I am not a mother. I would say–and have said–that I plan to be a mother, but I don’t really plan. If I get married, then great! If I don’t get married, then also great! I’m not really planning my life around having children or choosing a living based on flexibility for this very purpose like a couple of women I know; mostly, I’m looking forward to being finished with school and having a (hopefully) stable career for which I fully enjoy getting up in the morning. I’m looking forward to having a car, which would actually save me a lot of time I could use to cook real food. I’m looking forward to a small two-story house and a garden and coming home–my house! with large windows and shelves and shelves of books!–to dive under the blankets and have homemade pasta and read in peace and quiet and wear great shoes assuming I am not a complete and total failure.
Were I to imagine having children, I realize that I am looking forward to raising them. In fact, I think I would make a very good mother.
Which is why I will tell you to STFU if you ever–EVER–tell me to remove my crying child from the prayer area at the mosque.
It is one thing when the child is screaming and the parent is totally ignoring him/her in a public area that is supposed to be quiet, like a library, movie theatre, or sometimes a restaurant. It may be up for debate whether or not the child should be removed simply for screaming. (In restaurants the only reason kids act up is because they don’t know how to behave–precisely because no one wants them there; it is different in other places. In a movie theatre, I would definitely take my kid outside.) But at a mosque?
Never. You don’t have the right.
I have seen this happen too often. A baby–baby!–is crying as the prayers begin, and the mother (always a mother) is trying her best to calm the baby down. “Shhh,” she says in desperation as she rocks the child in her arms, “shhhh.” And she glances up apologetically because people have the nerve to turn around and glare at her. And she is trying to finish her prayer, and she is trying to calm down the baby, and her husband is on the other side of Satan’s Blasphemous Barrier of Hell so she can’t get to him for help, and she is desperately sorry and embarrassed for distracting everyone from their prayers, and everyone is shooting her dirty looks like why do you exist? just go kill yourself and she looks like she is going to burst into tears–
And then a woman walks up to her and for a fleeting moment she looks relieved, except the woman is not offering, “Here, give him to me,”–the woman is ordering, “Take him outside.”
And she looks hurt. Because she has a baby, and according to Islam she is doing everyone a fucking favor by giving birth and she is sacrificing everything for the future of the community and you are supposed to honor your mothers, and now she is being thrown out.
Whose fault is it that Islam is in the state it is today? Your fault. You have exiled the bedrock of the Islamic community and torn women and children away from the mosque. You have created an environment in which women turn on each other, forgetting that they too are and were and will be mothers, forgetting that the reward for giving birth is inconceivable in its value, forgetting that this is struggle, forgetting that this mother and her child are human beings who both have as equal a right to be there as you.
Man the hell down.
Two-year-olds have the tendency to run around the prayer area, chase each other, and fall into fits of delighted laughter. They are excited by the expansion of the unfurnished area. They can run without bumping into things and there is soft, soft carpet to fall on. So they chase, and giggle, and squirm, and are joyful. You’d have to have a heart of steel to not allow it. But there’s always someone who physically forces them to sit down, be quiet, and behave. Because it’s “disrespectful.”
Disrespectful? To whom? God loves the laughter of children, and we are here for God–not you.
May God fulfill the prayers of those who pray with the laughter of children in the background.
May God fulfill the prayers of those who pray with their fussy infants beside them.
May God fulfill the prayers of those who pray with the sound of tiny, tiny feet running and stumbling across the floor.
Because they are praying as the Prophet prayed. Our Prophet, who prayed while children climbed over his shoulders.
In Islam, it is expected that there will be children. In Islam, adult spaces and child spaces are porous, and it is well accepted that there will be a lot of small people around. In Islam, men take the kids to the prayer area as often as women. In Islam, we smile at children and play with them, and we don’t banish mothers to the outskirts of society. In Islam, adults are not stuck up entitled douchecanoes who can’t handle the sound of a wailing child. Pray over it. Is your concentration so easily diverted? You pray five times a day–haven’t you got the hang of it by now?
No. The truth is you are perfectly capable of praying over it–you just want to be a total jackass because it’s empowering to act all holier-than-thou-see-me-in-the-grandeur-of-my-judgment.
And this is yet another tactic to keep women out of the mosque. How many have we got already? I will take my child outside when my child is old enough to have done something wrong. I will be stern with my child when my child is old enough to understand she/he has done something wrong.
And I expect the rest of the Islamic community to be patient. I am raising this kid–you know, the one you’ve been telling me for centuries is my duty to have?–and I am entitled to your patience. And to your teachers, and to your mosques, and to this community. Because I gave birth to it.