I took 4 pieces of my Arab mother’s advice, and it turns out the woman had a point

Mums really do know best, don't they?
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I took 4 pieces of my Arab mother’s advice, and it turns out the woman had a point
Najla and her mum at her engagement party

Mothers: the loves of our lives and the bane of our existence. Sometimes they’re the voice of reason, sometimes they’re the nagging voice in our heads that we wish we could mute. But no matter what your mum is like, there's one thing they all have in common. The unwavering belief that they know best.

Growing up with an Arab mum, I would roll my eyes at her (mostly) uninvited and unwarranted advice. But in my mid-thirties - and now a mother myself - I finally know better. Here are the four pieces of advice I took from my mama that were a game changer for me.

1. The importance of tradition

Growing up in an Arab household, there are certain expectations. For example, Friday is untouchable. Almost every Arab family has a massive collective lunch after the Friday prayers. It’s a family day, and just the thought of doing something else is heresy.

Family duty is similarly crucial. Children are drilled from a very young age about their responsibility towards their parents when they’re older. Arabs don’t do old-people's homes - it’s indecorous. So recently, during one of these Friday family days that I'm now implementing with vigour, my 5-year-old daughter was telling me all about her plans to become a mother one day, “I will make you and papa your own room so you don’t have to share with Alia.” (Her younger sister – who she presumes is also coming along for the long haul). I realised that yes, I've become my mother. And - gasp - I'm loving every minute.

2. When you marry a man, you marry his family. Keep your wits about you

I basically hit the in-law jackpot. Shocker, I know. I fell easily in love with my husband, but it was only after knowing his family that I could see what we’d look like down the line - and I liked it. His family values, morals and upbringing are totally in sync with mine, and I'm comfortable in my own skin around his loved ones. I actually feel like I’m hanging out with my own parents – just with slightly better mezzes.

3. Find something to do that’s just for you

I’m living my best life purely because of this piece of advice. After I got married, moved to Dubai and had babies, I spent a few years in a vortex of repetitiveness. But as the kids got older, the tedium set in. On one of my mother’s last visits, she reminded me that she didn’t raise me to just cruise through life. Initially offended, I eventually realized the woman had a point. I started writing again (a passion of mine), and voila! I’m still happily hammering away on my laptop.

4. Always keep sambousek and warak enab in the freezer

A year ago, I bought a deep freezer. It’s filled with food, including the all-important sambousek and warak enab which I roll out whenever I have surprise guests. And yes, I am now somewhat known as the hostess with the mostest. Thanks ma.

Photos: Supplied