Today, Ola Farouk will have made it for half a century in this world. Still, she looks 15 years younger and has the spirit of a 25-year-old. I wanted to make this day very special for her, but we’re 6,894 miles apart. So I figured, why not dedicate a blog post to her beautiful soul!
Mama is a private person. Although anyone who spends time with her speaks about how charismatic she is, she still likes to keep to herself and has a small but tight social circle.
Naturally, someone like her would live a private life. Well, I'm here today to put her on the spot (sorry mama!)
This quiet lady who rarely speaks about herself has had an immense impact on my life.
Some of you reading this blog post have met her before or heard me express my great love and admiration for her; others know very little about her.
Regardless, I think it's about time I share with the world how not only the way she brought me up but also the way she lives her life has shaped who I am as a person today.
This is one of the most incredible things she did during her mom career. Growing up, I used to disagree with many people of authority. The only thing that my mom cared about was that I did so respectfully. So if that were the case, she would just let me be.
And there were no exceptions for whom I could disagree with or challenge. Whether I disagreed with or challenged family members, my teachers at school, or my sports coaches, my mother knew the value of letting me think for myself and having opposing views, even if that ruffled a few feathers (and boy, it did!).
This would even go as far as letting us challenge her own authority as a parent!
If I did it respectfully, she would listen. If what I said made sense to her, she would change her opinion; if she disagreed, she would point out where I was mistaken. Sometimes we'd agree; other times, we would agree to disagree. And both were perfectly acceptable to her. I cannot overstate how important this was in my development growing up. Knowing that I didn't always have to accept my parents' views as gospel helped me become a more critical thinker and greatly expanded my intellectual capacity.
Mama understands that her role as a parent is advisory, NOT dictatorial. I cannot tell you how effective that was for me and my siblings growing up. There's something magical about giving children the freedom to think and act that many helicopter parents cannot fathom.
If that is not a sign of secure and healthy parenting, I don't know what is.
Psychology today defines a narcissistic parent as "someone who lives through, is possessive of, and/or engages in marginalizing competition with the offspring. In a narcissistic parenting relationship, the child is rarely loved just for being herself or himself."
A big symptom of parental narcissism is if the child doesn't turn out EXACTLY the way their parent wants to, then they're not worthy of their parent's love.
Mama never tied her love for us to our achievements; in fact, she couldn’t care less about that.
She never had ambitions for how we would turn out. She never forced any sports. Never forced any school tracks. Never forced any extracurriculars. If we liked something, we went ahead and figured it out. She was always supportive of any choice any of my siblings take.
If we achieve, she makes sure that we feel appreciated. Yet she doesn't go beyond a point where she makes us feel like we're the best at what we do and everyone else is beneath us.
With my mum, we're always enough, yet there's always room for improvement.
There's a lot of disagreement on what the word "open-minded" means, so let me quickly get this out of the way. I define an open-minded person as someone willing to be exposed to and listen to opinions that are different from theirs without feeling threatened, uncomfortable, or feeling an urge to have to accept those opinions. Most importantly, someone who does so without any prejudice.
You can probably imagine how easy it is to confide in or vent to someone with this quality.
There are pretty much no limits to what I can discuss with my mother. Our conversations can be about some of the most taboo topics—at least in our culture. We talk about atheism, religious skepticism, FGM, periods, feminism, homosexuality, sex, and my nonexistent romantic life. We have similar opinions about many ideas. However, sometimes we disagree, and that changes nothing about our conversations.
Her ability to separate what we discuss intellectually with her stance and opinions about any of these topics makes her one of the most open-minded people I know. I have had conversations with her that I could say I will never be able to have with many of my closest friends.
And this takes us to mama's next wonderful quality...
If you've been reading my other blog posts or following me on any of my social media, you know that I graduated college in 2019 and moved to Utah right after to start my first job there.
I was in a new city where the vast majority of people are different from me. And then freaking COVID hit. I did not know many people, and it felt quite lonely.
I can confidently say that the one person that got me through that period is my beautiful mother.
Every. single. day. I would call her and dump all of my thoughts, anxieties, insecurities, and feelings onto her. She has this incredible ability to not only giving me all the space I need by just listening, but also giving me her full attention for hours.
She doesn't judge. She doesn't assume. And she never invalidates.
Her great listening abilities, together with her ZERO judgment, make her the perfect person to talk to.
Whenever I think about the quintessential good listener, my dear mother easily pops up on my mind. She inspires me, and I can only DREAM of being half as good of a listener as she is.
Now that we just discussed taboos and open-mindedness, it is easy to quickly assume that mama comes from a secular place or that she isn't that religious.
Well, quite the opposite.
I learned to love God by looking at mom practice her faith. Growing up in a religiously conservative country I've sometimes felt uncomfortable with how many of the religious figures and leaders focused on an outward display of religiosity as opposed to an inward and deeply spiritual way of practicing one's faith.
My mother disrupted that idea for me. Although she did do all the regular worship and religious practices, what I loved about her is that she focused so much on her character and how she treats others as some of the main tenants of her faith.
Here are some practices and values that she instilled in me growing up that haven't changed to this day:
If you're Muslim and you think "that's how Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) used to live his life", I'll tell you that his way of life is exactly what my dear mother always tries to emulate.
Now I certainly don't always live up to these values, but those practices and many more are my guiding compass when faced with tricky or difficult situations. And it's all because of her.
