Our Lives are About to Change Forever – A Guideline for Fathers-to-be ( Part 1 )

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If you are reading this article, I am guessing you must fall into one of these categories:

  1. You are expecting baby number 1, and your wife is pestering you to read up as much as possible about parenting;
  2. You are not even married yet, but you yearn to find ‘the one’ quickly so that you can one day justify to yourself why you are reading this article;
  3. You have many children and you just want to read this so that you can write in to argue against this article.

Whichever category applies to you, I would still like to congratulate you. You are (already or about to be) a father! Alhamdulillah, for every blessing is from Allah.

For those of you who are first-time fathers, sit down and put on your seat belt, because your life is about to take a 180-degree turn!

It will be a wild ride, one that is full of sleepless nights, wiping up vomit and poop 60% of the time and fussing over your baby when he is cranky (Is it hunger? Is it colic? Is it fatigue?  Does the baby just hate me? Where’s my wife?). It is one long, exhausting journey, but one that is so worth it because for the first time in your lfie, you have someone who is going to call you “Daddy”. Or “Abi” – it’s your call.

So when does one need to prepare for fatherhood?

For many Muslim scholars, the preparation starts even BEFORE the baby is conceived. Physically, you need to be healthy and fit to ensure that the baby conceived will be likewise, insyaAllah. Mentally, you need to ensure that you are ready to make changes to your life like you’ve never done before. Spiritually, you need to make sure that you are ready to lead not just your wife now, but your child(ren) to Jannah. And of course, financially, you need to be able to provide the cash to pay for the check-ups, delivery and any postnatal procedures.

Does that sound like a long list, and does it scare you? Yes, and yes (admit it).

The fact is that in many societies, much focus and emphasis is placed on the women who are about to become mothers, and as such, a lot of help – whether physically or mentally – is dedicated for the women. But men are rarely given the kind of help that they really need. There are very few classes to help fathers learn how to become Imams of the family. And exercise classes to help keep fathers-to-be fit and healthy, like those prenatal yoga classes we often hear about? Almost none.

This is where YOU need to be proactive in looking for books and classes to educate yourself on how to be a father. Unfortunately, contrary to popular belief, parenting is not something that comes naturally – rather, it is something that can be done well only if the parents have equipped themselves with the right knowledge.

I remember my husband and I stocking up on books during our first pregnancy and reading through articles and research papers on how to enhance a child’s development (yes, first-time parents are always a little overzealous!) Of course, when the baby came out, it was slightly different from what was in the books, but at least we had some kind of idea of what to expect.

These are some books that I would recommend reading:

  • The Expectant Father by Armin A. Brott and Jennifer Ash
  • Becoming a Dad: The First Three Years by John C. Carr

As for religious classes to help you recite Quran better or re-learn fiqh or even praying properly, you can always go to a neighbourhood mosque to find out more about the classes offered there. If you live far away from a mosque, there are a lot of online sites that lists religious classes and courses; you might even find a class near where you live or work!

Online sites to help you search for religious classes:

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So how does one prepare himself for fatherhood?

Mentally –

You need to tell yourself that social life after 8pm is not going to be possible anymore. I have met some men who grapple to understand why they can no longer morph into the social butterflies they were after their child is born. The answer is simple: the baby needs to sleep and it should not be your wife’s job alone. Some people divide the workload with their partner. Monday nights are my turn, Tuesday nights are your turn. Whatever it is, you need to ensure that your wife is agreeable to the arrangement and that she gets to rest regularly (because a tired wife will be an angry wife). It is, after all, your baby too.

Spiritually –

It is time for you to go for more than a few classes. Not only do you need to brush up on your tajweed and recitation of du’a, you need to make sure that you are able to gently encourage your wife and mother-to-your-child to also learn more about the religion.

I have met many Muslim couples who were, to put it simply, pretty wild in their younger days, but once baby number one was on the way, they quickly toned their lifestyle down and even went on to become very pious Muslims. And I think that is the beauty of Islam and marriage; that it is not about how you were when you started out, but how determined you are to become better together for the sake of a little human being. MasyaAllah, for Allah gives His hidayah in many ways!

