first clue about independence. I used to sleep with a cricket bat in those days and had an escape route planned in case the worst happened; once again, only my mum really seemed worried. The others said it was no big deal but it was; when you are a mother you fear not for yourself, but for the safety of your babies – it’s selfless. I cried myself to sleep a lot too, in the early days; but overall I was happy to finally be living out my own worst nightmare.
Seasons changed and so did I, my irrational fears disappeared only to be replaced by new very real ones. Stress that I hadn’t been used to before like money worries and how to cope alone especially when ill developed within me. I shouted a lot at the kids, kept myself hidden away and became quite bitter. The pain and humiliation of what my ex did faded away and now I was angry at everyone and everything even my poor little kids. Once again I became quite self-destructive and it wasn’t until something bad happened that I took control of the situation and took a good hard look at myself; who had I become? I wore a hijab and abaya and to the world I was a Muslim but in my heart I knew I wasn’t acting like one. I wasn’t grateful for the blessings Allah had bestowed upon me, I had no faith in Him and I didn’t know why I paid Him lip service. Slowly though, realisation dawned upon me alhamdulillah and I began to see that when I had no-one there Allah was with me. It was Him that kept me safe, it was Him that eased the pain when I thought I couldn’t bear it any longer; and it was Him that kept me going when I thought I could no longer stand. The terrible tragedy I endured was a marker of sorts for me, every time something bad happened I compared the pain of that to the pain of what happened; it was never as bad as that alhamdulillah and I took comfort from that.
It was around this time that I began noticing that there was nothing in place for sisters like me; born into Islam I was overlooked because people assumed my family supported me as Muslims should. There were even groups for revert sisters but nothing for single mothers who weren’t reverts. The Asian society mainly shunned us and when looking for a husband I found it very hard to find anyone sympathetic; if I did, I was told that his mother would need ‘convincing’ as which mother would want her son to marry a divorcee with 2 kids? This really disheartened me, especially when I saw my son pining for a father figure and I knew the men in my life would not help. I used to cry thinking how could I teach my son to be a man, how could I explain why his body was changing when I couldn’t empathise? His own father was stubborn and told everyone I kept his children from him; he didn’t tell them how he tried to hit me the last time I saw him and how he brought my daughter back with a fever and didn’t tell me until the last-minute; nor how he refused to give me his address after taking my children to his place although he knew I was against it. His family didn’t care enough to help and neither did he and once again I was left alone and depressed and barely coping.
I don’t know how things changed and how my faith increased except to say it was by the mercy of the Almighty Allah; I stopped worrying about my ex not paying maintenance and about people trying to stab me in the dark and focussed on making my children into the best Muslims I could. I sent them to Qur’an class, taught them what little I knew and learned alongside them. We bought educational books, learnt new duas and I taught them about kindness and humility and fairness and justice. The children’s’ teachers were impressed by their academic performance and mashallah my children were amongst the brightest in their class; the day my son’s teacher told me he was an “asset” I was so proud of him and myself! Soon after, I decided something had to be done, I would not stand and watch another woman suffer as I had, could not bear to hear someone had contemplated suicide because they felt alone and isolated and had no support. I decided to make a change and promote awareness for single Muslim mums; they need love and support and are just as good as any other Muslim if not better (in me eyes) for one simple reason: they are both mum and dad. They have no-one to share decision-making with, they take all the risk on their own head, they have to learn skills that even today many mothers do not possess like DIY skills or learning how to defragment their pc; they have to learn about which tv is the best value for money and what that funny noise the washing machine is making is, and about circuit breakers. They have no-one to prep them for all this and have to learn on the job; they have to provide the physical security a man does and show no fear yet maintain the softness of a woman; they have to be both bad cop and good cop; they never have a day out and give up their social lives and they have to bring in the money and work twice as hard because they have to adopt both a man’s and woman’s roles. And all this, they must do within their Islamic boundaries.
This is MY attempt to promote awareness for the struggle a single Muslim mother goes through; jazakhallah for reading.
BY MISBAH AKHTAR