Back home there is this unsaid rule, this expected norm, that the daughter-in-law that has wed into the family has to mould herself to the family; so much so that she is expected to forego herself completely and become “one” with the fabric of the “susral” – the new wedded home of the girl.
Now as much as one can think, “and?” as in what is wrong with that, especially someone who has been brought up in an environment where this is the expected norm, there is some very wrong things with this practice.
For starters she is an individual human being, with individual: needs, desires, dreams, visions, strengths, methods – everything. Remember no two people are alike. Not even two twins, they both have their own unique personalities. Secondly, asking someone to become something or someone else not only goes against every cell of their being, it also goes against the necessity of life. Life does not need 50 of one identical person, it needs each and every one of those 50 people to be their own unique and individual selves. No one can or should become a carbon copy of someone else. Otherwise Allah SWT would have created one “perfect” specimen of the human race and had us all “cloned”. But that is not the case. Just like each plant, each flower is unique and provides different things, each and every human being is INTENTIONALLY made to be different and unique BY DESIGN! It is necessary! Allah wants us to be exactly who he has made us to be and not forego our unique identity, and what it is meant to bring, to become like someone else. By doing so not only are we not being far upon ourselves, but we are neglecting to see what gifts Allah Subhan-o-Tala has given us, thus robbing the world of our unique offerings for the would that we are meant to bring.
No two people, no matter how similar in personality; no two people, no matter how similar in background; no two people, no matter how similar their life history may have been, are ever actually ever living identical lives. NEVER!
So why am I bring this up today? Well, there are two main reasons, firstly as mentioned above the health of the individual person, the “daughter-in-law” that has wedded into a family needs to know and understand this for her own health and sanity; and secondly for the health and wellbeing of the family that she weds into. BOTH are very important; as the age old saying goes: it takes two to tango, or you need two hands to clap.
The would-be effects on the health of the daughter-in-law is somewhat easy to understand, how this having to forego oneself and become someone/something else can be detrimental for one’s health – mentally, emotionally and physically, (explained further in lots of my other posts); but the health and wellbeing of the others in the family I think needs some light shined upon as well.
We, as the receiving family of a new person into our family, need to understand the importance of allowing the new person coming in to be themselves; both for their health and for our own. You see, often it is these misguided expectations, when failed to have been met, that cause dis-eases in both our beings and in the fabric of the household. This I’m sure is plain to see as therefore not being a good thing. Any dis-ease leads to disease; whether of the body of an individual human being or the “body” of the household – dis-eases in the fabric of the household can lead to diseased relationships! Yes diseases are not confined to just “physical matter”, it can find its way into “invisible” threads, the threads that bind together and create a fabric that holds a “family” together. Without this fabric holding us, we are but individuals living under one roof.
Coming back to the point at hand. When a mother-in-law brings in a daughter-in-law and expects her to live her life by the mother-in-law’s rules and ways, then she is setting up the relationship to fail! That is it! Plain and simple, the hard truth! It is a trap laid out by cultural dictates from which there is no escape!
Why, why do we expect this? Why do we want this? Why do we think we need this, and that it is the “right” thing that needs to happen?
My son already has me. I am his mother. I bring to him, to this family to this world everything that I need to. So why do I think that my son, my family, this world needs someone else to be me? I am not looking for my replacement when I seek a daughter-in-law. It’s not like my secretary who answers my calls is gone so I need a new one to do so. No. I am not looking for, nor do I or my son need a replacement for me. The reason why we try to make someone else live life like we are, or we think it should be lived, or we think our son needs it to be so, is AROGANCE! We think we are right, we think we are great, we think we have it all figured out, we got it all down. But that is the biggest and most ridiculous lie we are subconsciously telling ourselves and subsequently also believing! We are not the greatest to have ever walked this earth, we have not got ANYTHING figured out, we cannot even open our eyes and see the world without Allah SWT permission!
Allah has entrusted us with our children, for us to be there guardian, to be their guide to take care of them because we were the people that they needed AS PARENTS. No one else can be a better mother to my son than me. But equally no one else can be a better son to me than my own son (or daughter of course, it’s not about sons or daughters so let’s not side track).
But my daughter-in-law has not been sent to my son to be his mother! Either in kind or in personality. He already has me, dead or alive. I am me for him. Neither does he need more of me, wants more of me, or should have more of me.
No, his wife has to be her herself. She was brought to us because she was the person who was the perfect life partner for my son. She is meant to share and live life with him in only the way that she can. And that includes all: the way that she is, to the way that she wants to live her life, run her home, raise their children etc etc etc.
Just like my children are not carbon copies of me, and I never wish for them to be; how can I expect, think, want that my daughter-in-law should be anything like me, do anything like me, agree to anything in life with me. We can be standing either side of the number 6 or 9 and seeing a very different reality. No one’s reality is better or more correct than anyone else’s! They are just different but equally true and valid. That is not to say that if she wishes to learn something from me then there is anything wrong with that. But equally I should not be arrogant and think that I cannot learn how to do things her way and see life from her perspective. We are always, and need to always be open to, learning and growing; that is the only way that we can evolve otherwise we stagnate. A desire to learn should always be present in everyone, but remember no true learning can synthesis if it is externally forced. So yes, offering suggestions, recommendations, giving advice is not wrong; what is not appropriate is us expecting that those need to be followed through. Don’t imprison one in to your reality. Allow your realities to be free to sit as close to, or as far apart as they need to, in a healthy honouring way.
This all is not just something that I, “the mother-in-law” needs to understand, but my son, “the husband”; my daughter, the “sister-in-law”; my other son, the “brother-in-law”; my husband, “ the father-in-law”; all need to understand! We all create the fabric of family together, so together we all must understand and embrace for the betterment of the overall wellbeing and health of the family. We together make the fabric and together we must open our arms to embrace new threads as they are. They may be of a different raw material, they maybe of a different colour, they maybe of a different weight or thickness, they may induce a change in the tension of the fabric; and to accommodate it all, we all must have a level of “give” to prevent any thread from breaking!
I hope it goes without saying that all the above mentioned “people” are fictional and just stepping into these shoes for role play to better understand the matter at hand.
All these of course equally apply the other way as well, where the family accepts in a son-in-law into their household. Equally a son-in-law can be made to feel “not good enough”. But not good enough to what??!! Perhaps what you envisioned for your daughter? But we are limited to seeing life only through our own eyes, we cannot see through anyone else’s eyes, (don’t even think about bringing in organ transplant into the discussion here, JUST DON’T). We may think that our daughter needs to live life in a certain way, and no doubt it is most likely nothing short of life like a princess; however, Allah knows and ALWAYS does best.
It is hard to see why someone, anyone would need to live a life in “poverty”, hard to see how that would be “best” for them. But in all honesty, we can’t and never will be able to, because we think and feel from our hearts. But that is where faith comes in. That does not mean one has to reside to living a life of hardship, we have to keep praying and trying our best to better our life, but equally not fret too much over the shortfall between our dreams and realities. Remember, life on earth is not our ultimate goal, always keep the bigger picture in mind. It’s like fretting over the cleanliness and facilities at a service station! Um, it’s a service station. You are here to grab gas, maybe some food and use the loo; you are not here to make it into your permanent residence! Sure try to plan to stop at a service station that has maybe got a better track record for cleanliness, has the types of food that can better cater for your needs ,but you are not going to go to a service station that is on the border of Scotland if you are trying to go from London to Plymouth!
Not everything we think we want is actually something that we need!
So on that note, I hope you got all that you needed, even if it might not be all that you necessarily wanted! ;)
This is Part Two of a Two Part Series... Click here to read part one
They say one should work smarter, not harder; but what are we doing in this modern world? Working ourselves to the bone to reach a mirage, how is that smarter? No matter what one may or may not have, the food going into us all gets digested in the same way. You can break and fry an egg and eat it that will cost you 40p or you can eat a deconstructed reconstructed egg for £90, NOTHING WILL CHANGE! Either way all you ate was an egg, either way how it will get digested in your body is the same, either way what the body will get is carbohydrates proteins and fats from it. In fact, actually in truth you probably will lose some nutrients in the process of the deconstruction and reconstruction and probably your body may have had to work a little bit harder to digest this twice processed egg. So in truth, you worked harder and paid more to actually get less nutrition and probably lost more nutrients from your body in the process for achieving the opportunity to eat the deconstructed reconstructed egg; so in actual fact you were better off just eating a “normal” fried egg earned for in a more “normal” way.
