Alhamdulillah (praise be to God) my husband and I were blessed with the opportunity to perform Hajj in 2014. Deciding to go to Hajj was one of the most difficult decisions I ever had to make since becoming a mother.
As a homeschooler and protective mother who is a firm believer in attachment parenting, family and friends were shocked when I shared our Hajj plans. A dear, genuinely concerned friend asked, “How do you expect to leave your baby for so long during Hajj when you couldn’t even leave her with me for three minutes without worrying so much?” My response: “When I left her with you to quickly run to my car, I wasn’t leaving her for the sake of Allah subhanahu wa ta`ala (exalted is He).” As I uttered these words, I shook inside with gratitude toward Allah for guiding me to that realization at that specific moment. Another friend encouragingly reminded me that I am going for my children and was not depriving them in any way. Now that I’ve returned from the amazing journey, I realize that performing Hajj while leaving my little children at home was the best thing I’ve ever done for them. Please pray that Allah (swt) accepts my Hajj and invites me again and again.
I’d like to share some ideas that helped my children before and during my journey. I pray that these ideas will inspire, encourage, and give hope to other mothers contemplating Hajj insha’Allah (God willing).
1. Make du`a’, du`a’, and more du`a’ (supplication) for your children and for Allah to make the separation easy on them and you. Since the inception of our Hajj plans (at least 8 months before Hajj 2014), I started asking Allah (swt) to guide me towards making a decision that was the most pleasing to Him and the best for my deen (religion), dunya (worldly life), and akhirah (hereafter). I performed istikharah (a specific prayer and supplication asking God for guidance) and immediately saw events unfolding in favor of me going for Hajj. I continued to make du`a’ (supplication) imploring Allah to take care of my children in my absence and admitted that it was He, not me, who has been the one taking care of them even in my presence since before their conception! During Hajj, I undoubtedly missed my children tremendously. I made it a point to make du`a’ for them every single time I thought of them. Alhamdulillah, I have no regrets there. May Allah accept all those prayers!
2. Break the news to your children gently in an easy way for them to understand. I decided to hold off on any Hajj related discussions with the children until after Ramadan 2014. One night, as I was tucking them into bed, it just felt like an appropriate time to break the news. The words naturally rolled off my tongue, and alhamdulillah Allah made it easy for me wherein I didn’t cry or express any hesitation whilst talking to my older two. I remember sharing something like, “You know that no matter how much I love reading to you and playing with you, when it’s time for salah (prayer) I drop everything and pray, right? Allah is above everything, and our duty towards Him comes first. Just like salah is a pillar of Islam, so is Hajj. Did you know that this year Allah has invited Mamma and Baba to perform Hajj? Do you know what that means? It means that insha’Allah Baba and I will be going to Makkah for a few days. Hajj is too difficult for children and it’s not safe for me to take the baby so alhamdulillah we’re so lucky that Nanna and Abba will be staying here with you. Isn’t that exciting? It’s going to be so much fun for you! Baba and I are going to make lots and lots of du`a’ for you while we’re there insha’Allah. Do you have any special du`a’ that you want me to make on your behalf?” The children took the news very well alhamdulillah; coincidentally, they even attended a children’s Hajj Simulation at a local mosque the day we departed on our journey.
3. Plan countdown surprises and notes to keep them feeling loved, reassured, and entertained. Our trip was a total of seventeen days. For each day, I had a little gift bag for my children to open. I numbered each gift bag and hung them high on a wall from 17 to 1. This line of gift bags served as a countdown for Mamma and Baba to return. The gift bags contained little items that I carefully chose knowing that they would make the children happy: yo-yos, fancy pencils, whistles, magnifying glasses, bouncing balls, etc. My husband and I also wrote little notes in each bag addressing our children. One note read: “Dear Bhaijaan and Didi, We are so lucky to have you in our lives. Please give your baby sister a hug and kiss from us and play ‘catch, catch, catch’ with her today.” I was told that the children enthusiastically awoke every morning begging an adult to bring down their gift bag. Alhamdulillah.
4. Record videos of yourself for your kids. My husband and I recorded ourselves reading aloud our children’s favorite books. We must have had a total of four to five hours of reading their all-time favorite picture and chapter books. We recorded these videos using our webcams and spent about thirty minutes each night after the children went to bed. During our read aloud sessions, we would pause and “talk” directly to our children commenting, questioning, or reflecting upon the happenings in the book. For example, when a character screamed, “I am all alone!”, I paused and told my children to remember that no matter what, they will never be all alone because Allah (swt) is always with them. Recording these books was a very powerful experience for me and sometimes brought tears to my eyes. I had to re-do my one year old’s favorite book three times since I cried every time I tried to record myself reading to her. Alhamdulillah my children absolutely loved watching the videos, and it was great “baby sitting” for the grandparents when they needed a break. My children still view the videos and thoroughly enjoy them when I’m out running errands, busy with the baby, or performing other household chores. I recently played a recorded book while I busily worked around the house. I grinned from ear to ear upon hearing my daughter responding out loud to the questions that I had posed while my son gently reminded her that “Mamma can’t hear you when she’s in that video.” These videos were a lifetime investment, alhamdulillah, and I totally recommend them to everyone.
5. Buy and wrap `Eid gifts to make their `Eid fun and joyful. I couldn’t imagine my children spending `Eid without their parents, but of course they had a blast with their grandparents and their favorite uncle. Prior to leaving, I bought them special `Eid gifts and wrapped them. My mom surprised them with the gifts on `Eid day and sent me pictures. My family and friends also generously showered the children with gifts.
6. Organize play dates with friends in advance. Alhamdulillah I’m blessed with a beautiful community filled with friends who are eager to please Allah (swt). I requested my trusted friends to take my older two for a few hours every day. The children went on field trips, carnivals, Qur’an class, friends’ homes, etc. They had so much fun every day masha’Allah to the point where I was convinced that I surely missed them way more than they missed me. Alhamdulillah this also gave my parents more time to focus on the toddler who stayed in their warm and loving care 24/7.
7. Have extra toys in case all else fails. I ordered some educational toys and hid them in the garage. My mom knew where they were and would use them as needed. I think she introduced a new toy/activity every four or five days.
8. Make a calendar for the kids to keep them excited and informed. I replicated a calendar on a poster and listed all the dates and days of the week that we’d be gone for. Under each day, I wrote the special activity that the children would be involved in on that day. Entries such as Sky Zone with Mamu, Zoo Day, Play date with Abdur Rahman, Sports Class, Mamma and Baba Return, etc. kept the children excited and informed.
READ MORE: Ten Things to Know About the Muslim Prayer
Alhamdulillah I am so grateful to Allah (swt) for inviting me to Hajj and making it so easy. Reflecting back, I was definitely more nervous and anxious than needed. My children were not affected negatively in any way at all and our relationship only grew stronger. The du`a’ that I made for them during Hajj are priceless and made it totally worth leaving them. I had initially contemplated going when the children were much older and independent. However, I now honestly and confidently recommend going as early as possible during your youth so that you can make du`a’ for your children now, and they can start reaping the benefits of the special heartfelt prayers that YOU, their loving mother, made for them when you first saw the Ka`bah, or when you were standing on Arafat, or while gazing at the stars in Muzdalifah. Imagine the power of those du`a’! The du`a’ of a mother who sacrificed so much, put her Lord before her children, and chose to accept His invitation to perform Hajj. I also constantly reminded myself that I may not live another year for another chance. Hajj is something I had to do, not just for my children, but for myself. May Allah accept and invite me again and again.