Dr Susan Carland has a PhD from Monash Universitys School of Social Sciences where she researched the way Muslim women fight sexism within the Muslim community, and is a lecturer and researcher at Monash Universitys National Centre for Australian Studies. Her other research and lecturing specialties are gender, sociology, politics, and the Australian Muslim experience. She has two children and is the founder of Bene Kids, a Saturday Islamic school for children in Melbourne.
I really wanted a madrassah that was fun, that taught the necessary material in a way that made it relevant to kids’ lives today, and encouraged critical thinking. In the end, we want the kids to leave Bene Kids as Muslims because they want to be Muslim, not because mum or dad say they have to be, or because it’s their culture; but because it makes sense to them, and feeds their soul, and enriches their lives. We heard so many stories about kids being bored senseless at madrassahs, or frightened, or being taught like robots that Islam was just a list of halal and haram (and mostly haram). I wanted more for my own kids and found that other people wanted that for their kids, too. So we started. We developed the entire curriculum from scratch and began with 2 little girls in my friend’s living room, and now we have a Saturday school with 7 classes and a minimum 2 year waiting list. Alhamdulilah, it’s really and truly all thanks to Allah. We fumble along and try to do the right thing and make mistakes because we’re human – but the tawfiq comes from Him. It’s a huge blessing and responsibility, and the team that runs it and works in it is phenomenal. I honestly don’t know how I got so lucky to work with these people.
Youre a wife, a mum, an academic, how do you juggle it all?
I try to be organised and efficient. I also like to get as much help as I can afford, so we have a guy come and mow our lawns, for example, and a lovely lady cleans the house once a week. The more I can out-source, the less stressed I am, and the more likely I am to be able to do things like read stories to my son, or chat with my daughter, or play board games with them both. My work schedule can often be horrendous, and so if I can pay someone to deliver my groceries instead of spending an hour at the supermarket, I will do that and have that hour with my kids or go out to brunch with my husband. I recognise I’m in a fortunate position to be able to pay for help, but I also expect the other family members to do their share as well. No one is served be me being a martyr and becoming bitter. So I firmly believe in asking for help. There is no point expecting my husband or kids to be mind-readers, and then getting annoyed at them when they don’t. If I want them to do something, I tell them.
But you also have to prepared to let slide what you can. I detest it when the house is a mess, as it makes me feel stressed, so I stay on top of that. But, for example, it’s been a crazy work week for me with a number of stressful deadlines, so I’ll probably get us some healthy-ish takeaway for dinner. We’ve had home-cooked meals every other night this week, so I am fine with getting a organic halal roast chicken and salads from the place down the road tonight!
Whats your favourite thing to do with your kids?
I like playing games with them, like UNO. I also just love talking to them. I like hearing what’s going on in their minds. They are also quite funny, so I love it when they make me laugh. I love singing with my daughter (who has a far better voice than me); we sing along to the radio together, or to musicals on CD in the car.
What are your best tips for keeping organised?
I write many lists; I’m drowning in lists. I have to put everything in my calendar on my phone, or I forget it. I force myself to clean the kitchen and get the kids school-lunches organised the night before, no matter how tired I am, and also try to lay out my clothes the night before, too. Doing that makes the frantic mornings a bit less frantic. I also schedule things, like when the kids must practice their Quran or instruments, so everyone knows what has to be done and we don’t have to think about it.
What do you find to be the hardest thing about being a mum?
The worry that you’re doing the wrong thing – that you’re being too hard or too soft.
What is the funniest thing your kids have done?
My kids crack me up constantly, which has been one of the true delights of being a mother. I remember once I was giving a mosque tour, and my son (who was about 6 at the time) came along. After I had finished the tour and given what I hoped was an eloquent, intelligent and thought-provoking tour, I asked if there were any questions. My son, who was in the front row, immediately yelled out loud and clear, “Mummy, I have a really itchy bottom. Can I please have a worm tablet?”
Youre silencing your twitter haters by donating $1 for every hate filled tweet. What has the response been like and what is the tally at currently?
The response has been pretty positive. What’s been lovely have been the strangers who got in touch with me and said they’d donated $100 to UNICEF to “sponsor” my next 100 hate-tweets. That was so lovely and kind. the latest tally was $3500. I need to kick some more in soon, too.
Coffee or tea?
I love both! I have about 6 coffees a day, and then tea as well. I love having tea at night with my husband when the kids are in bed. All feels right with the world then, and it’s one of my favourite things to do. Caffeine is my biggest addiction.
If you could only teach your kids one thing, what would it be?
Know your Lord, and know yourself. Everything else comes from that.
What do you hope the future will hold for your kids and muslim kids everywhere?
Inner contentment; the same thing I want for all kids, everywhere.
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