Another thing, one might say: oh but you cannot compare the taste, the £90 one tastes so much more different and better; you are paying for the taste, the experience etc etc.. Really! Go and ask any Chef, no matter how innovative, crazy and experimental, they will all tell you their favourite food is that of their childhood, cooked by their mother or grandmother. Taste does not come from ingredients, but from the hands of the person cooking it and no one can put more love in a meal than a mother or grandmother, thus no meal can taste better for anyone than that cooked by their own mother, because she is not feeding you food, but love. No matter who anyone is, how they cook, what they like to eat, all anyone is ever trying to do is replicate the taste of their mother’s cooking; but this is not something that can be bottled and sold, because what makes that food what it is, is a sentiment. Don’t believe me, well Oobah Butler, a journalist at Vice Magazine, indirectly proved this very phenomenon to us with his The Shed at Dulwich; that it’s not the actual food, but our perception of it all that makes us think something is more than it is; or conversely think something is less than it is. Ambience, presentation, cost, accessibility all deceive our senses into convincing us that what sits in front of us is so much more than it actually is. However, in truth as mentioned above, in reality it is probably less due to all the processing that it under goes; or in the case of Oobah’s restaurant, it is probably a pic of shaving cream and his foot, or that which sits in front of you is a plate of food from Iceland!
We need to distil our thinking.
Money does not equate to Rizq, we need to understand this. If you are meant to have only 5 grains of rice today that is all that you can have, no matter what you do you cannot change this. The reasons why someone has only 5 grains of rice can and may differ. For example: a person can only have the 5 grains because he is too poor to have any more; another can only have 5 grains because he is too sick to have any more; some other because he could only steal away 5 grains; another might only have 5 because they are dieting; one might have 5 because that is all that they are hungry for; yet a different person maybe only eats 5 because that is all they have time for and yet another perhaps only has 5 grains because they are in a fine dining restaurant that serves tiny portions! So you see, “wealth” cannot determine Rizq! They are not two of the same! The Rizq that is written for us is written, and nothing can change that. How Allah has our 5 grains packaged and parcelled to us may differ, but the quantity cannot increase just because someone may appear to have “more wealth”.
Now this does not mean that I am saying one should just sit lazily at home and not make any effort from their own part thinking my Rizq is fixed so why should I struggle, it will get to me I don’t have to make any effort on my own part. No, that is not true. Again let’s look at the packaging I mentioned above. The reality we live in, how much effort we put in, all make a difference on the packaging. The poor man will eat the same, but perhaps feel an emotional hunger stemming from the thought that if he had more wealth he could have had more grains of rice. The dieting person may feel emotional pains of hunger, thinking perhaps if I didn’t need to diet I could have eaten more to my satiety. The thief, likely maybe suffering from morality hunger, where his lack of morality is leading him to steal rather than work for his 5 grains. Whereas on the other spectrum, the person who only had hunger for 5 grains may feel satiated naturally, but the sick man may feel “health hunger”. The rich man, may be full on his ego and feel satiated from that rather than the actual meal; and the man rushing round probably is too hungry for time and may not even notice what food has or has not gone into his stomach. So you see, life is how we paint it for ourselves. What we need to be is a “grateful man”, one that is not hungry for something nor full on other things. One that can see that Rizq is from Allah SWT and that HE is providing me today what I need for today, however it can be or is packaged is not that important, because if I can fill my image with the right colours, then the package can change.
So how do we fill our image with the “right” colours? What are the right colours? Are there only one set of “right” colours? This is where it comes back to understanding that Rizq and earthly wealth are not connected. Rizq and work are not connected. Do in life that which you want to do, be in the world how you want to be, because that is how you wish to be. Don’t do things thinking: will this be a stable source of income for me? Disconnect from the idea that Rizq is dependent on work. When you start living life how you want to, start doing things that you want to, then you will start enjoying life, irrespective of how much worldly wealth you may have, irrespective of how much Rizq you have.
Rizq goes beyond just grains of food or money in the bank. Rizq is a concept that is far greater. From provisions to facilities, from places to experiences, Rizq encompasses all the amenities that enable life; grains of food are just easy to wrap our heads around so it is easier to use as an example to explain the concept, but it is not limited to it.
So the thought(s) that prevailed from my epiphany is: don’t confuse more money with more Rizq. More members of the family working does not equate to more Rizq. More members of the family working does not mean more comfort, on the contrary it means more struggle and strain on the family, because you have to pay for it in other ways that are most likely more harmful and detrimental for the overall wellbeing of the family and its members. There is nothing wrong with a woman working, but wanting to become a breadwinner at the expense of being a mother is not healthy (again referring to “normal” household, not that of single mothers or of those that are supporting ill husbands). Sure women can work, but not with the intention to “provide”, but rather because they want to do something on the side – this is important because when work is something they do for “themselves” on the side, it does not take “centre-stage” in their life. For men on the other hand, work is something that is “centre-stage” in their life so it should be something that they enjoy, not something that they feel is “a better bet” for getting a good stable income – this is important because coming back to the Rizq packaging, the Rizq is fixed and pre-determined, so regardless of what they do, they will get the same amount of Rizq, so one might as well do something that they enjoy that can become a means for Allah SWT to bestow one’s Rizq through, rather than do something that they do not enjoy, because this will then determine how that Rizq is packaged for us and therefore how that will be received by us – i.e. will our soul feel satiated by it, or will it feel any type of “hunger” due to it.
Its comes back to what I have talked about previously – “unframing”, in my Finding Gratitude Post. Everything in our life is dominos all lined up, what and how we face each one does not matter. It does not change the domino and what it is meant to do, regardless of whatever frame and colour we superimpose on to it.
See life for what it is unfiltered and unframed.
How we experience life, is up to us, not what will happen in our life.
How we frame life, defines our journey, how we experience each frame, narrates our story; but neither can or does change its destination…
Wishing you all Peace and Blessings.
This is Part 1 of a 2 Part series.
I just had an insight today; and it’s not really anything new per say, but what has changed is the depth of my understanding of it.
We have all heard growing up in the Muslim world that Rizq ( loosely interpreted as your income/livelihood/food) comes from Allah SWT. We all understand this, accept it, repeat it and often have faced instances of astonishment of say: how we thought one food was for one individual, but the “name” on those grains actually belonged to another. We have marvelled at this and many more such miracles of Allah SWT when it comes to Rizq. But we still often fail to understand and accept that Rizq and work are not connected. Yes it is often seen that our “work” is the primary means through which Allah SWT provides Rizq, but it must be crystal clear for us to understand that just because Allah has chosen that to be a means, does not mean that that is the only means and that this means is what is necessary in all cases to be the avenue for Rizq. No, not at all. This is where we are often misguided and confused, often without even knowing and realising that we are so. For example: sometimes we get things that we needed or wanted as a gift from someone, or we go to someone’s house and we eat a meal with them, or someone surprises us with a box of chocolates or sometimes we get more for our money, for example an item on sale – these are all examples of where Allah SWT is providing us our Rizq through avenues other than our “work”.
Just like Allah has created one frequent avenue for the route with which He provides us offspring, He has created a route that He frequently favours as an avenue for Rizq; but it is important to understand: neither offspring, nor Rizq are dependent on the route! One must be very careful as to not confuse this. One has a child not because of any physical actions of the human beings, but because Allah SWT Wills it AND that is it! No ifs, buts, or maybes! There is no room for dispute, but only if we could see this. Equally we get, and will continue to get the Rizq that we are meant to get, irrespective of what route(s) it may come from.
Now this is an understanding that I have held for some time and I fully believe, however, today the epiphany that came to me in regards to this was furthermore fascinating…
Often we think: we need more money, quite a normal widespread thought I’m sure; and often we think the remedy to this problem is, “earn” more through more work. So often as a family we think if one spouse is working and we are getting X amount, then to get more, the second spouse should work. This will mean then the household income is X + Y taking the household income to now Z.
Simple maths right? Or is it?? Now that is the question, and a question that is very powerful.
We think life is simple where X+Y= Z, so where X was not sufficient to meet our “needs” in a way where we had left over income to do “more” with, now having X+Y= Z, will give us Y as an “extra” to now meet our “needs” for all that we wanted “more” for.
