An Important Message for Fathers and Husbands

What do you think wives need most from their husbands? Many marriage and relationship experts state that the top three things wives need from their husbands are love, understanding, and quality time.

I am not a marriage/family therapist, however I have been in the field of personal development and positive transformation for over 10 years working with women and organizations.  As a wife, mother and well-being advocate, I speak to and see too many mothers who are suffering in silence because they do not receive enough support from their husbands. Perhaps some husbands have the same concern about  not receiving enough support from the wife, but from the perspective of the wife/mother, who in the vast majority of cases take the great responsibility of caring for children, I would like to share this important message with husbands/fathers especially and also with wives/mothers so both understand how to share a happier, healthier life together.

People thrive on being valued and appreciated – studies show one of the main reasons people leave work is because they feel undervalued or not appreciated by their manager. It’s not much different in relationships where both husband and wife should strive to value one another, respect one another, and appreciate one another.  I am sharing what I hear from mothers, which greatly impacts not only their health and well-being but also the quality of their marriage and parenting, which essentially impacts the future health and success of their children.

Many mothers have a lot of insecurity and guilt about their parenting – they feel like they are never doing enough and unfortunately this feeling gets internalized so much so that they feel like they themselves are not enough for their children or their families, which is a very unhealthy feeling. This feeling of insecurity and guilt is unfortunately further propagated by the image of the ‘super mom’ who can do it ‘all’ as normally portrayed on social media, and by the expectations of the culture and the family as well. This is not to say that all husbands are unsupportive or unappreciative – I am sure there are many great husbands/fathers alhamdullilah. I also understand the pressures husbands and fathers face, especially if they are the only breadwinner and most of the time, this neglect is not intentional. Unfortunately, we are not schooled on good parenting and spousal skills, so it follows that we have a lot of learning and this is not a weakness but a strength when we identify and strive towards improving our shortcomings or seek expert help.

This is also a reminder to parents raising children, and especially sons, that we ensure we are raising them not only with the intention of being successful in their academics and careers and in the outward manifestations of their faith by performing prayer, fasting and other obligatory aspects of Islam, which are all important. However, we also want to raise children to become great parents and spouses themselves and this entails being kind, generous, and forgiving, which are all also essential parts of our faith and of being an overall good person. We know this is the case because of the many ahadith or prophetic traditions emphasizing the importance of good character and kindness towards women. One tradition relates Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said “The best of you are those who are best to their women/families and I am the best to my women/family” (Tirmidhi).

So mothers need to hear from their husbands that they are doing a good job and they need to hear it often. Certainly, there will always be room for improvement, but positive reinforcement versus criticism and blame is something that research encourages over and over again. If the wife/mother is struggling with a particular area, it’s usually because she is trying to go on empty, neglecting her own basic needs and self-care for so long that she can’t be her best self to her children or to her husband, because she simply can’t give what she does not have. She can’t give more love, more compassion, and more empathy because she lacks those things for herself and lacks receiving those things from others, including from her husband.

Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) is quoted to have helped with the house chores and  have had a strong  relationship with his children, despite his tremendous responsibilities otherwise. He role modeled supporting his wife when he would often spend extended periods of time listening to Aisha or take her racing. In this way, it is important to remember to encourage your wife to find time for self-care, to nurture her heart, body, mind and soul.  Encourage her to find fulfillment by doing things she enjoys, especially if she’s a stay at home mom.

The prophet (PBUH) also role modeled the beautiful relationship he had with his children when for example one of them, Fatima, were to walk in, he would get up to greet her and seat her in his place. Thus, it’s also recommended that fathers/husbands spend quality time with their children and develop a close and strong relationship with them. This can certainly result in the wife/mother showing more gratitude and overall a happier, healthier demeanor. Sadly, some couples wait until the wife experiences a breakdown or has a health crisis to give her the care she needs.

It’s also recommended to spend quality time together or attend a marriage/parenting class together, read a book or listen to a lecture.  One good resource to start with on parenting includes the book “Muslim Parenting in the Family Home” by Muslim family therapists Noha Al-Shugairi and Munira Ezzeldine.  Noha AlShugairi also has a seminar series based on this book available online for a fee if you prefer to watch videos at https://gumroad.com/sakina.  There are also great books on marriage which you can also listen to at audible.com (as an audio book) called “The Five Languages of Love” for Gary Chapman and “The Seven Principles for Making Marriage” work by Dr. John M. Gottman.

Taking the time to read or listen to new and valuable learning about marriage and parenting will save much more time, and sometimes prevent years of heartache and disruption in the home.  Keep in mind there is no shame in seeking professional marriage/family counseling if needed. It’s equally important to remember that blaming and criticizing one’s wife is not helpful, as mentioned in references in the Quran and Sunnah which emphasize the importance of being kind and gentle with one’s wife- suffice it to say that one of Prophet Muhammad’s (pbuh) last words in addition to emphasizing the prayer, was to treat women kindly.

It’s also crucial that children feel supported when they are struggling with an issue such that if the mother engages assistance from the father, the father should not be critical of her capacity to assist the children but instead show empathy, appreciation and emulate the mawada (love) and rahma (mercy) that Allah (swt) describes as pillars of a marriage in the Quran.  This is part of the process of marriage and of having children, and the responsibility of raising them, falls on both parents.

Studies have often emphasized the importance of the father’s involvement in the raising of children and we know that children are given to us as an amanah (a trust) and a gift and we will be asked about how we cared for this amanah. If the mother is struggling, again, know that she is probably trying her best given her circumstances and factors such as her health, including her physical, mental, spiritual, and emotional health. The father can try to avoid blaming the mother which may further lead to her feeling isolated and can bring on a spiraling path of anxiety and depression. Sometimes, the smallest gesture of support can be the greatest act of kindness, and encouraging the wife to seek out help and make time to nurture her spiritual, emotional, physical and mental health is very important.

Today, our lifestyle has changed – mothers used to live in communities and have a strong support system, but with increasing mobility, many mothers find themselves away from their families and the support system and in a fast-paced society that further pushes the unrealistic ‘super-mom’ expectations. Coincidentally, it’s no surprise that we have much higher levels of of postpartum depression and anxiety than we did in the past.   If the wife is raising children on her own and in a situation where she does not have any support from family, consider hiring affordable help.  There’s no shame in it – it’s simply a fact of life now – and also, it’s reported that “the majority of Muslim scholars are of the opinion that serving one’s husband is not compulsory rather it is only among the noble manners. Imaams Maalik, Ash-Shaaf`i and Abu Haneefah  support this” (1). While this may be controversial, the work of the home doesn’t fall solely on the wife, especially in today’s society where the mother may also be working outside of the home. After all, she is only human.

Overall, as the saying goes, ‘a happy wife means a happy life’.  Praying we all have marriages with more mawada (love), rahma (mercy), and children who are a source of joy for us and service to humanity.

(Please note, the author does not receive any compensation from any of the sources on marriage/parenting recommended in this article).

1- http://www.islamweb.net/en/article/139500/it-is-not-compulsory-upon-the-wife-to-do-the-housework

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