A Day in the Life of Fatima

As the holidays approach, do you feel stressed by the list of people you still need to shop for, the food you need to prepare, or all the packing you have to do to get ready for holiday travels? When I inevitably start to feel some of this burden, it helps to spend time with the missionary women to put things in perspective. Recently, I had the pleasure of spending the day helping Fatima in order to give you a glimpse of her life. Here is her schedule:

Fatima currently cares for 19 boys ranging in age from 3-12 years old. Life is hectic, messy, and full of love.

5am: Wakes up all the children. She currently has 19 boys, ranging in age from 3-12 years old in her care.

5-6am: Helps the children (especially the youngest) go to the bathroom, get changed for school, and make their beds.

6am: Leads a prayer and serves breakfast.

6:30am: Helps children clean up their breakfast. Checks all 19 backpacks to make sure every child has their school supplies and homework ready.

7am: Walks children to school.

8am: Walks children that are studying in the Mission Home tutor program to their classroom to begin their day of specialized learning.

8-9am: Cleans up the house (that has inevitably become a disaster by this time)

9am: Eats breakfast with the other missionary women, a rare chance to spend time together.

9:30-11:30am: Helps with the general functioning of the mission home. Today, she organizes a delivery of personal care items (toilet paper, soap, etc), folds sheets, and then meets with the psychologist to review a few of the cases of the children in her care. She shares that this time is far less stressful than it used to be, as she now has help with tasks like laundry and cooking that used to fall on her shoulders as well.

11:45am: Welcomes the 3-5 year olds back home from school.

12:30-1pm: Welcomes the rest of the children back home from school.

1pm: Serves lunch to the kids. Fatima eats her lunch at the counter while watching over the kids

2-4pm: Helps the kids with homework

4-5pm: Oversees playtime in the patio!

5-6pm: Directs the older children in their daily chores (sweeping the patio, taking out the trash), helps the younger children take baths

6pm: Older children take baths

6:30pm: Serves dinner

7:30pm: Reads the youngest children stories to put them to bed

8-8:30pm: Chats with and reads books to the older children to put them to bed

9pm: Eats dinner

10:30pm: Goes to sleep

10:30pm-5am: Wakes up 3 separate times. Once when someone has an accident and she has to change their pajamas and sheets, once when someone has a bad dream, and once to make sure everyone is sleeping in their own bed (she says that this is an important boundary to maintain especially when children just arrive at the home and have survived abuse)

Two times stand out to me most in Fatima’s crazy day (apart from how exhausted I felt after only one day of her life). First, when all the children return from school. She makes sure to greet each one and ask them a specific question about their day – she asks one boy about a presentation he is working on, another if a fight with a friend has been resolved, and another if he liked the orange that was packed as his midmorning snack. She says it is one way to demonstrate her love for each one of the children in her care.

The second is when the older boys don’t want to do their chores. They yell and whine, saying they want to play soccer for a few more minutes. She calmly picks up a broom and begins sweeping herself, saying she will help them but it’s time to sweep the patio and take responsibility for where they live. Soon they have all joined her with the exception of one, a newer resident of the Mission Home. She waits until she has finished helping with all the chores to talk to him privately. They agree to a plan where he will help put away all the dishes after dinner, a task usually reserved for Fatima, in order to make up for the missed chore and to spend more one-on-one time together.

Fatima’s example inspires me to be a more patient and loving mother all the time, and especially in the seemingly insignificant moments of the day.

Fatima has been caring for abused, neglected, and abandoned children for over 20 years. Her love and patience is seemingly unending.