Logically one thinks this makes perfect sense. BUT, what we do not factor in is that to allow Y to be, there is a cost as well! So Where X+Y=Z may be giving us “more” income, however, where x was the original out going we needed to meet when only X was the income, now we have an added expense that has come due to Y, ‘y’. So now our outgoing that we have to meet is no longer x, but rather x+y=z! SO what does that all mean in simple English, well, simply put: the net Rizq we have now is still the same as before, despite more physical money moving around. The moral of the story: to increase one’s income maybe easy, but to increase one’s Rizq is a whole other matter; one that is not a simple case of: well more people of the family must work. Because as I said above, real Rizq and work are not actually connected. One can increase the physical pennies coming into the household, but if your Rizq does not go up from Allah, those pennies will not “stay” with you. It is not how many people work in a household, it is not how much income one gets or not, because, real Rizq is not confined to money.
By having more members of the family work all one is doing is splitting the actual house’s Rizq across the different people, not increasing it! THINK ABOUT THAT FOR MINUTE, DEEPLY!
Do you understand truly what that means? What that is saying?
You are still getting the same amount of Rizq, but working harder for it as a family! Therefore you end up not only paying for it through your own healths, but also the wellbeing of your whole family.
THINK ABOUT THAT!
By letting go of the guidance and practices that Allah SWT has set for us we are making ourselves diseased. Diseased in heart, mind, health and family. Allah guides us that the man should be the breadwinner in the house and the women should look after the next generation. But in the modern world, women feel that they should be given “equal” opportunity to be the breadwinner. Now we must understand here the difference between “working” and being a “breadwinner”, they are two very different things! One is not necessarily a breadwinner just because they are working! Allah does not say that women should not “work”. Our Prophet’s first wife, Hazrat Khadeeja, was a very successful business women and she did not stop being so just because she got married, what changed however after her marriage was her responsibilities. She was still a big successful business women but she was not longer “the breadwinner”, -wait what? I hear you ask... How can she now no longer be a breadwinner if she is still earning? The difference is our understanding or lack thereof between working and being a breadwinner, they are not two of the same things. You see the biggest difference between the two comes from what each means, one is a responsibility, the other is an act. Prior to marrying our Prophet she was a widower who had to fend for herself, afterwards she became his wife; she no longer had to psychologically concern herself with her upkeep.
The problem is not with work itself or even having wealth or an income, the problem arises when the woman is put in a position where she has to chose between being mother to her children or working. Again I feel this is another concept that has been muddied and confused.
What does it actually mean to be a mother. What does it mean to be a mother to the children. It does not mean cooking, cleaning, feeding bathing etc.. No. No, the most important “job” of a mother is to give Tarbiyat to the next generation. What is Tarbiyat – now for those that do not know this word, loosely translated, Tarbiyat is giving guidance. Giving moral, social, spiritual, mental and emotional guidance/education. This is not something that is to be taken lightly. This is not something that can be done on the fly. This is not something that can or should be taken as a bolt on, an afterthought, a when we have time thing. It is something that needs to be purposeful, which requires presence of mind, clarity, commitment and time. This is the most important fundamental job of a mother’s role, not just for the household, but in and for society. The biggest problem with the woman having to be or become a breadwinner is, that when she has to shoulder that responsibility than she cannot shoulder this responsibility properly. We may have two shoulders, but at any one time they can only shoulder one thing properly. This is not to say that this is impossible. Of course it is possible to do both, I have a living example of this before my own eyes, but one must point out also that those are rare cases where the mother has had to shoulder both responsibilities, and that these women that do shoulder both are not career driven, or feminine rights activists! No, these women who have had to work, to be the breadwinner for the family, have worked for the sake of income; not for the sake of working. There is a big difference. Women who work because they want to work are a different breed to those that have to work because they are the only one who can be a breadwinner for their family. The reason why I say this is because, those that want to work will prioritise their work in their outlook on life, they will make long term decisions based on their work and career, contrasting to those that work because they are having to be the breadwinner, they will make sacrifices in their field of work for the sake of their family’s needs. N.B. these are just generalised scenarios presented only to explain the points at hand, not concrete judgments passed on any individual. I do not hold any stereo types against people, I know everyone is unique and individual, and each person’s story, situation and personality is different. Please do not get held up on examples that I am only using to explain the bigger picture.
Back to explaining the difference between “working” and being a breadwinner. There is nothing wrong with women working and earning; what is not right (in normal situations) is this work transforming into being a breadwinner role. Because when that happens the other responsibility, her real responsibility, has to be side-lined. This then is what causes moral and social problems widespread in society and we find a society that is running on over drive trying to achieve something that they themselves do not even know is what.
Men are designed to be breadwinners, that is their God given role in life, literally! A man’s role is not to be the one to give Tarbiyat. They are not designed for this role. That is why you will find men, especially in the west, can do the household chores; but what they struggle to do is be a mother to the children; a true mother. Because as stated above, a mother’s real job is not to manage house logistics, but rather to nurture healthy human beings in its truest sense, something which comes from maternal: instincts, intuition, insights and sensitivity.
We need to use the right tool for the right jobs; men are given the role to protect and provide so that the mother can be free from concern for these things and give her time to raising the next generation properly. This is how Allah has created our partnership to be for the betterment of humanity. This is why, if a women wants to work there isn’t an issue as such, the issue arises when she takes on the masculine role of being a breadwinner, which induces a silent silencing of the maternal energy. The role of breadwinner has a masculine trait and brings forth characteristics that stir up masculine energy. When this is sought after by women this throws out the delicate balance of the yin and yang energy both in oneself, the family and society as a whole. A woman who is “self-sufficient”, does not need a man to be a man for her, instead needs just a person to be next to her, so the relationship goes from a man holding the wife (and family) in an invisible embrace as a human shield, to a man just holding the wife’s hand, as “equals”; the latter being a weaker link because the need of him is also weaker. As with anything weak, they cannot stand the test of time, thus we end up with broken homes, societies and humanity.
Allah’s system is perfect by design. Don’t fight it. Understand the wisdoms in it. Embrace the guidance, even if you do not understand it.
Women have been given a very important role by Allah, thus the Jannat (Heaven) under their feet! Do not compromise this role for a mirage. More does not equate to more. The husband has been given the responsibility to be the breadwinner, trust that whatever Rizq you are meant to have, need to have, you are getting it. The wife does not need to work for you to have more Rizq. If you are meant to have more Rizq, that Rizq will find you. Like the Angel of Death will find us no matter where we hide, our Rizq will find its way to us no matter upon which Mountain we may reside!
What we need to do to increase Rizq is not work more or try to earn more, but instead, give more, be more and live more. What does that mean. Give more in charity, this comes back to us Ten Fold, that is Allah Promise; and not just our money, but time, energy, love and knowledge. Be more grateful, truly grateful and thankful to Allah SWT for whatever HE has given us, is giving us and will give us. Most importantly, do not underestimate the power of Duas, both your personal duas, duas that others give you and duas that are recommended to read by our Prophet. These are the real ways that we can increase our Rizq. And remember Rizq is not confined to money or food. It is also how we are living our life. The more we actually life our life, truly live, the more comfort we will find in it as we will no longer be fighting life, no longer be trying to achieve a mirage, we will finally be fully embracing and indulging in each moment of life and accept each moment and seeing each moment in its full glory.
Read Part 2 for the Conclusion of this Series... Click here to read part two.
For some time now I have been seeing this struggle with people from the indo sub-continent who have moved from there to the west or otherwise. Back there, there is a lot of house help and a lot of family support due to joint family living so people indulge in a lot of practices that frankly is not achievable to live up to outside of said areas. Not only due to the reason we don't have the same house help and family support, but also nowadays a lot of the women have to/or would like to work.
One such practice I find people drowning away in, is the practice of cooking a magnitude of dishes! Not just for parties, but also for daily meals! I mean talk about madness, these women come home from a full day of work, get in the house, straight away sort the children out. Getting them washed and dressed ready for bed, sorting through homework loads and ensuring it gets done, all the while preparing a feast for dinner??? I kid you not, a feast is exactly what it is: a meat curry dish, a veg curry dish, a kabab dish, a salad, rice, daal, nan some even make two meat dishes??? I mean come on!!?? Why are you trying to kill yourself?!! There is only so much any one person can eat and frankly even one well-made dish will be just as satisfying!!!
No one, but no one will come to ease your aches and pains when you have ground yourself to the ground and you sit in your old arm chair at 75, so for who and why are you killing yourself for today?
