Housewife Khadijah Ibrahim has nine children, enough to set up a netball team (with two reserves).
While she may not have a reality TV show on raising her brood, the Kelantanese mother has certainly “been there, done that” when it comes to raising her huge family.
“At grocery stores, I’ve had shoppers counting the heads behind me. People are stunned when I tell them my family used to consume up to 40kg of rice, five large tins of formula milk and five trays of eggs each month,” says Khadijah at her home in Port Dickson, Negri Sembilan recently.
Her children are now aged between 18 and 37 years old; the first seven are daughters and the youngest two are a pair of twin sons. She had most of her children at two-year intervals, except for the twins, who were born five years after their closest sibling.
“I got married at 19 and had my first child the following year. Back then, there wasn’t much emphasis on family planning. My late husband and I accepted our children as blessings from God,” says Khadijah who is now a grandmother of 17 at 57 years old.
She admits the initial years of raising her children was no walk in the park. Her late husband, Major Amat Puad Kasim, was an army officer who was often based outstation, on missions that took him away between three months and a year.
“With my late husband being away for long durations, I had to be independent. I learnt how to raise the children, keep house and manage household finances. Thankfully, I have been blessed with good children,” she says.
Khadijah smiles as she recalls one of her biggest challenges as a mother. And no, it is not about morning sickness, delivering nine children or cooking. According to her, it was tackling mountains of laundry every day. Some days, Khadijah hand-washed up to 100 pieces of clothing.
“That was a back-breaking task, especially when my children were toddlers. I had to wash napkins, towels and tiny baby clothes. It took so long to dry and fold each and every single item,” she says, adding her children helped with household chores as they grew older.
With so many mouths to feed, the housewife learnt how to stretch the ringgit. She planted vegetables and sewed her children’s clothes.
“Thankfully, my children weren’t demanding or fussy. They never complained about eating simple meals or wearing hand-me-downs. My neighbours were generous; they shared their vegetable produce and lent a helping hand in times of need,” recalls Khadijah, who used public transportation during her husband’s absence.
Her hard work of raising her children has not been in vain.
The hardest times are behind them as the children are all grown up and doing well. Her second daughter is a doctor and her fifth is a nurse. Three other daughters have followed in their late father’s footsteps and joined the army, and another daughter is a sales representative. Meanwhile, the other children are still studying.
Strict and loving
Khadijah’s daughter Dr Amirah Amat Puad, 35, describes her mother as a strict but loving parent who kept the family in shipshape condition. She jokes that her late father’s military background must have rubbed off on her mother who was a disciplinarian.
“There were nine of us. So, kicking, hair pulling and arguing were part and parcel of our growing up years. But Emak kept an eye on us, punishing those who behaved badly. She also instilled the importance of family togetherness,” says Amirah.
At a recent family get-together, it was evident that Khadijah has raised a close-knit family. Most of them are based in Kuala Lumpur and meet up regularly. Some weekends, they carpool to visit their mother.
With Khadijah’s home a stone’s throw from the beach, picnics by the sea are a favourite family outing.
Although most of her children have moved away, Khadijah’s home is still furnished to cater for big family gatherings. In the dining room, there are two eight-seater tables. In her kitchen are large cooking pots, two rice cookers and an industrial coconut grater.
Foam mattresses are neatly stacked up in her four-bedroom house to accommodate her children and grandchildren.
Khadijah says raising nine children has been an enjoyable and memorable journey.
“I’ve gone through many unforgettable experiences with them. Though challenging, I’d never replace the experience with anything else,” says Khadijah.