Learn to recite du’as from the Quran that are specifically about raising pious children. Consider the Prophet Zakariyya a.s, whose supplication for a child is written in the Quran, and provides for all of us an example of how to make du’a for a child. As the guardian of Maryam a.s., everytime he entered her chamber, he would be amazed by the fruits that he saw in her room. And when he asked her who gave her the fruits, her reply of “It is from Allah. Indeed, Allah provides for whom He wills without account” would humble him so much that he made this du’a:

رَبِّ هَبْ لِي مِن لَّدُنكَ ذُرِّيَّةً طَيِّبَةً ۖ إِنَّكَ سَمِيعُ الدُّعَاءِ

“My Lord, grant me from Yourself a good offspring. Indeed, You are the Hearer of supplication.”

This du’a was read even before his child, Prophet Yahya a.s, was conceived and at a time when his wife was already old and barren. And yet with this powerful du’a, Allah granted him what he wished for – a child, and one who is good. Indeed, one should never underestimate the power of a du’a.

Another du’a that is also taught in the Quran can also be recited after prayers, which can also be recited even before the baby is conceived.

رَبَّنَا هَبْ لَنَا مِنْ أَزْوَاجِنَا وَذُرِّيَّاتِنَا قُرَّةَ أَعْيُنٍ وَاجْعَلْنَا لِلْمُتَّقِينَ إِمَامً

“Our Lord! Grant unto us wives and offspring who will be the comfort of our eyes, and give us (the grace) to lead the righteous.”

I remember my Ustaz once telling us in a class that we cannot neglect the importance of reciting du’a from the Quran (and there are many of them!) because they are complete and give us the adab of reciting du’a. Make reading these du’as a habit after every fardhu prayer.

For those who have waited for a long time to have a child, besides the two du’as that have been mentioned earlier make it a habit to wake up before the dawn prayers for Tahajjud prayer (the night prayer – 2 rakaat per prayer, which may be performed as many times as you like) followed by the Solatul Hajat (the prayer of need). During the last sujood of the Hajat prayer, you may make your specific du’a.

You may refer to the video in this link to watch how to perform the Solatul Hajat:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EKnNioCoPhY

Financially –

Let me be frank with you. Raising children in Singapore is expensive. The first time my husband and I brought our firstborn to the paediatrician, we were slapped with a whopping $160 bill for a consultation that was merely 10 minutes! And that, my friends, was how we got introduced to the reality of parenthood in Singapore.

Yes, you do get a lot of incentives now and the Baby Bonus sounds really attractive, but one must always be prepared to have a lot of spare cash because in the event of illnesses and accidents, specialists for babies and children are really (ridiculously!) expensive. And we have yet to touch on fees for childcare, education, religious classes, enrichment activities…

Of course, that should not deter a couple from having children, because firstly, our Prophet s.a.w himself told his ummah to have children and secondly, in Islam, we believe that our rizq is determined by Allah swt alone. However, with that said, we are also encouraged to prepare ourselves. Not having children because you are scared you will become poor is wrong, but not preparing yourself financially ‘because I-want-to-tawakkal-la-bro’ is also wrong.

Do not let your lack of financial preparation become a burden to your family and those around you.

The Dawn of a New Beginning

As your wife’s pregnancy progresses, there will be more and more things that you will discover along the way – about your partner, about your relationship, but mostly you will discover lots of things about yourself. It is the start of something exciting and yet absolutely terrifying, and that’s what makes the whole journey so much more beautiful and humbling.

I hope that you will enjoy every minute of this ride.

About the writer:

The writer is Sis Suliyati, the founder of @MuslimParents.SG, a parenting platform for Muslim parents in Singapore. MuslimParents.SG conducts kids-friendly Quran and parenting classes and events for moms. This article was written with input from her dear husband and with lots of distractions from her two cheeky children.

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