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Breaking Free From my Phone

I had become a highly distracted person. As a multitasking mother, things had got out of hand. Of course, I had to multitask to get things done and simply maintain a household, so I would cook whilst trying to keep my children amused, or I would hang up washing while engaged in conversation. But that wasn’t the problem. The problem was that my phone was always in reach.

Whenever I was having a hard time with my children I would use my phone as an escape. Whenever I heard a ping or saw the notification light flashing, I would check, even if that meant leaving a task I was busy with, or becoming distracted when someone (normally a little person) was trying to get my attention or talk to me. Whenever I heard a call, I felt a great pressure to immediately pick up. It made me feel guilty and distracted, as if my mind was in five places at once. I blamed my fuzzy mind and absentmindedness purely on my tiredness, but the reality was that I was too connected.

Sometimes I felt like throwing​ my phone out of the window just so that I could be free of the notifications, messages and news feeds which beckoned me all day long. I had attempted, in the past, to turn off the WiFi connection so that I wouldn’t receive messages or be able to check for updates. I had also tried just putting my phone on silent. But it never worked for long. Why? Maybe it was because I felt the need to be available to anyone who wanted to contact me, just in case it was important. Maybe it was because I had convinced myself that I needed my phone to get me through the day. Maybe it was because deep down I thought that if I didn’t reach for it, I would become bored. Or maybe, as sad as it sounds, it was because I sometimes felt ‘unproductive’ when not doing anything other than watching my children or playing with them

It wasn’t until I started reading the book “Hands Free Mama” that I felt like I had a companion to help me on my journey to becoming hands free. It gave me that push to just PUT IT AWAY. So I did. In a kitchen cupboard. And I tried to forget about it. I had changed my settings so that all notification sounds were off except calls (for emergency situations). No social media pings. No email pings. No message pings. I was free.

When the urge came for me to grab my phone (which was very often), I told myself: just let go. You don’t need it. And it doesn’t need you. And that day, I was able to resist it more than I had ever been able to before. But why? You may ask.

Because I had re-discovered the joy in connection, conversation.

I was free from the sounds which summoned me away.

I sat watching my children as they played in the bath. I observed. And I noticed….

How my daughter’s face lit up when she realised that I was watching her, simply watching her, undistracted.

How peaceful I felt when I didn’t feel the need to check my phone.

How stress free I felt just letting go.

I was carefree. I was living. And enjoying.

I no longer wanted to escape behind my screen every ten minutes. I no longer wanted to check my messages and emails when my children were present. I no longer felt the constant pressure of having to check my phone and respond. I was truly free.

I held my daughter’s hand, instead of my phone, feeling its warmth and noticing its softness as we walked down the stairs together.

I didn’t have to ask my daughter to repeat something because I was too distracted to focus the first time.

I could stop the sibling squabble before it escalated because I was fully present, both physically and mentally.

I could take a deep breath, look my child in the eye and respond more calmly to the repeated questioning, instead of answering impatiently from behind a screen.

But was that it? Had I broken free forever? Was it really that simple? Of course not.

I had tasted the sweetness of being hands free, but by evening, tiredness had got to me and my phone was back out. As I struggled to focus on my daughter, a wave of guilt washed over me.

But this time, instead of just wallowing in my guilt, the fact that I knew I had an alternative choice and had experienced its joy pushed me into action and I forced myself to put my phone away when bedtime drew near. With my phone out of sight once again, I could be fully present for those last, most precious moments.

“Night, night,” I said, as I looked my daughter in the eye.

“Love you,” I said, as I peeped through the gap in the door.

“I love you too,” was the soft reply.

I then gave a kiss in the air directed at my daughter, along with a smile. But instead of just closing the door and walking away, I waited just a moment. And that was all it took, for my presence was rewarded with an ‘I want to hug you,’ something I would have missed if I had simply rushed out of the room, eager to savour every ‘me time’ moment that I could before bed.

The next few days were up and down. When tiredness and sickness visited, my phone ‘cravings’ came back with a vengeance.

But although things weren’t perfect, they were 100% better. After just a few days I had become used to leaving my phone out of reach for much longer periods, no longer feeling the need to have it by my side 24/7. I had realised that just seeing an email or WhatsApp sign at the top of my phone made me much more inclined to unlock it and check my messages, so I removed them completely. I also turned off automatic email syncing, which meant that I had to check my inbox myself (and I rarely remembered to do that during the day.)

Whenever I felt myself becoming overly distracted, I tried be firm with myself and make the choice to simply put my phone down. And when I did, the joy returned. The joy of taking my time to watch my daughter’s face as she concentrated on building a tower from blocks. The joy of talking to my husband without thinking of the one hundred and one messages and emails that I had to respond to. The joy of simply slowing down to admire the creation of Allah through the lens of my eyes, and not that of my phone camera.

Because becoming hands free is not about throwing your phone out of the window. It is about self-discipline, maintaining a balance, and striving for what truly matters.

Will you join me?

© RS Khan 2017

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Because he’s still your husband and you’re still his wife

Motherhood changes us. And along with it, we are given a new identity. But whilst “mother” is a most honourable title, and motherhood is a most honourable gift, we don’t have to give up the wife we were before.

I know that it’s hard. Sometimes it feels like motherhood has taken over your former identity. But you’re still there, deep down. You’re still that same woman who once waited eagerly for her husband’s return. You’re still that same woman who once maintained her appearance, every day. You’re still that same woman who once spent her days joking, playing and simply caring.

And don’t forget, your husband is the same man too. That same man who noticed, smiled, appreciated and reciprocated.

I know that loose trousers are so much comfier than fitting jeans. I know that the lipstick may not look as neat by the time he arrives home. The perfume may have weakened. The eye liner may no longer be crisp. But it’s worth it, so worth it. For every small action is recorded and preserved. Every step towards protecting your husband is a step towards Allah’s protection. Every scent you adorn yourself with brings you closer to the scent of Jannah. Yes, he may no longer have the energy to compliment you every time. But that’s okay. Because your efforts are noticed, observed, and appreciated. So put on that lipstick, that perfume, that mascara.

Because he’s still your husband, and you’re still his wife.

I know that you want to off-load and tell him how hard your day was. I know that you are craving sympathy, and you rightly deserve it. Just like me, you may sometimes convince yourself that your job is harder than his. Maybe it is. Maybe it isn’t. Only Allah knows that. But one thing’s for sure, his day hasn’t been easy either, and his mind is weary too. So try, just try, to give him a moment of peace. A smile. A warm embrace. Be the part of the day he looks forward to, seeks refuge in.

Because he’s still your husband, and you’re still his wife.

I know that you want to fall asleep the moment your children have settled. I know that you may not feel like talking after hours of answering “whys” and “whos” and “whats.” I know that it’s hard to focus. But he craves your company. Your meaningful conversations. Your undivided attention. So strive to maintain that companionship, that connection.

Because he’s still your husband, and you’re still his wife. 

And remember, just remember, when exhaustion gives you an excuse not to…

…that right now, there are no woman’s eyes he can gaze sinlessly into except yours. That right now, there are no woman’s hands he can hold with affection except yours. That right now, there is no one who can fulfil his needs except you. He trusts you. He relies upon you. He needs you.

Because you were his wife before you became the mother of his children – and you still are.

It was said to the Messenger of Allah (sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam): Who from among the women is best? He said: “The one who makes (her husband) happy when he looks at her, obeys him when he tells her to do something, and does not disobey him with regard to herself or her wealth in a way that he dislikes.” (an-Nasaa’i)

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