There are times we contemplate upon moments our mind visually recollects, that piece together how we’ve come to the present. Recently, I have had time to deeply reflect on who I am, who I want to become and the life experiences that have shaped the me I know today.
It all began with one word:
A traumatizing ordeal that victimizes any child involved in the unbinding of a sacred union. Divorced became a permanent word printed across the shoulders of parents and stamped across my own forehead, along with countless other children. The increased rate of divorced Muslim couples has risen expediently in the last few years, leaving its victims shattered traces of pain. Forty-three percent of children growing up in America today are raised without their fathers, and I am one of them.
In 2006, my father, an interpreter for the U.S Army serving in Iraq, secretly remarried in the war-torn land. As a daughter who was observant of his changing behavior, my suspicions began to grow. I carried out a secret investigation, gathered evidence and discovered the truth. Thereafter the question came: should I remain faithful to the parent who I was dearly attached to, or should I betray him… like he betrayed me?
It was personal, and I didn’t want him to get away with it. On my 14th birthday, I decided to tell my mum, indirectly, that I had chosen her by revealing my findings. She was devastated. She cried for days while my siblings and I watched helplessly, as we witnessed our parents entering the pool of fifty percent whose marriage drowns, never to resurface again.
Often, it is best to work with what you are given, not what you wish you had.
As a child who grew up with a father absent by choice, there were a lot of internal and external struggles in my day to day life. I was extremely depressed for years, unable to build a bond with my mother, yearning to escape the identity of ‘her father’s daughter.’ I loathed that I looked like him, that I carried his name, that I might also carry the same selfish gene that he possessed. He had left an irreplaceable void. I went through difficulty that would have been so much easier if a father figure was present. I graduated without him by my side, I learned to drive without him by my side, and one day, I am to be wed without him by my side.
So many dynamics shift within a family when it abruptly undergoes such a horrible change. My mother hasn’t been the same… I cannot even recall a time when I have genuinely seen her happy, healthy or without worry. The lack of these essentials had put an immense strain on her relationship with her children.
No one ever tells you how other people begin to intervene in your life when your head of household is a woman. People seem to know what is best for you, how to properly raise the children, warn you on the difficulties of marrying off the daughter of a divorcee, and advise on the inappropriateness of remarrying when you are a mother of two daughters.
Everyone becomes an expert.
I found it difficult to accept how people would speak so boldly to my mother about her personal demise. Strangers would approach my mother saying, “We heard he had left because you are not beautiful, but we don’t see you lacking in beauty.” The insincerity in their tones was sickening. My mother, too kind, would let it slide, but would continue to painfully recall it years later. However, my tongue was a beast that would devour in defence. No one seemed to understand that our personal family matter wasn’t something we wanted to publicly discuss.
The older I grew, the more I realized that I had to become what others could not have envisioned. I am no longer the helpless 14-year-old watching her mother hauntingly cry from agony of the heart, instead I safeguarded my modesty, I became more involved in the community, I let my akhlaq (manners) speak for me. I have grown closer to my religion, appreciative of my circumstances and a proud product of a single mother.
I am not perfect, but I have strived to be the best that I can be with what I have been blessed with. Often, it is best to work with what you are given, not what you wish you had. I am not the first nor last to experience living in a single parent household, but to those who have felt like they had to go through it alone, know that there are many who feel your struggle. You are not alone, nor has the guidance or mercy of Allah forsaken you.
At some point you need to stop allowing this lifestyle to drain you emotionally and perhaps even physically. Learn to confide in someone… rather than keeping your feelings hostage, talking about the situation will help give much needed relief. It’s okay to be in pain, it’s even okay to long for the presence of a father figure, after all that’s just human nature. Your confidant might not understand, but that’s okay too, all you need is a listener. If needed, do not be ashamed to seek professional counseling, regardless of what anyone says. Allow yourself to grieve and to express the full range of emotions that come along with it.
It’s also essential to keep your focus on the family that you have left. Building a family bond is crucial not only to you, but to everyone surrounding you. Give yourself, and others, the time to adjust to the new disposition of your family, but keep in mind that you are human too, and practicing self care should definitely be prioritized. Remember that you are an individual who is entitled to both space and/or attention.
And lastly, stop caring about what everyone else thinks.
The moment you break free of those shackles is the moment you begin to breathe.
The author of this article has chosen to remain anonymous.