A little self-love, a lot of self-forgiveness and smart working attitude can do you a whole lotta good!! And I talk not only to the people who are outside of the indo sub-continent, but to those also who are in it! House help is a luxury not everyone can have all the time. Don't depend on it. Become self-sufficient, smart-working, self-loving people. Schedule in one chore per day for yourself, one each (age dependent) for your children and one for your Husband- we need men brought up in the indo sub-continent culture to "grow-up" and realize that we are not living in the 1930's when we were all part of the "creme"! We are living very fast paced lives in the 21st century. House help is a time of the past, stay at home women are but a few, if she is helping you with the finances, help her with the house! It's not a taboo thing anymore, it's called we are a family, we work and support each other. Thankfully the latter is a positive change though that is already coming about! I see a lot now, both in the indo sub-continent and out, men being very supportive of the wives working and helping them achieve that. I have the pleasure of knowing many kind hearted men who nurture their children like a loving father and not like the times when the theory was "children are meant to be seen and not heard". Thankfully there are now plenty of men who are more than happy to do the dishes or vacuum, or even help wash n get the children ready for bed, let's keep spreading this positive message and break free from that taboo once and for all!
Coming back to this change needed for day to day cooking. The way of the indo sub-continent is to eat in quite a “princely” manner. Having a long table laid filled with a variety of indulgences, but what then happens when you come to throw a party??? A celebration in a manner of speaking should be bigger and better more elaborate then the everyday, so now what happens when you already lay a huge table for the everyday then your celebrations need to be bigger and better. So you end up going OTT with cooking and decorating etc. which means man more hours of labour both before and after; and not to mention the amount of food always left over! And the amount of money spent on everything! Let’s thinking about scaling back maybe? And I am not saying any of this for my benefit, what do I care how much money time and effort you spend on your day to day or your special celebrations! I say this for you, for your wellness. Its ok to have less items on the table every day, its ok to enjoy simple uncomplicated flavourful foods that don’t span the length of the table. Make life easier for and on yourself. Make one veg dish and one meat dish at the most. Make one accompaniment with it, rice or bread not both. Lets make our lives easier for ourselves, not harder. The outside world puts enough pressure on us as it is, lets at least give ourselves a break! As you are “modernizing” your wardrobe, lets modernize our dining tables too perhaps. Let’s modernize our self-love too! We no longer have to be hard on ourselves because we think that is what we are supposed to do. Relax! Take a break, enjoy life, enjoy being with your family, not just serving them. The key as always is in the balance.
I am not pro or anti modern or traditional life styles, I am just saying don’t drive yourself to the ground by putting unrealistic pressures on yourself. Re-assess your life and make it easier for yourself. Its your life, your health; only you can look after it and do what’s best for it. The days of where women were looked upon as the servants of the family are gone, but the practices are yet far from gone. Let’s change that.
As people we are always learning, growing and evolving all the while still living life.
Life happens around us and we happen around life and together we co-exist in a sort of dance where we bend and twirl, shuffle and twist while we co-exist in this space of ever vibrant and volatile energy.
I am sure those who have been following my story for a long time, whether here on this web space, or via a more personal connection, you will already be witness to how my life has evolved over the years. This of course keeps going on and will keep going on for as long as I exist, I will dance my weird and qwerky dance with life for as long as life has me here.
So what’s the new rhythm that life has me bobbing on these days I hear you ask?
Well it’s a tune that’s been playin’ on my mind for some time now. It has surfaced a few times earlier in my life as well, but for the last two years it has definitely been playing in the background of life for me.
So let’s go a little further back in time shall we, in the famous words of Timon from Lion King 1 ½ “We’re going way back… to before the beginning”
So let's go to before “the beginning” so to speak.
I have always had a little “issue” let say to start off with, with social media.
This obsession people have with posting pics of their meals, never really sat well with me, both on a social/personal level as well as a more religious and spiritual level. Then there are the pics of themselves here there and everywhere, it’s quite a self-obsessed act if one thinks about it. Not to mention all the random totally unnecessary “updates” that, no one needs to know; wants to know; or should know. Along with all the inappropriate one as well: both on a social level; personal boundaries level; as well as a privacy level. And let’s not even get started on the point blank wrong posts which are nothing but down right mean, full of bullying and abuse. I mean the fact that I even have to write it is just wrong! It should never exist, yet we all know what society is like. If anything social media has actually given rise to this type of behaviour and indirectly supports it, without it exactly being its intention for doing so. The very detached and faceless nature of the medium allows us to come out and say downright nasty things and walk away without a hair out of place for it! I mean come on, can we really not see how it is completely desensitising, thus dehumanising us! Not to mention how ugly, nasty and hurtful on multitude of levels this behaviour is. I would really really hope that at least a descent portion of society can still see this, otherwise really it would have been the end of the world.
SO back to me (the very self-obsessed creature that I am). Like I was saying the very essence and being of social media never really sat well with me. Firstly for the longest time I do not understand (and still don’t!) why anyone thinks that people are interested in reading my random “updates” of I woke up and had a cup of tea etc. really NO ONE CARES! No seriously NO ONE CARES!
But as life would have it I ended up subscribing to FB, because I was told: I can be in touch with old class mates etc. and there is one point in life that we sit there and think that would be a good idea, and then of course you do that and then remember oh wait that’s why I hated school to start off with. Well no, I didn’t really hate school, I actually did love it. But yes some of the less nicer memories of school life sometimes do resurface with such interactions. Anywhoo, I pressed on and when things got way outa whack for me on a personal level, I deleted half my FB contacts, most of which were all those supposed school mates that I went on to “connect” with on FB to start off with. (What a waste of energy! she says rolling her eyes)
So that was the “start” so to speak of my FB and social media journey, which spanned over a few years. Then I stopped using it almost completely and would go on it only very rarely.
Anywhoo, life pressed on and things changed drastically both on FB and the rest of the social media world, as well as my life: not drastically changed, but it started to change. So I found myself making a bit more of an appearance on FB again. And then late one summers day in 2019, I thought I need to set up my own business. So then I thought hmm.. well that means I will have to use social media for advertising, Uggg I thought!! Just the thought of it was like ekkhhhh! Anyway, so I decided to dive right in, set up insta (ekh), then I set up twitter (hmmm), and started to be more active about what I believed in and stood for on FB (emm).
I started having to remember to take pics of food that I would make, which never really happened, so the photos were very drip drap and definitely lacked flare like a lot of the now very versed and established food bloggers’ pics were. Because, well let’s face it, it was never me! I never agreed to it, so it never had my heart in it. Therefore, it could never really take off, common sense really when we are willing to look at it clearly. I was not trying to be someone else so to speak, I was still trying to be myself; however, using advertising through social media for my “food stuff” was never really me. I was forcing it on to myself, like forcing on a coat made for someone else just because I am cold. I use to think that if I wanted to “get anywhere” with my business then I have to, “I have no choice”; but of course, we always have a choice!
So fast forward to watching “The social dilemma” movie Sept 2020; all of my feelings were confirmed and reaffirmed. I knew all of the stuff that was being brought to light in the movie already, I knew it, I fully believed it, but that movie really made me think that, if I already know this stuff and I am so anti it all then, what am I doing here?? What type of example am I setting for me children?
[There was a time when I used to think that in order for us to protect our children from it, we also need to be aware of it and all its “happenings” ( I have written about this in an older post “a little bit of techyness”). Now however, I think no! We can make a life without social media and that is what we need to show our children that life can be easily and very happily lived without social media. Just like there is no negotiation for "Tik Tok" in my mind, then why can’t there also be no negotiation for FB, Insta etc. ]
So coming back to the social dilemma movie point in time. That is when things started ticking for me, clogs started turning and I started working on my “exit plan”.
I started slowing saving all of my intellectual property on my machine, so I do not lose all my posts. I started exploring other avenues etc. Then of course the whole censorship heavy, long hand of Mr Money came out in its full ugly force; and I though: Right! Things are just getting from bad to worse! Not only are there the general inherent issues of the social media world, but now taking away our freedom of speech on this mass level! That is just not on. SO operation exit was kicked up a notch.
I started looking at other spaces where I could have my voice outside of my website. In the midst of it all, there was also the big who ha over WhatsApp’s new T’s n C’s beginning of 2021. This led me to start using Telegram and Signal as a back up. So now fast forward to late 2021, as I sat there thinking about using other mediums, I decided to give Telegram a better look and set up my telegram channel. At the moment it doesn’t seem too bad, but I’m not planning on getting too comfortable. I’ll be ready to leave if things start looking not right here as well!
