Today is UAE Mother’s Day. I wanted to take a moment to acknowledge and celebrate all mothers – those women who physically embody motherhood, and all those individuals who exemplify motherly character traits to everyone that they come across, even those outside of their kin. I want to pay tribute by sharing a few personal reflections with you.
I have always held International Mother’s Day close to my heart, given the admiration I hold for my mother, and our Nation’s Mother, Sheikha Fatima bint Mubarak, the definition of a model mother. However, it is only in the last two years, when I myself became a mother to my son, Abdulla, that I began to understand the deepest significance of motherhood, and the extent of the wisdom Sheikha Fatima shared with me in her maxim that mothers are both learners and teachers.
As one myself, I have become a teacher who is responsible for mentoring and nurturing my child with the values, ethics and morals of our nation. In doing so, I learn more and more about myself. Who is Shamma in this new role? How can I learn from and better align with my child and his natural disposition? How will I manage my time with competing interests? These are mysteries we only begin to understand as we experience them.
And now I do indeed realise the truth that mothers are both learners and teachers, and that the two go hand in hand, like mother and child.
The more time that I have spent with my son and watched him interact with other children, the more I have seen that an infant’s natural inclination is towards acceptance, as opposed to exclusion. Abdulla is not unique in this. All babies enter the world with a childlike innocence and openness. It is through life’s negative conditioning that children are exposed to harmful and divisive positions regarding faith, race, disabilities, gender and social-economic standing, to name just a few.
As your child learns new tricks and grows, so do you, but only if you are open to learning alongside them. By doing so, you are re-conditioning yourself to exhibit a childlike openness and acceptance, becoming a kinder and more tolerant individual in the process.
Motherhood taught me that it is never too late to learn something. One simply has to have the will and desire to do so. Instead of mimicking a stagnant pool, we should keep moving in the manner of a waterfall that produces clean and clear water to drink. The more we do this, the better teachers we will become.
When I think of mothers as teachers, I cannot help but draw on examples from my own mother, Alzena, who taught me what unconditional love is, one of life’s most important lessons.
It is an abstract concept that is hard to personify. However, mothers have the ability to turn the abstract into something real. They not only embody love, but they radiate it unconditionally through their speech and actions, however big or small. This has helped shape the person that I am today. My mother loved me for who I was, and she always made me feel like I was enough, no matter what grade I achieved at school, or what I broke in the house!
She also extended this love to others. Each morning, she would hurry us to get ready for school, with a Quran in her hand, and recite verses for all those she loved, whether it was for our neighbours, strangers she met once, or us. Her love was endless. She did this every day until I was 16.
My mother also taught me what it meant to be supported, in order to grow and reach my potential. I remember once after school sitting in my mother’s lap for hours, reeling off a list longer than my arm of my dreams and aspirations, as she listened to me. She did this on Sunday and then again on Monday and Tuesday, day after day, week after week. She never belittled or hampered me. She gave me the freedom to think and dream. It reminds me of the Abraham-Hicks saying, “as you think, you vibrate. As you vibrate, you attract.” And I am pretty sure my mother had not heard of Abraham-Hicks in the 90s!
All of these things have taught me that it is not enough to have just lived. We need to be determined to continue learning, growing, teaching and living for something more meaningful, whether it be bringing hope to our child, practicing unconditional love towards mankind, or supporting each other on our journeys.
In my first two years of motherhood, I have also learnt that becoming and being one is one of the most important and bravest undertakings in this life. The stakes are high. You are not given a job description or formal training on how to accomplish the task, as you would if you were becoming a pilot or a doctor, for example. Being a mother is a lifelong job, and you cannot get a refund if you change your mind!
I am still navigating this terrain, and trying to strike the balance of life as a working mum. Being a young mother and a public servant for the UAE are two full-time jobs. Overnight, my life went from being responsible for simply my own life – already a tricky balance between self, work and relationships – to an exponential explosion of competing demands, to which I’m sure many of you can relate.
So on this Mother’s Day, I would like to re-affirm my commitment to the mothers of the UAE, with their undeniable role in creating and upholding families, the foundation of our great country. Let us be a nation that champions our mothers. Let us be mothers who support each other. Let us be men who support in totality our women.
As a public servant who is indebted to each of you, I would like to take this opportunity to learn from you so that we can better serve each and every young mother. Please share your insights with me over Twitter, using #UAEMothersDay. I am particularly interested in your responses to these questions: what are your hopes as a mother? What qualities does your child have that you would like to see nurtured in our nation? And what do you want for your children in the next 50 years?
My prayers, thoughts and gratitude are with all our mothers. Thank you for being you. Happy Mother’s Day!
Shamma Sohail Al Mazrui is UAE Minister of State for Youth Affairs