Reflections on Motherhood

By Fatmanur Koksal

Like many women in my generation, I have been programmed to get the best education and have a successful career.  I would like to ponder a bit over the idea of “motherhood.” We generally feel our conscience at ease and that we have succeeded in being a good mother if we are able to fulfill our children’s physical and emotional needs. Yet, have we ever considered whether, in the first place, we came to this world simply to be good mothers? Or is motherhood a means to a higher end or the end itself? Yes, there are certain things which motherhood does require. However, is it not more important to go a step further and reflect over just what these motherly emotions are saying to me? To reflect over the feelings I have toward my own mother? To put it more clearly, what does being a mother add to my humanity? Does being a mother help me to better understand who I am? In short, how should we “read” these motherly feelings? As such, I believe that a mother’s responsibilities lie, first and foremost, in reading motherhood and contemplating over what it brings to her world.

Therefore, instead of asking the same clichéd questions, such as “What would we do without mothers?” and saying how great mothers are, I would like to stop and consider just what it is specifically that can I learn about my Creator and my position in this world through my relationship with my children and my own mother. Otherwise, just as when I look at a flower as merely a flower or just some living organism; I am harming my own soul by depriving myself of the message being manifested through this particular flower’s beauty, order, and countless other qualities. In reality, this flower is speaking to me through the qualities displayed on it through its existence; it is telling me that I have a Creator who loves me. In the exact same way, when we don’t take heed of the deeper meanings that these motherly feelings are pointing to, we are equally harming ourselves. As such, I would like to continue my discussion in this context while also taking into account one of the sayings of the Prophet Muhammed (PBUH), “Paradise lies beneath the feet of mothers.” When considering this sentence in such a way that takes into account what these feelings are pointing to, I understand that hidden in these motherly emotions lies the potential to recognize a Lord, the fruit of which is paradise and eternal happiness. Let’s look at a few examples of how to make use of this potential:

As a mother, when I look at my children, I notice that I have an internal desire that not even the smallest thing hurt them. I don’t want anyone to look at my children with even the slightest of hostility, anything to cause them the slightest of pain (even if it be a needle piercing one of their fingers), or their dreams to be broken. With that being said, just where did these feelings come from? I don’t remember going to the supermarket and buying them. That means there must be One who gave them to me which then entails that the same One who gave me these feelings also does not want “humanity” to undergo the smallest of pain. Once I understand this, I must reevaluate the instances when I thought that I had felt pained.  

No matter what mistake one of my children makes, as soon as he or she offers a small apology recognizing his mistake, my anger melts away. All traces of resentment, animosity, and anger completely vanish. This is also a very interesting sign for me and I must ask myself what it means. Sometimes, if not most of the time, I live my life as if I had come into this world through mere coincidence – as if there were no purpose to my life. Despite living in such heedlessness, it is enough for me to offer a simple apology to the One who sent me to this world. His clemency must also be as such.

I often find myself trying to keep my child from falling into situations that could be either dangerous or otherwise harmful to them. My children, on the other hand, don’t always understand my intentions and therefore either cry or simply rebel against my attempts to protect them. Yet, do I not act the same as my children? Don’t I also sometimes want something that I cannot have? Don’t I also behave as if my dreams have been shattered when I can’t have what I want? In the same way as I understand that it is better for my child not to have or do a certain thing, my Creator, who by definition must be One who sees both my past and future at the same moment, knows that it is better for me not to have or do something that I may want. Upon reflecting over this aspect of my own motherhood, I understand that I certainly shouldn’t act like a child in my own relationship with my Creator.

Upon becoming a mother, I realized just how many things there are to do in managing a household, and how many dimensions and levels there are in the education and training of a human being. Let’s take a look at just a small number of things that a mother must deal with. She manages the house, cleans, and cooks. She thinks of her child’s material and spiritual wellbeing and development. She wakes up in the middle of the night to cover her child with a blanket. She constantly finds new and various ways to surprise her child. And these are just to name a few! So, if I, as such a limited being am able to do these things, how is it at all possible that I not be in absolute awe at the education and training by the One who manages the entire universe in all its vastness and intricacies?

Until a certain time, my own mother was in the most center part of my life. All of my physical and emotional needs were fulfilled through her. However, as my life progressed, I began to notice that her compassion and power were limited, and as she aged, it seemed that nothing stayed the same and eventually she left this world. Whereas I had once imagined my life on this world to be impossible without my mother, I came to realize that it can, and does, continue. This makes me understand that the compassion manifested through my mother did not belong to her. I have come to the realization that it was through my mother that my Creator sent me His compassion and mercy.

Regarding “free-will,” although I am not the owner of my own children, nor was I the one who gave them their eyes and heart, I am unable to have patience when they make the smallest of mistakes. I cannot endure it when my children use their free-will in a way that goes against my own. Yet, when I take a look at myself, I notice that the One who placed me in this world has not placed any constraint over my free-will. Instead, He only gives good news and warns me, through creation and all of His messengers and then leaves me face-to-face with my own conscience. Living in the presence of such a Creator doesn’t strain me, quite the opposite; it gives me peace of heart and mind. Even though my mother is not in this world, my Creator continually reflects the warmth of motherhood onto me.

I find myself with the possibility to develop a deeper and more dimensional relationship with my children through sharing their times of sickness and sadness. Such instances provide me with the opportunity to explain to them life’s different aspects. In just the same way, this means that, through my sickness and sadness, I am able to develop a relationship with my Creator on a different level than I had previously experienced. Quite simply, these occasions are opportunities for me to recognize the different attributes of my Creator.

We generally look with awe at the creation of milk in a mother’s breast as soon as her child is born; however, is milk the only thing given to a mother? Just where does the very heart filled with the compassion to respond to the every need of our completely powerless children come from? Just what sign can it be for us when a person who would not consider passing even a single night awake for any other reason finds herself ready to take care of even the smallest need of a newborn baby?

The above examples consist only of those that have come to my mind. If each of us were to take into careful consideration our own motherly emotions and, instead of drowning in motherhood itself, were to contemplate over just what these motherly emotions are a sign to and direct our focus toward what these signs point to, God willing, opportunities to make different conclusions pertaining to ourselves and our Creator will be born.