In the meantime I also stumbled across MeWe, which again does appear not too bad at the moment, but I don’t trust any of these companies if I am honest! So let’s see. For the time being I have a tiny presence on Telegram and even smaller on MeWe; but that is the direction life has taking me upon at the moment.
And I have to stop here for a mo and say: I am not saying all of these things because I am self-obsessed, or that I think you all are super interested in my life. NO! I am not that delusional! Lol! No, my purpose of sharing my journey is so that if anyone else is struggling with similar things and needs another perspective, or needs to hear a similar perspective to their’s to help them out with whatever steps they need to take, then maybe reading the notes on my journey might help them in someway.
In terms of Twitter, well, it’s not that they have not been heavy on the censoring I am aware that they have, but for some current indescribable reason I feel I still have a bit of a soft corner for twitter. Maybe, because I enjoy writing little inspirations on it, or maybe something else who knows. But for the time being, for better or for worse, I have decided to stick it through with twitter for a little longer; but let’s see. Again, this little corner can also very easily be overridden if push comes to shove, but for the moment its seems to have survived my detoxing surge of 2021. How long it will survive, only time will tell.
In the meantime I also moved away from Linked in, which I do not think I even knew how to use, TBH. I am sure there were lots of issues there too, but I hardly knew anything much about it. However, the mere fact it belonged to the company it did, was enough for me to decide to move away.
Am I a hypocrite to still use some mainstream SM products and not others; am I a hypocrite to be so anti some Meta products and not others like WhatsApp... Maybe. In fact, most probably, if I am honest...
Well, the way I look at it is: firstly it’s the company that owns it and their whole demeanour. Then, it is the product and what and how it is being used in general and lastly how am I using it and how am I encouraging its usage as well.
Based on all three I made my decisions, so yes some people might label me as a hypocrite and so be it, can’t please everyone. But the way I see it, I have a system in my mind which I used to determine my actions and make my decisions at the current time. At the end of the day that is all that matters! Are you able to answer honestly to yourself, are you being truthful to your true self?
Authenticity! Learn it!
If you can be true and authentic to yourself; you can answer to that little voice inside your head with truthful integrity for your actions and decisions and BE OK with them, THEN nothing else matters!
I will always be wrong in a way with something in someone’s book, that is the nature of the beast; but if I can at least be at peace with my own decisions and understand and differentiate why I made the decisions and took the actions that I did (any decisions and actions in life), then that is all that matters. Your actions need to live well with YOU, within the heart of your soul; because if there is dis-ease there, then there will be disease here later to follow...
The debts we take on in life today, take over the scales and distort the balance of life for tomorrow...
O My beloved Bihari family, help me bring Bihar back to me…
It's been lost along our journeys it's been hidden away behind the glossed over Englishes…
But deny it all one wants, it lives and breathes within our soul...
It shines through our every dish
It laughs with our every story…
Please help me preserve it for our future generations… our ancestral stories are getting lost with every passing of our elders..
Our oh so proudly flashed around eclectic taste buds are losing out on culinary treats once our grandmas used to slave away in kitchens to make…
Our lifestyle maybe different now, our fancy gadgetry may save us from the painstaking ways of our ancestral cuisine, but if we don't save it now, dishes which we have once tasted in our childhood or sadly have now only heard names of, will be lost forever….
For our future gens, let's come together and document our heritage together...
Any stories any recipes please help me preserve them and make them accessible for all our children to read, enjoy, use and be proud of….
I wish to take no credit for anyone else's work I will accredit each piece with its rightful authors… my dream is to only preserve and spread…
I thank you all in advance, even if you have nothing to share on the site itself, please share and enjoy this space with all your families, this legacy belongs to us all it yearns to be shared!
It's time we brought Bihar into the limelight it deserves….
No matter where I may roam there is only one place that my heart calls home… Jeddah
Jeddah is dil ki jaan tu hi hai,
Jeddah you are the soul of my heart!
It's not perfect but no place ever is or will be, I grew up in this city it's my “hometown”!
There are so many memories people who grew up here can relate to, only they can understand. I can't even begin to pen down my memoirs without getting all choked up with nostalgia.
Where do I start with, do I start with my most awesome school experience I had, or do I start with all my amazing like minded family friend's circle, or maybe the food.
Maybe I should start with the one thing that is lost. The one thing I use to enjoy and boast about… the one thing I miss most from my childhood when I think about Jeddah when I visit it now, something that would identify it. That one thing was it's array of roundabouts. At every cross roads there would be roundabouts, now someone living in the UK would think "and your point is, London is the city of roundabouts you shouldn't miss it", but these weren't just painted on the ground like UK. There was a unique feature on each and every one. Something that was so Jeddah something that we would identify as us and us as it. You knew where you were exactly looking at the roundabout in front of you. Directions would be given with the reference of these monuments on these roundabouts. All that is now lost. I can no longer say I live near “taiyaara chowk”. Newcomers to the city would look at me thinking I'm coo coo, they just don't know. Bar “cycle chowk” and a few others dotted near the coast, all the rest have been slowly but surely gone. How I miss driving by them! Or rather being driven by them, because yes soon the next generation will never know days of male only drivers. A New era is at its dawn, the dawn of the female drivers in Saudi. A thought which once was the joke of the town, people in the west would say “when pigs will fly… “ people in Saudi would say “when women will drive…” it was considered that impossible an ask, but here we stand at the doorway to the world of impossible. A new age for women in Saudi.
Do you remember your childhood?
Maybe it was a joyful one or maybe it was not. What do you remember of it?
Let me describe to you what I remember.
I remember games, playing, simple life, simple home and being very happy in that space. I never felt worried for anything. I never remember a conversation which made me think I should stop playing and be concerned or worried for something. I grew up in Saudi, we lived through the Gulf War and yet I do not remember any feelings of sadness or worry or concern. When I look back at my childhood I remember it fondly, I remember it to be a wonderful time. I remember it as an “easy” “trouble-free” time. But war?? I mean you are living in a country at war is that really a “trouble-free” space?? No it definitely is not, but my parents never had a single conversation in front of me that would alarm me. Never did they lead on that we didn’t have “enough” money. They had to calculate whether they could afford to buy an ice cream this month for me. An ice cream. One! But I never knew that! Time just flowed as did life.
I never knew that I was a “girl”, I knew I was a child. As I walked passed a slightly ajar toilet door in first grade I thought that the boy in there was ill, which caused his body to be “deformed”. I felt so so sorry for him. I didn’t know for the longest time that what I had glimpsed was a penis! I thought he was hurting and his body swelled up. I still remember the genuine sympathy I had for him! Wanting to go up and asking are you in a lot of pain? Innocence its precious! We need to treat it as such! (Thank god though that I didn’t go up and ask him! Thankfully even then some childish common sense thankfully prevailed! Can you imagine if I had! How embarrassing!)
As I reflect I have this feeling of being one with something, I can’t quite put into words what; but I remember around my tenth year or so emerging from this oneness space and waking up into myself. It’s a difficult feeling to describe. Almost like you are part of this massive bowl of fruit custard and slowly you bob up to the surface and discover yourself to be a cherry, a complete entity in itself. Up until before this point you yourself were not aware that you were an individual entity in and of yourself and simultaneously also part of this bowl full of other separate entities. You thought that you, your family, your surroundings, were all one- a mush of being; with everything being one and connected and attached to each other, nothing being a separate entity. Its only when slowly you wake up that you first realize that the mush can be separated. You get scooped out into a bowl with a ladle, I realisation of your greater family/country/community. Then from that bowl your get spooned up by a dessert spoon, a realisation of your immediate family, where you can see yourself and your parents siblings etc, as little blobs sitting in mush. Then you get picked out from the mush to see you are a little cherry a separate mass and complete in its own right as are your parents and siblings and other family members. You suddenly are woken to the pieces in the mush and the mush and how that they can be viewed both together and separately.
This is the awakening that Rudolph Steiner talks about when he talks about the rubicon, the awakening and realising of yourself as being a “self”, a complete and separate living thing.
In this particular post I do not wish to indulge any further into the Rubicon and what it brings and how to deal with it, that is a topic for another time. In this post I intend to look at our relationship our presence our conversations and its effects on our children and their childhood.
