Saleha Irfan, Senior Sub-Editor/Reporter
Growing up, I don’t remember a single day in Ramadan when I didn’t have a fresh Suhoor and Iftar meal on the table despite having a mum who worked full-time. My mum is a doctor by profession so she would have shift duties.
Sometimes she would be back by the afternoon but there were some evenings when she would leave right after Iftar and come back past midnight. No matter her duty schedule, she never let it affect the way she managed the house or take care of whatever my sister and I needed help with.
Back when I was in school, Ramadan would fall towards the end of the school year which meant that I was either finishing final projects and assignments or preparing/giving final term exams. My sister and I preferred studying with mum (she was a way better teacher than dad) so that added to her responsibilities during Ramadan. Not only was she able to juggle her job, us and the housework, she managed to make it seem quite easy and effortless.
Yes, my sister and I would always attempt to help her (I say attempt because she thought it was faster to do it all alone) but she wanted us to focus on our studies and get as much rest as we could. Can you say supermum?
Now that my sister and I are both married and have our own houses to manage with our jobs, we understand how tough it can be. Add children to this mix and you have a recipe for chaos. Ramadan tends to throw our schedule off balance, at least for the first few days. After that, we tend to settle into a routine.
This is why working mums tend to have a lot more on their plate during Ramadan than in any other month. They have to keep up with their work deadlines, make sure their children are up to date with their schoolwork (which, in itself, is a challenge nowadays with e-learning), manage their house chores so things don’t pile up (who likes a full laundry hamper or a sink full of dirty dishes?) and prepare Suhoor and Iftar meals, while also fulfilling the spiritual rights of Ramadan (prayers and reading the Quran).
Phew! I don’t know about you but I felt tired just writing all these tasks down.
So how do these superwomen manage during Ramadan?
Hijab Amer, mum to a 5-year-old boy, starts prepping her house a month in advance. Hijab works as an airport services agent and due to her shift duties, she makes sure to tidy up the house and organise things such as kitchen tools, groceries, her son’s toys and activities well in advance. She also prepares snacks for the entire month so she can have minimum prep time during Ramadan. To get her children excited about Ramadan, Erum Sajid focuses on family Iftars and helps them offer short prayers.
Hameeda Abdul Wahab Baloach, a doctor, also prepares for the month by finishing her groceries for the first 10 days. A mum of two boys, aged 4 and 1, she gradually changes their bedtimes in order to set a routine for the month of Ramadan.
Erum Sajid, who works as a senior HR analyst, also fixes her house before the arrival of Ramadan to make it more comfortable for family time during the month.
“I usually focus on decorations around the house as well as prepping my dining table with new placemats and dishes,” she says. “I don’t worry much about Iftar as we tend to keep it simple. However, I do map out an ideal Iftar menu for 30 days which sticks on my fridge.”
From a spiritual standpoint, Erum starts reciting Quran in Shaban to get into the routine. Hameeda does the same by taking time out to read the Quran and offer prayers.
Anam Anas, a mother of two, a 9-year-old boy and a 1-year-old girl, approaches the blessed month in the same way.
Working as a high risk analyst in a bank, she and her family start fasting in Shaban to get into gear for Ramadan. However, when it comes to grocery shopping, she makes sure to have enough for just a week.
“During Ramadan we utilise a major part of the day by focusing on worship and educating the children of the importance of Ramadan. Ramadan is not only about a lavish spread but a reminder for us that many don’t have these luxuries,” she says.
Dyana Al Ayyat agrees. A single mother of two boys, aged 6 and 5 years, Dyana works as a logistics senior purchases manager in a leading FMCG company in the region. She believes that Ramadan is special from a spiritual standpoint, so preparation wise, she keeps it simple and avoids unnecessary shopping. And, even though Dyana has support from her nanny, they split all the chores as they both fast during Ramadan.
“I invest time in teaching my boys more about Ramadan; doing good deeds, reading the Quran and completing all Taraweeh prayers.”
Dyana engages her boys in everything. “Children love exploring new things, so every other day we do a different activity related to helping others, from packing Iftar meals to distributing them, selecting their used toys to give to other children, etc.”
For her children, Anam loves to decorate her house and plans to do a dedicated Ramadan corner this year too.
Erum’s children are not old enough to fast yet so, to get them into the Ramadan spirit, she helps offer short prayers. “I manage to keep up their excitement with family Iftars as well as adding a ‘pray together’ time. This year I am trying to set up a small corner in their room that will be dedicated to congregational prayers.”
Hameeda and Hijab educate their children about Ramadan with general knowledge and Islamic cartoons.
“My son notices our changing eating patterns and really enjoys it when we all sit down for Iftar together and share our meal as a family, which is rare as we all have different timings,” Hijab adds.
When it comes to maintaining a routine during Ramadan, all mums agree that no matter their own schedule, their family’s remains undisturbed.
“As I have shifts, I don’t have a normal routine for myself. I sleep at odd hours but I make sure I maintain my family's routine throughout Ramadan such as making sure Suhoor is made fresh and on time, Iftar is homemade, along with maintaining cleanliness,” Hijab says.
The supermums also share some tips for the rest of us struggling to uphold a routine during Ramadan.
Dyana says to keep it simple, set an expectation and ask for help. She believes that Ramadan is not intended for long hours of cooking.
Erum agrees. “My tip would be to keep Iftars simple and not tire yourself out by excessive cooking. Eat healthy, gather around family and pray together.”
Hijab feels that it is important to plan in advance. “Get good sleep, pray well and make sure you get at least 30 minutes every day for yourself to do what you love,” she adds.
Anam believes giving yourself deadlines is the key.
“Make yourself a weekly time table with tasks and deadlines to finish those tasks, and you will win,” she says.
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