Author Sadaf Farooqi tells us how she juggles work alongside her other duties as a Muslimah, mother, teacher and wife
When I first started brainstorming editorial ideas for this blog Sadaf Farooqi was the first person on my list of interviewees. I've read almost all her books and am always eagerly waiting for her next blog post! Mashallah she is truly an inspiration :)
As well as homeschooling her three children, 38-year old Sadaf works from home as a freelance writer and author - so of course I had to find out how she manages to juggle it all!
Read on to find out...
Could you begin by telling us a bit about yourself?
From the age 10, I began to read voraciously, and always wrote for leisure, especially in a small personal diary. It was when I was studying Computer Science/Software Engineering as an undergraduate at university, that I realised that it was not my calling. I had no interest in it, and it bored me to bits.
Simultaneously, during my teenage years, my interest in Qur'an and Islam grew steadily, as I became more religious and searched for my true purpose in life. In my spare time, left over after official studies (which was limited, due to the immensely high university workload) I would read Qur'an and Islamic books, and also wrote down my reflections, thoughts, confusions, and opinions about Islam in my personal diary (which I did not allow anyone else to read).
At age 21, right after graduation, I joined a Qur'an course under a teacher. It was like a dream come true! Finally, I could study what I truly wanted to! Eventually, 4 years of religious studies later, I got married -- a milestone that I had been ardently praying for. I had always wanted to start a family during my twenties.
Anyhow, once I started staying at home with my first baby, I started reading mommy blogs for latest advice online about taking care of babies (being zilch in that area as a first-time mother). Eventually, I thought, "I can start and maintain a blog too, based on my interests." And that is how my blog started, in 2006. I turned to writing online to fill up my time, branching out as a freelance writer for magazines and other online publications.
You've written many books and also have a blog (Alhamdulillah) - how do you juggle your work alongside your other duties, as a Muslimah, mother and wife?
Ironic as it many sound, I found it more tough to juggle everything when I had just one baby and was new to the whole marriage, homemaking, and domesticity scene. That was because I was in the stage of simultaneously learning all the ropes, practically: be it cooking, doing the laundry, nappy-changing, periodically getting the house cleaned (we have part-time maids here in Pakistan), bathing a baby, or developing an understanding with my new husband (which takes some time) -- everything was new to me.
The only solution to getting better at getting everything done well? Time and consistency i.e. to keep going at it until you become a pro, with full trust in Allah and faith in Him. It took time and consistent effort to get where I am today. Many times, it got really overwhelming, especially during my first trimesters in pregnancy (which I wouldn't wish on my worst enemy!).
Living as a nuclear family has its perks as far as privacy and independence are concerned, but it also involves more hard work and level-headedness, since you are alone as a couple to solve all your practical problems yourself, without the cushy support of extended family. Not to mention, you are fully responsible for your children's well-being, health, and safety.
Juggling all the balls takes time, patience, and practice. Just keep going even if you make mistakes and face hurdles in the process. Just do.not.give.up. Refuse to give up! Each time you fall, get back up, and resume working hard again.
One important thing that I want to point out is that, as the years passed, I shed off most cultural obligations, pastimes, and hobbies that Pakistani women my age engage in. I won't mention them specifically, since that might cause offense. But I hope you get my drift? :)
I have begun to take my work very seriously since the past few years, and I no longer have time for boring dinners and socialite-type events.
What is a typical day in your life like?
After praying Fajr, my children often lay back down. On most days I recite some Qur'an and then work after Fajr prayer. I love this time of the day, perhaps the only "me-time" that I get in the day, as the house is quiet and it allows me to give my work my best focus during those blessings-ridden morning hours.
However, I am not super-energetic, so if I feel sleepy and need to take a nap during mid-morning or afternoon, I do that too. As an unschooling family, we are all quite flexible about these things, especially during Ramadan, which has been falling in the summer months.
The children emerge from their rooms eventually, and continue with their current interests and projects after breakfast, be it crafting, Qur'an, building, reading/writing, art, creative play, or even fighting with each other like typical siblings! They also help me out with some chores now, such as laundry, de-cluttering, or clearing up. The older two often help me in the kitchen as well, e.g. to make their own sandwiches for lunch.
In the meantime, as I engage with/sporadically guide/supervise them from a distance throughout the daylight hours, I keep returning to my desk to do my own work of the day too, which varies according to my schedule. The children keep coming and going from my room with their needs.
On some days, however, I do just take a break and chill: I read articles online, or watch a few beneficial videos, without doing any writing, editing, social media, or emails. At this stage in my career, I write in one big spurt/go, after having mulled over a topic in my mind for a day or two (article ideas get planned out mostly in my head).
