Assalamoalaikum Readers! Alhamdulillah I am back with yet another awesome Muslimah for my interview series: “The Odd Success Stories”. Alhamdulillah it’s been very uplifting experience so far interviewing some amazing women who are living with purpose and helping others do the same (you can read the previous interview here).
Yesterday I had the pleasure of having a live chat on Instagram with the very dynamic and very inspiring Sr Calisha Bennett. It was a beautiful heart to heart with many gems full of wisdom. There were many uplifting and spine tingling moments where I literally had to hold back my tears. We talked about motherhood challenges, trying to attain our full potential as believers and living with purpose. Unfortunately I didn’t know how to save videos from Instagram Live at that time. But here is an interview I especially did for the blog which I hope you find equally beneficial and inspiring. So grab a cuppa and dive right into it ;).
Please introduce yourself to those who may not know you as a person, a homeschooler and an entrepreneur.
I am a born Muslim with an Australian convert father and a mother from the Cocos/Christmas Islands. I am 33 years old, have been married for 17 years Alhamdulillah. I am a mother of 5 children (one boy and 4 girls aged between 2 and 15 years tabarakallah). I am passionate about Islam, living a life of challenge and growth, about serving the community, education and beneficial knowledge, about health and fitness and supporting humanitarian and environmental causes.
I have homeschooled since my eldest was kindy age and have continued to homeschool all of my children since then. My eldest child has since decided to go to school for her final few years of high school. The younger ones are happy at home for now Alhamdulillah.
Over the past twelve or more years I have dedicated my life to community building, teaching the basics of Islam and the Quran, volunteer work and founding various projects and causes. I have learnt and experienced a lot over the years and I feel it is now my responsibility to further share that in order to benefit and uplift others.
So I founded Developing Diamonds, a business dedicated to coaching and educating Muslim women and youth about their identity and success. This business has been a long term dream or goal that I had shelved for many years whilst I dedicated my time and energies to volunteer community work and teaching. I absolutely love what I do in supporting women in their identities and guiding them towards success. I totally love the excitement of business and entrepreneurship!
Your vision behind what you do. What inspired you to do what you do?
My vision for my business and life in general is to learn and implement both Islamic and personal developmental knowledge. My aim is to package and present that knowledge in such a way that it can benefit the Ummah in their Islamic identity and personal, professional and spiritual success Inshallah.
I am inspired to do what I do through the conviction that there are benefits of Islamic teachings for all of mankind. I am inspired by the message and guidance of Islam and the need for it to be shared and understood correctly by Muslims in current times. By coupling it with personal development knowledge, I hope to support Muslims of all generations towards living purposeful and impactful lives, as the Almighty intended us to be.
When I witness the impact, growth and development of my Muslim sisters through the coaching and teachings that I provide, it reminds me of the importance of my work and the need for it to reach and benefit as many sisters and youth as possible inshallah.
Alhamdulillah all I ask is that Allah SWT uses me as an instrument of spreading the deen and goodness. Ameen.
Where and how do you find the time to homeschool as well as pursue your passions?
My daily commitment is to sit with my children and complete homeschooling work which takes about 3-4 hours. Any time outside of that is where I pursue my passions and do my studies and ‘work’.
I’ve always had the philosophy that motherhood (and homeschooling for that matter) need not prevent a Muslim woman from learning and achieving whatever she wishes for Allah’s sake.
I will be honest and say honest that my commitment to homeschooling has resulted in many many late nights and early mornings starts where I had to do my studies and work tasks. But Alhamdulillah I have no regrets and I am simply grateful that Allah SWT blesses us with 24 hours each day. How we use it, is up to us.
What does your ideal workday look like and how do you motivate yourself to get going?
My ideal work day would start with Fajr and the morning athkaar (supplications). Then if I’m not too tired I would go to the gym for a 60-90 minute workout and be home before the kids wake up. I’d then shower and have breakfast and prepare the house for the day.
Whilst the kids are getting ready and waking up, I’ll try to do at least 30 minutes of Quran. We then spend 3-4 hours doing our homeschooling (with lots of laughs, conversations, messing, cooking, tidying up and snacking in between LOL).
We are usually done before mid afternoon and the kids then have some quiet, free time to play. I’ll either have a rest, do some reading or get some important to-do’s done (that I’ve written down the day before). There is usually an afternoon program, activity or Quran class for one of the kids to be dropped to and dinner will be cooked somewhere in that time.
After dinner and prayers together we will do a big clean up of the house (as I don’t like to rest if the house is a mess LOL). So by 8 or 9pm the kids are all asleep and then I spend 2-3 hours doing my studies and work.