Fun fact: I've had multiple friends ask me to ask my mom to pray for them. I'll just leave it there ❤️
Everything so far has been all warm and fuzzy but make no mistake, this woman can be FIERCE 😁
Growing up my mum would sometimes get mad about the most ABSURD things. This all makes for a good laugh now, but you guys would NOT have wanted to see (or worse, experience) that side.
This wasn't just limited to us; even my teachers experienced Ola's wrath! She would take on the principal of my school and call her out for slacking off when it came to issues that directly affected our schooling. She let me do the learning in peace and took care of the system. No wonder some of my teachers weren't super fond of me 🤷🏻♂️ Oh well!
An Arab mama will always be an Arab mama ❤️
Aaaaah how much I love this about her.
Mama is a no-nonsense person. She doesn't sugarcoat shit. If I mess up, she always makes sure I know that loud and clear. There's no room for ego with her.
I remember growing up I had a great aversion to admitting that I'm wrong or that I made a mistake. Mama had zero tolerance for that crap. She'd always make sure that I knew it when I made a mistake and that I apologized promptly. Granted, this took her forever to achieve and I was a difficult stubborn kid, but I cannot be more grateful for her doing that.
On my journey of personal growth and self-development, I mess up quite often.
I sometimes can get self-critical to a point where it becomes unhealthy. In my culture, we have a term for this. We call it "جلد النفس" which literally translates to "whipping one's soul". My mum knows exactly when that happens and reminds me to practice some self-compassion. Even when I'd just messed up, she knows when to show me that I'm wrong, and when to listen, support, and then let me do the hard work. A lot of the time I get too deep in my own head and she's the only one who's able to get me out of that. It's quite magical how she does it.
This never contradicts the fact that when I'm blind to my mistakes, she WILL call me out. However, she makes sure I understand that the ACTION I did was wrong, not that something is wrong with me as a person. The distinction is crucial because it's the difference between a growth mindset and a fixed mindset. The former states "you did something wrong and you should fix it"; while the latter states "you are wrong and cannot be fixed".
This distinction is so nuanced that I'm impressed at how my mother does it effortlessly.
I know I have been fanboying this incredible woman for the entirety of this blog post (I mean come on, who wouldn't), but trust me, even mama would admonish me if she senses any unhealthy dependence on or attachment to her.
Ever since my brother and I were young she'd make sure that we were as independent as she could get us to be. Again, that was her going against the societal norm where most other moms would do the most ridiculous things for their boys just not to inconvenience them.
But inconvenience us she did!
From the day I was born to the day I left Egypt, our place was a boot camp. She made sure that my brother and I know how to do basic house chores, from cleaning to cooking to doing the dishes. We weren't just going to sit around while she cleaned our crap.
Mama was aware of how the mama's boy breed is a bane for humanity. So her blood, sweat, and tears were poured into making sure that both of her sons would grow to respect and love her immensely, but not insecurely get attached to or overly dependent on her.
And you know what.. this is a huge sign of a mother who is super secure in the way she brought up her kids. Hats off mama!
This perfectly leads to my next point which is that...
I always tell my mum that my future wife is gonna be the luckiest woman in the world.
Her immediate response: get over yourself. Obviously 🤷🏻♂️
But I mean it; my future wife will be the luckiest woman in this world because she'll have mama as her mother-in-law.
I've met countless women who are terrified of the mere idea of a mother-in-law, and let's be honest: who is to blame them? If we look at anecdotal evidence from all of our lives, we will see how much of an epidemic the problem of a difficult (to put it lightly) mother-in-law has always been. This is especially the case on the husband's side.
Ola is one of those women who just wouldn't care whether I'm her son or whether I'm a stranger when it comes to being fair. If I screw up, she's not just gonna sit there and take my side just because I popped out of her belly. As we've established, she WILL call me out on my bullshit.
Since she knew I would grow up in a patriarchal society, she wanted to make sure that all the socially acceptable misogyny isn't and shouldn't be the norm. And because of how much my mother has instilled respect towards women in me, I did not have to unlearn many of the toxic traits that males in almost every culture grow up with. I don't know how she did it, but this woman is incredible!
So hey, future wife (you look beautiful btw 😉), Ola has got you covered there.
If you ever experience any noble and loving behavior from me, you should pray for my mother. She should take 100% of the credit.
Growing up, I've witnessed many people gravely mistreat my mother. Even though I could see the emotional and mental torment she'd go through, her beautiful soul does not have any capacity for hatred.
When people wrong her, mama does not just forgive; she also returns that back with the best treatment.
I can't even begin to recount how many times I've seen her exude this noble behavior, and that's something I can only aspire to emulate.
Ola is the perfect embodiment of the Quranic Ayah:
الَّذِينَ يُنفِقُونَ فِي السَّرَّاءِ وَالضَّرَّاءِ وَالْكَاظِمِينَ الْغَيْظَ وَالْعَافِينَ عَنِ النَّاسِ ۗ وَاللَّهُ يُحِبُّ الْمُحْسِنِينَ
"Those who spend (benevolently) in ease as well as in straitness, and those who restrain (their) anger and pardon others; and Allah loves the doers of good (to others)."
— Quran (2:134)
Ola is a gift to this world, and I cannot feel luckier to call this one-of-a-kind gem Mama!
I genuinely think that if all mothers become like mine, the world would be a better place.
كل عام وأنت بألف خير وصحة وعافية يا أجمل حاجة في حياتي ❤