(This article is part of a series, “A Mother’s Journey” – a collection of stories in honour of all mothers, and those who are a mother at heart and spirit. I hope this would inspire and help other parents in some ways.)
“Motherhood is a test, to pass it you really need to have patience,” says Christine Dupuis a.k.a. Aishah, 51, mother of 10, seven of which are now adults, two are married and have their own children, one teenager and two pre-teens. A grandmother to six grandkids.
Christine is also an author, a blogger and mentor of new Muslim converts in Sarnia as well as Chatham. She organizes the annual Convert Iftar at Sarnia Masjid. This year, the Convert Iftar will be on May 31st. The gathering gives Muslim converts and their supporters an opportunity to break their fast together.
The first time I met Christine, what struck me was their van, it was huge, I referred it as a mini-bus. Then I found out, it was a necessity due to her big family. Her story of having 10 children puts me in awe, not in a negative way but in an admiring way.
I only have one child then, and I thought, wow! It takes a lot of courage and patience for a woman to have that many children in this society where the number of children is a minimum of one and a maximum of four.
Just like many who want to have the ideal “only two children,” Christine wanted that too but the turn of events in our life is sometimes unexpected.
She narrates, “First two children are from my first marriage before I converted to Islam. During my second pregnancy, I intended to be sterilized but many people talked me out of it including my doctor. I was 19 at the time. Then I became Muslim, remarried later and had eight more kids.”
Although she doesn’t regret having 10 children and unapologetic about it, Christine reveals that, indeed, not everyone was accepting of her large family.
“Muslims mostly were really unaccepting of my large family and it was worse than with non-Muslims. We didn’t feel included. We were frequently chastised. We were never offered help,” narrates Christine.
With her big family, Christine admits that it wasn’t easy but her family always found a way through Allah.
“…and certainly we could afford it and we learned to do everything ourselves,” shares the mother of 10. “It really takes a village to raise a child and when you have no village then you need even more patience.”
Exercising patience, Christine is a reflection of a happy and content wife. She displays a calm personality, that I wonder if has she ever raised her voice at her children. Her children are admirable, well-mannered and independent.
She continues, “For minimizing expenses we always were frugal with food i.e. leftovers were never thrown out and my kids always had hand me downs. I’ve even passed down my kids clothes to my grandkids. We shopped at garage sales and second-hand stores a lot in the beginning too. Coupons were a must. Shopping sales and collecting points were part of our thrifty ways too.”
Presently, her eldest son, 34, is an IT Analyst, married with children; the eldest daughter is 31, happily married with 4 children, a successful entrepreneur and founder of Handmade Beginnings.
Her other children are 27-year old daughter is a graduate of Foods and Technology from Western University; 22-year old son is an Environmental Engineering student at Waterloo University and another 21-year old son is taking Accounting in the same university; a 19-year old daughter is a Visual Merchandising Student at Conestoga College, she’s an MSA President and works part-time. An 18-year old son is currently a high school student and works part-time. In Grade 9 is a 14-year old daughter and 2 children are in elementary ages 12 and 10.
Like any parents, Christine wanted to spend one-on-one time with her children when they were younger but acknowledged that it wasn’t as frequent as she wants it to be. However, the family is often out and about making memories even through a simple visit to the park.
“Sometimes I spent one on one time with each of the kids but usually it wasn’t feasible,” she adds.
With all the challenges in raising her children, Christine admits that it wasn’t all her, her family helped her. Her husband and children made it possible for her to stay on top of an organized, happy and contented family.
As for keeping herself on track, Christine shares that she cares for herself.
“For self-care I would take time to exercise and read and be in nature.”
Now that most of her children are adults, Christine continues to share, “My sweetest and proudest moments are when I saw my kids giving back to the family and the community or giving Islamic advice.”
Although she seems to have deciphered the key to successful motherhood, Christine looks back to her early days as a mother and said: “I wish I could have found a book or a course that would have taught patience. I read a lot of Islamic parenting books but didn’t find much help.”
To all mothers, she encourages them to not isolate themselves.
“My advice would be to surround yourself with people if you have a chance, we didn’t but if you are lucky enough to get help then grab it with both hands. Also, make dua (supplicate) to help you raise your children properly with patience and love.”