(Btw here in this article when I refer to “child”, I mean from the ages of 0-10 roughly).
If you do not have a fond memory of your childhood, does it not bother you, does it not hurt you, does it not want to make you wish to have it different for your children?
If you do have a fond memory, do you not cherish it? Do you not feel like that is how you want your children to look back at their childhood?
CHILDHOOD, CHILD – hood, not little-adult-hood, not little-person-hood, not mini me, not small human. Not Not Not!
There is a reason it is called “child” hood, there is a reason why there is a differentiation between “child” and “adult” they are two different stages and separate entities of the human life. Don’t dedifferentiate it, don’t blur the lines. If you look at a building you see two parts always, the foundations and the “usable” structure. If you do not build foundations the building is not sturdy. That is what we do if we do not acknowledge that childhood is a different separate and important part of the entity. If you blur the lines you can end up with a foundation that is not strong or capable of preforming its task.
Special precautions go into making a foundation, the ground needs to be dug, needs to be levelled the cement laid the pillars put and the lists go on. Just like that special care and attention needs to take place in childhood. They are not mini adults they should not be exposed to every “truth” they do not need to be given a reality check! They do not need to be troubled with worries. They are not your safety net to pour your problems out in front of.
Be mindful what you say in front of children it has profound and lasting effects. You do not want to leave deep and lasting imprints in your foundation cement causing the foundation to be uneven and weak to lay bricks on top of. That is what we do with our words and actions. Keep your opinions in the adult world, keep your worries to the adult world, keep yourself from encasing your children in your shell. They will grow to beyond your shores if your let them be.
Its not just the words we say to them, its how we say it, they pick up more on your tone and body language than on the actual words themselves. Our presence in their presence is one we need to constantly keep checks on. They pick up on everything that people do in there surroundings, even if you think that they are busy and not looking they will absorb it on a subconscious level. Being mindful of all conversations happening around them, even if it is not directed to them, is vital. Phone conversation with other people, internet, t.v., radio, news, billboards, etc. our children are soaking up and learning from all that they see and hear. From how to act with family and friends to how to react on politicians. From what is “sexual” to what is uncool. What family, love, and relationships look like, to our dealings with road rage and littering. We are ALWAYS the first and longest standing teachers for our children. If you want your children to be a certain way, you first have to be that yourself first. We need to embody the messages we wish to impart to our children.
Imagine a teacher, how would you want your child’s teacher to be with your children, that is how you need to be every waking hour of the day with them. From your actions to your speech, gestures and dressing, to your daily habits, we need to be mindful of what we are portraying to our children, what we are conveying to our children. How and what we shop to what and how we watch, read and learn, they are being moulded by everything around them. Every action or the lack there off, is laying down foundations in their brain, which is forming them into the adult human they will become. The foundations always dictate the structure that can and will be laid upon it!
Why is it so vital for you as a person to tell your child every truth of the world, no matter how ugly, scary, unpleasant or awkward? What are you so afraid of that makes you want to spoil their childhood? You think you are doing them a favour by getting them “ahead” of the curve; instead what you are actually doing is robbing them of their childhood- a space and place which needs to be kept pure and beautiful, so that they can have time to set a deep and strong foundation that will support them all through their life!
These same things can still be taught to them, brought to them, when they are more awake in their teen years, but the childhood stage will never return. Once that time is past, it really is gone! No matter what you do, you can not unset that foundation. When we are at our darkest hours in our adult life, the light we need to get through is the light inside us that we kindled in our childhood, that happy place and memory is what keeps us strong and pulls us through. But if you rob them of that chance to kindle this anchoring light, what will keep them strong? What will bring them through, home and dry from the storm?
Keeping your child in that timeless bubble of happy bliss, is what should be a Right for every child!
For this I voice my concerns today!
For this I stand to fight today!
Happiness is not a feeling, it’s not a place, its a choice! Make that choice for your child today, for if you don’t, they may not be able to make that choice for themselves in the future!!
Sometimes all they need is a hug...
Doesn't matter who it is, hugs have a huge part to play when it comes to healing matters of the heart.
The hug doesn't have to be an actual one, it can be metaphorical; but more often then not, a real one is the ticket.
WHEN ASKED WHAT IS MY ONE ADVISE THAT I WOULD GIVE TO NEW PARENTS, I DO NOT HESITATE TO SAY HOLD THEM, HOLD THEM AS MUCH AS YOU CAN!
It is quite a contradictory piece of intellect especially from what we are brought up with in the indo-sub continent, but most probably in being so, is most likely why it is my go to advise for everyone, because I truly believe in it and want to change the general ruling on it.
We are always told "don't hold them too much they will get too used to being held, they wont leave you to let you do anything else". But truthfully you should not be needing to do anything else in those early days anyway! This stage of the baby, of wanting to be held, last all but 6 months by which time they are crawling and literally they are like "seeya" then you will be left craving to hold them and they will not want to know you, as they will be more excited to explore the new world around them.
People think that this stage will never end, but it ends far sooner then you are ready for it to end in the end. However, if you do let them live out that time as meant to be, in your arms literally, then you too will be more than ready for the progression of growth of the child. Yes you may feel "strapped" to the bed for those 6 months but honestly, enjoy it! cherish it, that time never comes back, that one to one time that you get with your child, that bonding lasts for a lifetime, this bonding if far superior to any bonding you may try to do in the future when they are teens or adults and you wish to be "closer" to them. This is the time they need you, the house work will always be there, but they will no longer be a baby for you to give that time when it counted!
If you are worried about cooking as you have no support you can do a little cooking while they sleep, if you can get away from the bed; or do some cooking once your other half is home when they can hold the baby and you cook. Try not to go too over board with complex food during this time, cook simple nutritious meals that are quick to put together. Encourage your partner to cook! During this time all you both really need is just full on nourishing food not gourmet! Don't experiment, just prepare foods that you can prepare in bulk and mix up with. For example, we make this boneless chicken handi curry dish in bulk, first night we eat it with boiled rice or chappati/nan bread, then second night mash up chicken and make chicken stuffed bread (chicken puri) then third night we throw in rice in the now "more masala than chicken" curry, and cook it as a pilao rice! One dish cooked three ways! Honestly work smart, not hard! (but that is a "in general advice" btw and not just for those early mommyhood days!)
I find people in general who miss out on those cuddling days are often craving for it afterwards in life and hence you find middle aged women craving to hold a baby, its quite sad really, don't deny yourself, only you will suffer!
Enjoy each stage of your life, you don't get second chances....
Take it from me, I celebrate and applaud every grey hair... after all I worked damn hard to earn each and everyone of them! I am proud of them, they are each a silver feather in my cap!
Experiences are what make us the people we are, don't be afraid or too busy to experience experiences. Appreciate each one you have had the privilege to let into your life because they truly are a privilege!
To be privileged is not to be resourced, but is the ability that one can be and do things (whether they be material or immaterial). Appreciate everything you have and are, its all worth appreciating....
Appreciate that you have today to live and tomorrow to correct,
today to dream and tomorrow to hope,
today to hug and tomorrow to heal...
hug to hold so that you can heal...
I was at a talk last night, which came to be due to a growing demand from worried parents and caregivers over how to navigate the digital world. The talk, although very enlighten, had to be cut short (due to logistical reasons), leaving me behind with again this burning desire to write.
Now, I am no tech guru, I am no expert of any sort, I don’t have figures and quotes to spare, All I am is a mum working out day by day how to navigate motherhood and all I have is a bit of free tips to share.
Well firstly there is the “why”
-Why we need to be aware and careful with the growing digital world.
Then there is the inevitable “when”
-When really is a “safe” or “a least detrimental” or “an age appropriate” time to hand over any sort of tech device to the younger generation.
Then comes the “which”
-Which devices are safer or better to start off with and I don’t mean the: “should I go for a Samsung or iPhone” “which”, I mean whether it should be a laptop, a brick phone, a smart phone or a tablet etc.
Lastly is the all important “how”
-How do I make myself tech aware enough to aid my child in being e-safe in every sense of the word!
-How do I have a handle on the situation, so that my child does not live entirely in the digital world and does come out to visit the rest of "the real" world now and then.
-How do I communicate with my child, so they do not want to socially close me off in an attempt of rebellionizm in the name of “privacy”.
These are all very important questions, issues and worries.
The first and most important part is to recognise them all! When you break up the whole undigestible loaf of chaos and mayhem into small chewable bites, you will find that there is a glimmer of light at the end of this wormhole.