Alhamdulillah, since I love what I do, nothing among all of this actually even seems like "work" to me. :)
In the evenings, after my husband comes home from work, we usually go out together -- for errands, recreation, grocery shopping, and eating out (which is something we all love). We try to wind down by
Since we are unschoolers, the only difference between our routines on weekdays and weekends is that my husband is at home, sleeping in after Fajr, much to the children's delight (alhamdulillah). :)
What advice would you give to mothers who want to work from home while looking after their children?
I would suggest that they first alter their point of view about mothering, parenting, and homemaking. They should shed off cultural obligations, and not be too harsh on themselves as far as any permissible aspect of parenting, homemaking and cooking is concerned.
Be flexible and open-minded, and as the Prophet ﷺ used to, they should always try to take the easier way out in worldly matters. A sandwich or one-pot pasta dish works just as well for a meal, as Indian curry with flatbread, or biryani; it just takes less time and hassle to prepare.
Similarly, a home that is bursting with the activity and play of children throughout the day is not going to look like the photographs that we see on home decor magazine covers. And that is perfectly fine in the eyes of Allah.
A work-from-home mother should stop apologising for her choices to others, find the routine that suits her most, and just do the best she can. Last but not least, she should not neglect her husband, and should talk to him openly about everything, & consult him in every matter. His support for her career is the practical lifeline for her success.
A mother who wants to work from home in today's age should be grateful that she can work and also earn money now, without needing to leave the warm comfort, protection and privacy of her home. This was not a luxury afforded to the women of prior generations, who had to brave great odds and overcome huge challenges in order to work at jobs, if they needed money.
A work-from-home professional woman today, does not need to take a long, dragging commute to go to work at a workplace that involves mixing with male colleagues and involves other time-wasting office activities.
I thank Allah every day that He guided me to unschool my children, and also enabled me to work from home, professionally; that He placed so much barakah in my efforts, which I could not have even imagined! Alhamdulillah! All taufeeq and guidance is solely from Him. May He accept our efforts.
Could you tell us a bit about your writing process? What motivates you?
I write about things in real life that make me angry and frustrated. :) Sounds surprising, doesn't it? But it is true. Most of my writings have been the result of my indignation at some injustice or wrong that I see others doing and defending with vehemence, especially desi aunties.
My writings about the Qur'an and spirituality, however, are a result of my recitation with reflection upon the Qur'an, which I try to do after Fajr prayer in the mornings. Pondering upon the Qur'an and relating its lessons to real life situations helps me write.
Finally, I write counsels and advice to those who seek solutions to personal problems, or ask about Islam, especially girls & women.
I understand you homeschool your children. This is still a relatively new phenomenon in the UK. Could you tell us a bit more about this? What are the benefits? How have your children benefited?
Ah, homeschooling. A varied alternative to traditional education that has many schools of thoughts, approaches, and methods. I have picked the unschooling route. Or rather, I should say, it was picked out for me by circumstance, when during my third pregnancy, I noticed that my older two children continued with their learning without any interruptions, unsupervised, whilst I lay sick on the bed all day. It dawned on me that children are naturally programmed to learn, as long as they are given an environment and materials conducive to learning and play.
My children have benefited greatly from homeschooling. Although it can get really challenging at times, the results are exponential!
They mature earlier, take on adult tasks and responsibilities earlier, and are more self-confident and bold, even if their academic milestones sometimes get "delayed". They see the practical realities of adult life firsthand, instead of being cocooned for years inside the walls of schools and under piles of academic homework/exam preparation.
As a result, when they do achieve academic milestones (such as reading, writing and math), they do it quickly and abruptly, skipping many levels in short periods of time, since the learning is natural and interest-based.
Finally, Mashallah, you've achieved a lot while taking care of your family and homeschooling your children! How do you manage your time?!
I do not make a particular practical effort to manage my time. I just do the following things, regularly, and I think they help tremendously:
Purify my intentions regularly, and ask Allah for help
Curtail time-wasting activities and anything else (especially cultural burdens) that makes my worldly tasks harder, and
Use wisdom to decide what task is of higher priority than others, on any particular day, week, or month.
I also make regular dua for barakah in my efforts, and repent for my mistakes and sins. These acts of worship pave the way for further ease and fruition.
Finally, I never neglect myself, spiritually, emotionally, or physically. I endeavor to always pray each prayer on time, to seek Allah's pleasure, except isha, which gets more rewards when delayed a little.
When I need sleep, I sleep. When I feel like going out for a breather and a change of scene, I go out. When I feel like cooking, I cook. :) I am not kidding when I say that sometimes I do not even turn on my computer for a full 24 hours, just to take a technology break!
I love laughing and goofing around with my husband and children as well, and even teasingly joke around with my parents when I visit them, in order to create some memorable family moments, and to de-stress as a mother and as a professional.
I allow myself these occasional treats and privileges, as they make me come back to my work with renewed vigor and enthusiasm.
To conclude, Allah is the source of all strength, and guidance to do any good deeds.
May He continue to guide me to work even more for His cause, and may He accept it all from us, amen.