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Familial roles and mental health

This month we will be focusing on the different roles that we play, in both an islamic and non islamic context and the expectations they bring that we set ourselves or from others, to fulfil these roles.

Each of us has so many roles to play – whether that’s mother, father, daughter, son, husband, wife, sister, brother, carer etc. They all impact our mental health in different ways. A father and husband may feel under a lot of pressure to provide for the family, and this may lead to a lot of stress and anxiety if finances are tight. A mother may feel under pressure to maintain the perfect balance of building a career and looking after the children, often feeling that she’s not doing enough, even though it is a lot to juggle. A sibling may be under a lot of stress if their sibling is going through a difficult period either through physical or mental health problems and perhaps feeling unable to help, and somehow useless in a crisis, even if that’s far from the truth.

It’s normal that the more we love and feel close to people, the more we might worry about them and reflect on our impact on them. We care about what they think of us, but sometimes this might add to our distress. This is a reminder that if you are trying and if your intentions are good, be kind to yourself.

A father and husband that is struggling with financial difficulty can still be an amazing father and husband, any guilt or frustration you feel at not being able to provide more for your family may be putting you down but In Sha Allah, He is with you, and will ease your affairs. The guilt might be linked to a sense that your wife or children are unhappy but often this might not be the case, kids will certainly not care about a toy in a years’ time but they will remember your kindness and the time you spent with them.

If you are a mother trying to juggle a career and raising your babies whilst constantly feeling like you haven’t done enough, be kind to yourself. If you are treating your children with kindness and trying to raise them as good Muslims, you are doing enough. If you don’t feel like you’re doing enough work to advance your career but you are trying as much as you can, you are doing enough. Your baby/ children love you and will certainly respect your hard work, which they will learn from. Your colleagues at work will respect your perseverance and determination to keep going and doing the best job you can.

If you are a sister or brother whose sibling is going through a difficult period, or you are a daughter or son who is caring for your sick or elderly parents and you are under stress, because you also feel like you are not doing enough, then know that your kindness and effort is appreciated by Allah SWT. He sees that you are trying and everything you do is appreciated.

We judge ourselves too much sometimes, remember that nobody is perfect and the image of who we wish we were may not even exist or be possible. Allah SWT doesn’t burden anyone beyond what they have the capacity to do, He sees you trying, so rest assured that your effort is so much more valuable than the end result, which is of course in the hands of Allah SWT.

Whilst this article has focused on how our mental health can be affected by self-pressure to be a family member living in a particular role, our mental health can also be strongly affected by other family members in a negative way, because of behaviours which are upsetting or stressful. A spouse may feel very sad because every time their child does something wrong their spouse blames them. Or a child may feel broken and unconfident if their parents are being unkind and treating them badly by calling them names or using undue force in the name of discipline.

Remember that each and every single person in your family has rights over you, and you have rights over them. As a child, your parents have the right to be respected and treated well but you also have the right to be treated with kindness. Our religion does not simply excuse child abuse because that is not justice. As a spouse you have a role to play, but your spouse also has a role to play and if the burden of work is only on one of you that isn’t right or just. If you are being controlled, manipulated and treated badly by your spouse that is not acceptable. Our religion does not simply excuse domestic abuse. As a sister or brother, it’s true that you need to be a good role model and be kind and loving to your siblings but they should also be treating you with kindness and love. Your sister or brother should not be your bully. Unfortunately a lot of people are put in a position where they feel trapped because we know that Islam doesn’t approve of severing the ties of kinship, but remember that severing ties and setting boundaries is very different. It’s okay to set boundaries to preserve your mental health if a relationship cannot progress in a healthy, kind and loving manner.

Farida El Kafrawy

Farida is an undergraduate student studying social and political science at UCL. Having seen many struggle with their mental health, and having experienced poor mental health herself, she believes that it is important to speak up, destigmatise the topic and, inshallah, help others to understand what is happening, and how they can help themselves and others. As a regular reader of the Inspirited Minds blog, she knows first hand how reassuring it is to read an article addressing what you are experiencing with your faith in mind, and she hopes she can help reassure and support others in turn.

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