First of all congratulations!!! May Allah SWT accept your Hajj and make you spiritually productive every moment you are there. Ameen.
In case you haven’t checked out my other posts on Hajj please check out the links here:Part 1
My Hajj in Pictures
Hajj Without Children
If you’re nervous or even on the brink of panic attacks when you think of how you’re going to leave your child. Just relax, it’s perfectly normal. You’re going to be okay. Your child will be okay. Millions of parents perform Hajj without children and they don’t ever regret going. This is going to be an amazing experience Insha’Allah. Hopefully this post will help your time away from your child a little easier.
Though going for Hajj was a dream come true, my husband and I tried to book the 1 week express Hajj package. Like most parents going for Hajj, we wanted to leave our only child (four years old then) for the least amount of time possible. To our disappointment, the ‘One week Express’ package was sold out (fun fact: it costs the same as the 3-week package!). Our Hajj agent strongly recommended going for at least three weeks if one hasn’t gone for Hajj/Umrah before. At the time we didn’t believe him. But he was so right. Three weeks didn’t feel like enough time.
Alhamdulillah we had tons of family to look after him, yet we were still super apprehensive about leaving him for 3 weeks. Since I’m a stay at home mom, he was used to always having a parent around and had never been away from me for longer than twelve hours . So first off, we practiced by having sleepovers at his cousins and grandparents homes. This could backfire if your child has a horrible sleepover experience. He will obviously assume that while you’re away ,it will be just as bad. Try to make these trial runs as fun and trauma free as possible. Our son spent the weekdays at my parents’ home (it was closest to his school) and the weekends at home with my husband’s parents.
We tried to mentally prepare him for our trip by showing him pictures of Hajj and reading books. We explained how excited we were for this trip. We let him know that once he was older he would get to go too. It was hard for him to digest that we would be apart for almost and entire month but he eventually came around. We made him feel like he was allowing us to complete this super important pillar of Islam and he would be rewarded immensely. Eventually, it was as if he allowed us to go because he wanted us to go to Jannah! When he felt like he made the decision, the separation was less traumatic. He was involved in our Hajj experience this way.
Happy and Distracted
We believed that as long as our son was happy and distracted he wouldn’t have time or reason to miss us.
Since night-time is the hardest, we planned activities to keep him so busy and tired that he would fall asleep from exhaustion. It took a lot of help from our family and friends to make this possible. I pray that Allah SWT grants them the absolute best in this life and even better in the Hereafter. Ameen. I prayed for each and every single one of them whole heartedly and still do. I pray that they know how much we appreciate every moment of their help. Since he was in Junior Kindergarten, we didn’t have to worry about homework after school. Every weeknight there was an activity planned. Example:On Day 4 Mamu will take him to Playdium from 5pm-7pm. On Day 5 Chachu will take him swimming from 5pm-7pm.
Make sure you set up a calendar of events to remind them even after you’re gone. I hung printed copies of the schedule on both grandparents’ fridges and gave everyone involved a physical copy.
Chai Tip: set up electronic Calendar alerts so that you don’t have to worry about reminding anyone while you’re on the journey of a life time.
A Present A Day
A present a day while parents are away at Hajj
Every kid likes presents!
I bought and wrapped twenty-one gifts for him so he could open one per day. I mainly shopped at Dollarama- hey,I’m not made of money! I distributed the gifts to both sets of grandparents for them to give him one every day.
He loved it! However he didn’t understand that the gifts were from me. When we got back from Hajj, he showed me all the gifts that so and so got him. Umm no honey. Mama bought them for you! Whatever. As long as they served their purpose which was to make him happy.
Chai tip: let your child see the wrapped gifts, it will get him excited and give him something to look forward to.
Your Child 101
In order to make the experience as smooth as possible for your child and his caregivers, make sure you leave instructions and tips in WRITING. We created a 6 page document ‘Beta101’*. We included all sorts of information we thought would be useful for his caregivers to know, especially strange things that are important to him or can set him off. Example: he likes to eat cereal with a really big spoon. Please don’t try to make him use one that’s more size appropriate.
Obviously leave all the important health and general care information such as allergies, bed time/morning routines but also information that you might think they already know. Include information about favourite foods, favourite shows, things he/she finds frightening etc.
May Allah SWT immensely reward whoever is looking after your child while you’re away. It’s not easy looking after a child that misses his/her parents. It’s easy to overlook the sacrifices and hardships they’re going through when all you can think of is how you’re going to leave your baby for a few weeks. Make it as easy on them by providing them with as much information –not instructions– as possible.
Examples of information to include:
- his likes/dislikes
- discipline methods he responds to
- favourite topic of conversation
- comfort food
- leave a list of your child’s neighbours or friends and their numbers so the caregivers can arrange for playdates.
If your child goes to school, let his/her teachers know that you will be leaving him/her for a few weeks and that they may have to deal with unusual behaviours. The fact that I cried while speaking to his Junior kindergarten teacher, probably set the stage for what she could expect from him!
Staying in Touch
My son’s journal while we were away at Hajj
As much as you want to know every detail of how your child is without you, resist the urge to call him often. Call your child’s caregivers for updates. I found directly speaking to my son always led to a sob fest on both ends. If I had to do it again, I would barely call him.
We left behind a journal and asked his caregivers to write in it as often as they could (preferably everyday) so we wouldn’t completely miss out on three weeks of his life. It was asking a lot from them as they already had their hands full but it made a world of a difference for us! Subhan Allah it was so helpful and precious to read about how he spent his time without us. Sometimes he would ask them to leave us little messages or he would draw in it. It’s definitely a keepsake item!
Don’t bring the kids to the airport. Just don’t. Say your goodbyes at home or at the caregivers home but not minutes before you board your flight at an airport where hundreds of people are sobbing , hugging, begging for forgiveness and saying goodbyes as if it may be forever. Yes, a truly intense and emotional atmosphere. The kids are better off playing at a friend’s house or at the park while you make your dramatic Hajji exit.
Remember they will feed off of your emotions, so take deep breaths, smile, casually say Salam and calmly make an exit while they’re having fun. Feel free to sob the whole way to the airport, but don’t let them see you cry.
Chai tip: I highly recommend mentally rehearsing how you’re going to say bye. What will you say? What activity will you quickly distract them in case they get upset? What’s your game plan in case you get all teary?
Leaving our son taught me that we are not his sole care takers. We are tools or vessels from which his True Guardian cares for him. As much as we may pride ourselves on our parenting skills, it is Allah who is watching over our children, providing for them, protecting them. Whether we are with them or not, it will always be Allah truly taking care of them.
Start making dua from now that Allah SWT keeps you and your child calm during your Hajj trip. I was so worried about how my son would handle our separation that I forgot to make dua for myself. I think I cried more than he did. Alhamdulillah, through Allah’s infinite mercy he fared a lot better than we could have hoped! People will tell you that you won’t even think about your child until Hajj is over. That’s not exactly true. You will miss your baby and probably shed a few tears.Every time that happens you will make so much dua for him that he will Insha’Allah be enveloped in blessings! During the actual days of Hajj, what they say is true; you will be too distracted to miss your child.
You are strong. Allah is the ultimate Guardian, Protector and Provider. You get to go on this incredible journey that millions are longing for. Make the most of it! Every time you will miss your child, you will make beautiful duas for him in the holiest of places. Every hardship associated with your Hajj experience will be rewarded. You’re leaving your child behind to complete a pillar of Islam. How can you not know that everything is going to be all right?
You got this!
*names have been changed because of a certain paranoid and over protective father.