Women: Ramadan doesn’t need to be perfect (and neither do you)

  • With Ramadan just over a month away, women need to seriously re-consider the cost of creating the ‘perfect’ Ramadan, and why a good Ramadan might be even better than perfection

    Don’t try to do too much in Ramadan
    Customers browse produce at a mall during Ramadan. ( Jaime Puebla / The National Newspaper )

    You’re probably creating a shopping list instead of reading this. Because with just over four weeks to go until the month of Ramadan you’re already behind on your preparations.

    Freezer full of mouth-watering delicacies for breaking fast, menu planner completed for 30 days worth of early morning meals and invitations issued for large family gatherings? No?

    You’ve already fallen short of the perfection demanded of women to create the idealised Ramadan. Shame on you, modern mother and wife, shame on you! Hurry! You still have time to go and lock yourself in the kitchen for the next month and redeem yourself.

    The pressure to “do it all” that weighs so heavily on women today – to manage the home, nurture the children, mop the brow of husband, to look gorgeous and somehow squeeze in a bit of “me” time for their own pursuits – is heightened during Ramadan.

    We all have rose-tinted memories of our Ramadan childhood, seated around the family table, eating our favourite food under the loving gaze of our mothers. So it’s no surprise that every woman wants to recreate that warm glow for her own family. But the desire for nostalgia together with the demands of daily life make poor bedfellows and the result is up to 30 days of unspoken and intense strain on many women.

    That’s before we even get to women thinking about themselves: fasting is just as tiring for women as it is for men, but there is no chance of down- time. Women are expected to produce iftar and suhoor meals – often of several dishes to make sure everyone gets their favourite – and keep the household running. And what of the spiritual focus that is the underpinning of the month of fasting. Women have precious little time for that either, resorting to listening to recordings while on the go, or snatching a few minutes of prayer.

    As women in Ramadan, we are our own worst enemies. There’s a competition for perfection, and that competition is often against ourselves. We burden ourselves with the need to create the best-ever Ramadan.

    Women must make an active choice. We simply need to re-imagine what “perfection” means. As the saying goes, perfection is the enemy of good, so let’s aim for a good, wholesome Ramadan. Good food can mean simple, nutritious food. Togetherness means everyone helping out together. Good family moments mean erasing the hunger-fuelled bickering with warmth and affection. It’s about worrying less about what other people think and more about what really matters. At the risk of sounding cheesy, it’s about rediscovering the true meaning of the month of fasting.

    There are calls for easing women’s burdens coming from a surprising source: religious scholars are often leading the way to encourage families to lower their culinary expectations to better suit the spirit of Ramadan, at the same time as highlighting that women should be given the opportunity for the “downtime” from the rigours of daily life to focus on self-reflection and spiritual development.

    Enjoyment of Ramadan for everyone, especially for women, will come when we find liberation from the tyranny of perfection.

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