“What’s the most treacherous time of the day?
For me, it’s laying the table for dinner!”
For me, it’s laying the table for dinner!”
For non-Muslim observers, resisting the urge to eat or drink seems to be the main test of Ramadan. At least, that’s the visible part which gets all the fame. For me, staying calm and being polite is much tougher than being without food or drink. Silly things like having to get up and fetch something that’s been put in the wrong place could easily tip me over the edge, purely because it means using up valuable energy when I've got limited resources.
It’s so easy to use hunger as a get out of jail card for any tetchy outbursts during the day. The most common phrase during my first Ramadan was, ‘sorry I snapped, I haven’t eaten since suhoor!’ But that excuse just doesn't cut it though when you’re going without food for a whole month. Besides, you run the risk of getting on the nerves of everyone around you.
But then being a little grouchy should be expected when you’re depriving your body of food, right? That would be true, except that during Ramadan, Muslims are aiming to improve their character, attempting to be patient, kind and generous in spite of not having the comfort of a well lined stomach..
Now, onto a key question... what’s the most treacherous time of the day? In my household, the danger zone is laying the table for dinner! In the Summer this is around 9pm. All you want to do is eat and all that lies between you and food is setting a few forks and knives and getting glasses of water ready. But when you’re hungry, this is easier said than done. There’s the risk that you’ll drop something, grab the wrong item, or (horror of horrors) burn the food! Such incidents pave the way for petty arguments that could trip you up at the final hurdle.
To avoid such a disaster, try to prepare food and lay the table in advance when you’re not so hungry. Then you can set aside the time just before the fast-breaking meal iftar, maybe the last hour or so, as chill time. You could watch lectures, a film (unless that's something you've given up for the month), read a book, make dua, or relax in some way. Don’t expect too much of yourself at this point in the day because you’re going to be pretty tired by the time 8pm comes around.
This is where I can touch briefly on the topic of Ramadan and Marriage and indeed family life at large. The person who bears the brunt of my irritability when I’m setting the table is my poor husband. This is first and foremost a reminder to myself, it’s worth considering the people you live with when you’re fasting. You may be feeling hungry, but no one wants to be cooped up with a grouch for 30 days either! If your family aren't Muslim, you may need to work extra hard not to take your hunger out on them. They may be finding it difficult to understand your new faith and the changes that are taing place in your life. If they see that Ramadan has made you irritable and miserable, on top of the fact that you're suddenly not eating, they might worry even more.
This doesn't mean you have to be bright, bubbly and sociable at all times of course. Sometimes you just want to be on your own before Iftar, either because you’re sleepy or just too focused on food to spend time on chitchat. On the other hand, I've found spending quiet time together at the end of the day when you have less energy can be really rewarding. It can be something you look forward to each day. It means that rather than wasting time counting down the hours, twiddling your fingers or continuously refreshing facebook, you can use those ‘danger hours’ to nurture the relationships with those around you.
Sometimes when you’re grumpy, it’s so tempting to wind someone up, especially if they’re fasting too because you know you’ll get the satisfaction of a reaction. But, instead of annoying each other and risking invalidating your fasts, you can try to help each other get through the difficulty. If you acknowledge that you’ll both probably be feeling irritable by the end of the day, you can arrange your day so that you avoid doing stressful tasks at that time. Assembling furniture, food shopping, or picking out wallpaper patterns should be avoided at all costs! Organizing your day so that difficult tasks are done in the morning or after you've eaten will make your life a whole lot easier.
Although Ramadan brings with it a new set of challenges, it can be an incredible way of strengthening your marriage or family life. And remember, at each day, you also have the added bonus of sharing a nice Iftar meal afterwards to reward yourselves.
How do you cope with grouchiness?
Hope do you keep the peace in your home?