STEP 1: WHY
Well thankfully, most of the people here in our Steiner community, recognise a whole lot of the “why”. They are very aware of it. The dangers with how it psychologically effects a human being irrelevant of age. How it physically effects and at times permanently changes the physiology of the human brain, even at later stages of human development, not just at the early stages. How the radiation coming from each devices is dangerous for us. How our over usage of "wirelessness" is damaging not just the view, but the earth, animals and environment and each of our bodies. How on a social level, it is damaging in more ways than one can count. Teens growing up without ability to actually socialise in person. Adults living in isolation due to falling prisoner to this virtual world. Relationship of every and all sorts, falling victim to the multiple issues that are coming hand and hand with instant messaging. Cyber bulling, online grooming. Identity theft, anxiety due to FOMO, depression due to trolling and/or due to feelings of self pity, induced by constantly viewing everyones airbrushed lives and comparing them to our “flawed uncensored ones”. The list goes on and on and we have barely scratched the surface of this beast.
Now one would say with all these cons attached to this world, why aren’t we all running a mile in the opposite direction. Why are we still allowing us and our children to go down this slippery slope.
Well the answer is quite simple. The “whole world” is doing it, the “whole world” is running on it, and we feel we “can not survive” without it, along with the few pros that do come with it, all of these reasons are keep us hooked on. I am sure there are still some people out there, in the “modern world”, who have completely managed to stay on the sidelines of this show and not join in, but those people nowadays are but a few.
Most of the modern world has joined in on this band waggon and as always, everything, no matter how dangerous, still has a purpose. The accessibility, the simplicity the connect-ability has changed the face of the modern work world, some of which is definitely without a doubt for the positive. All these changes mean, even for some of us wanting to keep a zero to low profile in the virtual world, we still end up having to have an existence on it, no matter how miniscule.
Now this leads us on to the when; We, as adults, have somewhat established that its a wild horse, but we have no choice but to ride it. Nevertheless us accepting it and come to terms with it and hopefully keep our own selves in check in regards to it, as adults, is one thing, but to then have to turn and hand that device on to our children and say "here you go buddy happy birthday, have fun!" Is another thing entirely!
STAGE 2: WHEN
A knife no matter how dangerously sharp still has a purpose, but would you go and hand that to a toddler, no I don’t think so. A knife is a tool, it needs to be used as one. Children at some stage of there life, do need to be taught how to use it, you can not keep it away from them forever, saying its dangerous you can never touch it. No, that is not very sensible, otherwise next thing you know; one day when you are not available and they really want to cut something they will reach for it thinking they can do it and end up having an accident with it. The sensible thing to do is to present it to them at an age when they are old enough to respect it, but eager enough to still learn from YOU! The key factor in this statement is still wanting to learn from you. I say this with emphasis, as we humans are always learning something from somewhere. Often we lay importance to the act of learning, but what we forget is, where they learn from, is actually very vital. If they go and learn from a space that is not safe, what type of information do you think they will be learning?
This is why I say that having an “open door” policy with children, is THE MOST IMPORTANT THING EVER! What do I mean by open door, well to put it simply, have a relationship with them such that they always feel they can walk in and ask you anything, no matter how embarrassing, disturbing, humiliating or infuriating for either person. This comes with you having a relationship with them that is trusting. Trusting to keep there secrets safe, trusting that you will not over-react, trusting that you will not lie to them, mis-guide them, trick them, fool them or humiliate them and also maybe most importantly tell them off.
Telling off children may be at times necessary, but it is very important to recognise when giving a big long lecture is not what is needed. When they come to you in reverence and to confide; understanding and reassurance is what is called for.
Have open and honest conversations with them, that is presented to them in an age appropriate way. However in a way such that, it is left open ended, so that it can be re-visited and built up on in the future, as and when needed. You do not have to give them the full 411 from word go; give them enough to answer their immediate concern/query. Leave the rest hanging to visit another day and also tell them this. For example: “how about we talk about the rest another day”. They need little digestible sized chunks of information.
You may feel that I may have slipped off subject here, but there is a method to the madness. Now why did I go off on a tangent with knives and talks then? Well just like a knife is a tool, the devices of the media realm, are also tools. We need to find the sweet spot for our own individual children and us, it will be different for each child, only you as the parent will be in the best position to judge when the right time is for each child (as even with siblings it can and will differ).
I say this because both girls and boys, in general develop differently, then how they are individually as a child, how their relationship is with you is also just as important a factor, what your family and educational needs are. Only you can judge when you feel your child is mature enough to handle such a device and also still be on a healthy relationship with you, to respect and understand you enough to actually listen to you and hear you!
Those are two very different and very important elements of any relationship! Do not kid yourself, if you have a teen/pre-teen, your relationship at some point will get tested from the teen’s side, don’t take it personally, take it as it is: changes induced by internal changes of the teen, but these changes do not have to be permanent. Remember always, you are the adult, you will need to adjust and bend and come to terms with living with another adult; whom you are not yet quite willing to accept as one.
Don’t be antagonistic, give them space and time and most importantly respect! They are coming to there own, when they come out of this transition, they will be an adult! This stage is vital for the future of your relationship. Try to find a sweet healthy balance between your relationship, a space where they are still comfortable to approach you if they need your help. This is only achieved if you give them space to grow and respect to explore their new found opinions and voice.
Accept that their opinions will be different to yours and at times, they may not even be at all sound, but they need to discover somethings “on their own”. Which means they do not want you to say, “you are wrong, how you think is wrong” etc etc… instead a more helpful way might be, saying it in a way so that they can take away a different perspective and explore it on their own.
For example, “I definitely agree with you, Greta Thunburg has definitely got lots of sound ideas, lots of great opinions. Did you also manage to catch what Professor Asmeret Asefaw Berhe was saying in her Ted talk, about how we can all also help effectively to tackle climate change by looking after the soil around us as well? You should check her out, I would love to hear what your thoughts are on what she was saying.”
-A way to introduce another person in the picture for them, to see that there are more great people out there trying to make a positive change on the climate issue. People of all ages are trying to do their part, not just the “young”; just as an example of a potential conversation.
Coming back to the when, so, incase if it has not been very obvious, see my constant referral to a certain age group, “teens”. This is because before this stage, the child is at a different growing cycle and one that really should not be disturbed with this somewhat alien influence upon their body.
It is from the age of 14, give or take, that the child transitions into the next stage of development, where they will be exploring more the world. It is at this stage, that I believe, at some point when you feel right, that introduction to this world is at the goldilocks stage, the “just right” place. In the school where my children are at, it is also at this stage that they are, not co-incidentally may I add, requested to bring in their own laptops. This now leads us quite nicely onto the “which”.
STAGE 3: WHICH
Now unless your child is travelling on their own, there really is no need whatsoever for them to have a mobile, especially if you have a landline. If they neeeeeed to talk to their friends, they can, via the landline; or if you are out, from a parents phone if it really is that “urgently desperate”, which rest assured, really isn’t!! (I mean come on we were teens once!!).
Now if your child does travel on their own, a brick phone (aka one without any WIFI 4G compatibility) is more than sufficient. Yes they do still exist in this world and actually you may be surprised more and more people are turning back to them! (method to the madness!)
Next, laptops- according to my “little bit techy” husband, laptops/PC’s are most probably the lesser of all of these evils. Reason being they are less practical for “instantaneousness”. The children are less likely to constantly be on a device. Especially if you for example: have fixed hours of agreed “casual/social/gaming” usage, have the wifi only on at certain times and not on constant or at least switched off at night etc. then the addiction likelihood is significantly reduced.
As there is a reduced likelihood of the neck strain issues that are of a growing concern stemming from the constant usage of mobile phones and the bad posture associated with it, it also adds to the benefits of using laptops over using smart phones. If used off of tables and/or at least lap cushions, then there is also reduced exposure from the machine to the body, of harmful artificial heat and radiation. On the same note also a less likelihood of them sleeping with it in bed due to its clunkiness, again eliminating the risk that comes with sleeping with mobile phones in bed.
Smartphones/tablets- now really becoming one of the same things. The benefits of course with these devices is the constant accessibility to your emails and other apps. Which is of benefit for some lines of work, or even as busy parents, but as a student, this type of "constantness" is definitely not of any requirement, nor of any positive benefit. Therefore in my opinion best to avoid for as far as possible!