What would you tell other mothers, homeschoolers, mompreuners who have this dream they want to chase but don’t know if they have the time, money or support?
The only thing you need is your determination and the support of Allah SWT. I’ve never had the money to do very much, I’ve often done things solo (so not much support). Time is tangible thing which you can either manage or allow it to manage you.
The most important thing you need is self belief and trust in your right and ability to pursue your passions. The most important support you need is YOURSELF, you need to be your main cheerleader and have positive self talk.
It also does help to have a couple of trusted, good-hearted friends or family members with whom you can chat to about your hopes and aspirations. If you can’t find anyone in your immediate network, even consider finding a coach because I’ve found coaches to be an amazing support for my journey Alhamdulillah!
If money is an issue, then seek out ways to minimise costs and get some advice from someone more experienced in the area you wish to embark on. The wisdom of others is so priceless and you’ll often find that most teachers/leaders/entrepreneurs/mothers will be more than happy to give you some free advice. There are so many budget options out there in current times which are often just as good as pricey options.
Advice, tools, strategies which make your day easier to manage
Prioritise, Prioritise, Prioritise!!!!
1) Prioritise your daily Islamic habits – Salah, Quran, dua’as, modesty, connecting with Allah and reminding yourself of your purpose and the bigger picture in life. These will fill your day with great blessings and barakah and also provide you with protection from falling into harm, doing wrong and from the influence of Shaytan. It’s also essential because you are always reminding yourself of the need for Allah’s help and support throughout your day and that your greatest blessings are often also your greatest tests, and without His Guidance and Mercy, we would truly be lost in this dunya.
2) Prioritise your relationships – Make sure you have time for quality connection and communication with your spouse and children. They are the individuals in your life who need the most from you. Aside from their physical care (feeding, cleaning, dressing etc), they also need quality connection with you. This can be in the form of a nice long hug, a gentle stroke, a story or even a quick ‘How was your day sweetie?’ It’s important to remember that life is so much more than a never-ending ‘to-do’ list.
It is essential to live in the moment and truly embrace moments of intimacy, love and emotional connection with those around you.
3) Prioritise important must-do’s – These are different from to-do’s in that they are must-do’s. These are things which you decide are absolute necessities in your day. For example homeschooling, exercise, cooking, tidying up, studies, work tasks, paying bills, visit parents etc etc. Once you have made the decision that you must do them, you will then need to make the time (by scheduling) to get them done.
4) Prioritise Down Time – Always, always make sure to be kind to yourself, to allow yourself rest when you feel tired, to partake in regular self-care activities, to turn down invitations. to cancel commitments, to reschedule tasks etc.
You are a human being and it’s unrealistic to function at 100%, every day, 24/7 ! It’s vital to establish balance and be flexible in life in order to sustain a healthy state of spirituality and both mental and physical well-being.
Also schedule in some regular self care activities like spa days, brunch with friends or your mum, date nights with hubby, an afternoon reading by the beach, family day trips, holidays etc. Whatever it is that feeds your soul and gives you some time to rest and replenish when you feel depleted – do that!
5) Be Conscious of your thoughts – Thoughts are extremely powerful and instrumental in how your days will go and how you will feel throughout the day. So it is imperative that you keep your thoughts in check. Try asking yourself questions like: Am I living in the moment? Are my thoughts true? Are my thoughts about things I cannot control (the future and the past)? Are my thoughts supporting my success or impeding on it? Are my thoughts kind to myself and others or are they unkind? Once you become aware of the thought patterns and tendencies you have, you will be better able to keep them in check and get through each day feeling much better about yourself and others.
Any advice for sisters out there?
My dearest sisters, please LOVE YOURSELF as a beautiful, perfect creation of Allah SWT. He has blessed you with all the natural talent, ability, potential and traits that you need to navigate your path in life. You absolutely have what it takes to pursue and fulfil your dreams and goals as a devout Muslim woman who is committed to her faith and to her Lord. All it takes is for you to believe in yourself and give yourself the permission to shine! It starts with self belief, followed by a decision and then the execution of massive action based on that belief and decision!
I see you, I believe in you and for any sisters who have any questions or are in need of any support, I’m here for you.
BarakAllah Feeki Sr Calisha for making the time to share your insights with us. I am truly motivated to try and reach my full potential and I pray all the sisters reading this feel the same way too <3 .
I would love your thoughts and comments below. Don’t forget to look out for the next instalment of ‘The Odd Success Stories’!