The perfect combination, in my opinion, would be a brick phone and a laptop which could easily see them through to 18 without any issues. In fact, if there isn’t any actual genuine pressing need for a smartphone, one could argue that that is all that one does need full stop. Yes it does mean we would need to go back to relying on our ability to read maps for example, but if one exercises the brain more, that isn’t a bad thing!
Now this is of course in the ideal world, unfortunately a place which we do not reside in. In the real world things are never this hunky dory and we do end up having to give into our children’s peer pressure; because let’s face it, parents in general (we are all equally guilty of this, in some shape or form) will all agree that this is not happening and yet at the first sign of children demanding, give in and start the vicious circle of peer pressure.
So in the real world, you probably will end up getting them a laptop, as that is most probably a requirement from school. You most probably may try to go down the brick phone route or no phone route, for as long as it is possible, but definitely before the reach 18 they will at some point start pestering you for a smartphone. The most likely outcome will be, you having to give in, because as much as you are holding it off, it does come to the point of you feeling that you are just being cruel to your child. Even though you are not, you are in fact doing them a favour, but we are human and human nature is such that there is only so much we can cope with. Especially if we ourselves have it and we can in some form “afford” it, then we will end up giving in.
Like I said before, I am talking in the realm of children who are 14+. They may start pleading with you from as young as 10/11, please just do not even entertain the idea with them! I know as I look around everyday in buses, cafes, etc children as little as 3 or 4 have there own devices. Honestly I wish I could stop them in the streets and tell them do not do this to your children, but sadly this world is not one to take any type of advice they haven’t asked for anymore. Especially not from a random stranger and that too, one they would be running a mile in the other direction from. (The elephant in the room, but that is a story for another time and space).
So having given in, now the question arises what do I do? This leads us on to the “How”
STAGE 4: HOW
“how do I make myself tech aware enough to aid my child in being e-safe in every sense of the word!”
As old fashioned as this advice maybe, but there really is no beating the age old secret of “READING”, read read read, that my friends needs to be your best friend!! This is a constantly changing world, no two days are the same in this world, you MUST read. If you want to know what is happening, how to stay safe and keep young ones safe, the only way you will know about what the latest threat is, if you read. The more you read, the more you will be clued in on to exactly what things are doing the rounds on the internet. From the scary “Mo Mo” life threatening game, to the latest virus threats that could hack your device.
You need to be part of the virtual world yourself: learn from it, experience it and read it, so to enable you to know how emotionally it can affect a person. You do not need to be engaging in every action and practice, but you need to be aware or it.
For example you do not need to be trolled yourself, but if you read people’s comments on things you can start to experience how emotionally damaging some comments can be. If you have a certain idea about how people can be so ruthless, for no real reason, you will know that your child may need support emotionally in certain ways if they are posting things online.
Remember they may not always come to you to tell you someone was so horrid online, because they may think that you might think its no big deal or they may think I can handle it; because I can’t make myself known to be emotionally weak and unfit to handle this world and so on so forth.
Or on the other spectrum they become over obsessed with the selfie culture and go posting mad due to cravings for appreciation and then feel overwhelmingly depressed if then their photos are not liked, but be unable to explain their massive breakouts of anger due to it.
These things can be soul crushing. You need to be aware how these things can change the behaviour of your children, how they can psychologically effect them at times permanently. You will only be aware of it if you are aware of what happens in the online world.
How to tackle these things. You can not tackle them in hind sight, well you can, but that’s not the best place to start. As always the best place to start is from the beginning.
Before you hand them these devices, you need to request/ make an agreement/ a pack, whatever you want to call it and how ever you feel you can approach the subject with your children; but you need to have this conversation with them: that they always keeping you in the loop online.
I.e. that you can befriend them online, you will keep a zero to very low presence on their social media sites, but you want to be added so that you can see what they are getting up to, what is happening and stuff (not like a spy, but just as a friend). You promise you will not mother them online, or embarrass them, either in person, amongst friends or online. You just want to still be a silent part of their world just on the sidelines. This is where that trust comes back in again, if you have a good bond and strong trust between you, then they will be willing to trust that you will do as you are saying.
You need to talk to them about, if they see trolling, whether they are facing it, their friends are facing it or just a random person X is , but it is hurting them or making them feel upset to always talk about it. It is a big deal, it is very wrong and how certain website do have a place for you to report them or at the very least block them.
Talk about how lots of people do put on pics of themselves/food/their work/travel and how its ok, but sometimes it can be fun at first with your friends all "liking it" and enjoy it and commenting about it. It may make you feel really excited and fantastic inside, but its not really a healthy practice: to judge your worth from these things.
People change, people get busy, people may start feeling jealous or fed up or feel resentment and start not likely your pics or writings, they may un-friend you or leave unpleasant comments etc, which will start having bad effects on you. From feeling low, because people are not liking your things, to feeling angry and frustrated. All these things lead to an unpleasant space and place, all it does is make you shallow and addicted to what other people say. None of these practices have any sort of healthy outcome. It's best to refrain from them. Yes to occasionally want to put a pic of yourself up, is one thing, but to constantly have that in your mind to put up pics is definitely not a healthy thing.
Talk to them about how and why you do not want them to be online late at night so there will be a type of imaginary curfew for the phone/wifi etc. But making sure that then the same rule is also followed through by all the other adults too. So that you are not a hypocrite. Explain to them that if you do need to be on your device for which ever reason at night, you will allow it, if it is a reasonable request. But with that enforce that they must always make sure they have at least a lamp on in the room, so that the screen’s glaring light is not the only thing blinding your eyes at night and how that is extremely harmful for your eyes.
This flexibility will make them more willing to respect the rules and hopefully prevent them from going behind your back and sneaking around with it. Don’t make it forbidden and taboo, the more you try to make a big deal about a thing and take it from them, the more they will want it more and more.
This is not a fight about power and control, this is a time to teach them to have a healthy relationship with this world for life. Its bigger than “the now”, always focus on the bigger picture! Educate yourself and educate them about why certain practices are not healthy. Encourage them and show them by example how to build a healthy relationship with this world.
"Meal times, how to retain that reverent family time at meal times".
Do not bring your phone to the table, do not answer anything that rings at meal times- and this is a practice one should always have, irrelevant of if they have children and how old they maybe. Keep meal times a “family time”. If you never bring the phone to the table, then you will also be respected and heard when you ask your teen not to!
Get them to start cooking at least one day a week. This has many benefits. Not only will they learn a vital life skill, but when they slave hard in the kitchen, then they will also respect the fact how important it is for the other people to be "present"-in every sense of the word, at the table when the table is laid. They will learn the importance of the table attendees enjoying the meal, respecting it and praising it! And hopefully also how important a little bit of help can be when you are cooking for the family; if someone offers to lay the table or wash some dishes, then they will hopefully be more inclined to think of helping when it is not their turn to cook.
When you assign them a meal time to cook, don't just assign them a meal, teach them how to meal plan for it, shop for it. These are also vital skills that they will need later in life. Tell them it doesn’t have to be fancy or complicated, you will all happily eat whatever they will prepare for you. Teach them both, how to shop in local shops and online. More and more people are shopping online these days and its is a very empowering practice for them to learn, that you can buy fresh groceries with a click of a button, just like you can order from "just eat" with a click of a button. It will also teach them that the virtual world can be used to make your life easy, as oppose to just for gaming and socialising. If they are not very excited for it, start videoing them when they cook, so they can feel they are on a Youtube video or TV show to get them excited about cooking. They love this type of attention. You do not have to put any of it actually online, unless you both want to, but it is a nice way of getting them excited about it and wanting to do more and more with there meals.
Please remember these are just my own personal tips, I am sure there are a lot more way and things that one can do. These are just what has been whizzing around my head, for now the past week, as it’s taken me a week to actually complete this.
One more thing as I (finally) take your leave, (its been a long one this one), keep the teen engaged with lots of planned activities. The more their schedule is full, the less time they have for any other distractions. Having strong family routines, with a healthy mix of fun and games, activities and chores, classes and school, all ensure that they will hopefully stay engaged and interested in the real world and less available to “kill time” on the virtual one.
If you stuck it through in one read, I am impressed!
Wishing us all, power to be the parent we all wish to be, on all counts!
This space features my reflections, opinions, ponderings and from time to time announcements of what I am up to. It literally is me in my corner on my soapbox.
OTHER BLOG SPACES: