Monday, 10 March 2014

Parenting Around The Planet: Expat Mammy in Dubai

Today I'm delighted to welcome the lovely Expat Mammy as my guest here at Bod Towers for another in my occasional series of posts about Parenting Around The Planet. Expat Mammy is a mother of two, wife and blogger. She's living in Dubai for the second time, writing about parenting, travelling with children and suffering with Post Natal Depression. She says of her blog: "Sometimes I'm funny, sometime I'm not, however I'm always honest!" I love this frank and honest commentary on parenting in Dubai which has a lot of parallels with my experience of living in an 'Expat bubble' in Shanghai. I hope you enjoy reading it too.

You can find Expat Mammy on  and  and of course you can read about her day to day adventures in the United Arab Emirates at

If you'd like to contribute a post for Parenting Around The Planet get in touch with me on or by .


Being a parent away from my family and friends is normal for me, it always has and I'm not really sure how I'd cope parenting in the UK or Ireland if I'm honest, I'd probably feel like a fish out of water. It's kind of why I didn't really like Amsterdam, it looked and felt too normal, too much like home….it makes sense in my head anyway!

Dubai is a strange place for some, you either love it or hate it. I've heard it called a few names; pretentious, over the top, breath-taking, cosmopolitan, money……. to us it's home, they say home is where the heart is and our hearts will always be in our home towns but we left a piece of us here too, that's why we returned last year.

Parenting is NEVER easy wherever you are in the world and parenting here is a complete minefield. Parenting with postnatal depression while away from your family and everyone familiar is absolutely hell. However we have coped and hopefully we're getting closer to that light at the end of the tunnel.

Here is what I feel is different about parenting in Dubai...

The added pressure

Being here has allowed me to have the best full time job in the whole world, a stay at home mammy. I am at home all day with my two babies, I see them explore new things, I see LPV coming home from nursery with amazing vocabulary, Miss C babbling to herself in the morning sun out on the terrace. Being back here has helped my mood, I'm a happier mammy, I feel everyone in the house feels this too. LPV often comes up to me and tells me "I'm his best friend". That, right there, melts my heart and makes me feel so full of love and warmth that there's no need to be sad any more. I have a long way to go with my depression, I know this, but I have a great support network in Dubai and my friends are awesome. I can answer the door in my pj's and its Okay!!

However I do sometimes feel the Dubai pressures; the constant need to look how the glamazons do wandering through the malls with their Gucci diaper bags and two inch waist. I find never leaving the house without make-up exhausting to be honest. The women who don't sweat getting their kids in and out of the car - how do they do this? It occasionally runs away with me but I look at the kids and it bring me back to earth and to focus on what's really important.

First plane ride for miss C
The pressure to be super mum is rife here, who has made best costume for dress-up day, is your name closer to the top or bottom of the phone tree? Are you even on the phone tree?

Probably not.

Are you a member of the PTA? It's not just pressure on you as a mammy, it's the pressure on the children that ruffles my feathers. The whole school assessment process is appalling, two sometimes even three assessments on three year olds to get a school place. They come to your home, your child's nursery and then you get called to the school. You as a parent are judged, by your clothes, your relationship with your child and worse of all…..what type of passport you have! When you meet mammy's in the playground the first questions is what schools have you applied too, have you got a play, did you get an assessment? If you mention you're applying for a particular school "Oh that's really academic based" Yes and your point being??? Just what are you implying? I have personally felt a lot of pressure on LPV, for him to be able to write his name etc. I'm told it's what is expected here….well I won't push my child into anything and he develops at his own pace.

Safety first

My kids are my life, to keep them safe is my priority, I think this is why we haven't moved to the US yet and be honest I'm not sure if I could ever go with so many shootings there. That's what I love about this city; I feel safe, I feel my kids are safe. I'm not saying there are no threats or unsavoury people here but punishments are harsh with a lot of zero tolerance as a deterrent. However this doesn't stop me from having a complete and utter nervous breakdown when LPV does one of his "runners" in the supermarket or doing his favourite - hiding in clothes rack in sports shops!! So relieved in finding him we of course rip the head of him for running away then hug him when the blood pressure stabilises.

Haha, they'll never find me here!

Health and safety rules tend to be very flippant here, a friend has reported seeing live wires hanging out of wall in a school. The complete lack of common sense and utter stupidity of some local and EXPAT parents when it comes to car safety is just beyond belief. You have to blink and rub your eyes to believe it's true when you see a child no older than two hanging out of a car window like a dog!!

I am a proud mother of two gorgeous children, they're fair, have beautiful and green eyes I want to photograph them all day. However I find it very difficult when strangers are wanting to touch, hold and photograph my children . No one asks you if it's ok and to be honest NO, NO it's NOT ok that you're a perfect stranger and you want touch my pride and joy. My husband almost threw some guy's phone in a fountain when he came right into LPV's face and took a photo. It's wrong, some could say I have double standards posting my children on my blog……. but the word I offer you here is choice, this is my choice and have control over how much and what goes on there.

The safety issue can swing both ways, on the other side of the coin are the concerns about the bubble they live in. Dubai can be very shut off from the rest of the world. The zero tolerance they have on most things is awesome but is living in this environment making them naive? Being sheltered from the bad world I worry they'll be sitting ducks for the horrid people out there. I have a friend whose eldest son wanted to go to the UK to boarding school, he's grown up here in Dubai but had never been on a bus or train by himself. I feel that the children will find it hard to learn basic life skills that will make them a bit more street-wise. At night I lie awake thinking about what they'll become, have we done enough to turn them into well-rounded individuals, what can we do to protect and educate them?

Money and the Class system

Every country has them, however I feel it's to the extreme here. A lot of households have live-in maids, a small percentage of maids here practically raise the children. I believe that behaviour mirrors behaviour and when you see small children talking to these grown women like they're dirt I feel embarrassed to live here. A lot of expats here earn tax-free salaries and enjoy the high life, why not if you've worked hard enough for it. However don't forget where you have come from and the fact you would NEVER have it at home. Here in Dubai you don't pump your own petrol, wash your own car or pack your own groceries. I find it hard when the children are watching this, I purposely try to find a cashier with no help so I can do it myself, then someone rushes over to help. I don't want my children to feel that this is the norm. A massive fear of ours is ending up with the stereotypical EXPAT BRAT, so we're giving LPV little chores at home like picking up his dirty clothes and taking out his plate. Our children need to know that this isn't normal life to have all these things done for you. I'm super proud to say I have a very well-mannered child, who is pleasant and helpful.

Yes, flight attendant I'd like some Aptamil please!!

There is money here, lots of it! Unfortunately we're not up to our knockers in the stuff but we have a great house in a compound with our own pool, so the wee ones are very lucky! Dubai gives us so many opportunities, how many children do you know that are valet-parked for lunch and have flown business class? It's hard not to get sucked in by it all, surrounding yourself and your children by others who keep things real is so important. Activities that are available to children are phenomenal, so I try to limit their activities to "normal" ones; swimming lessons and a music class. I really don't think there a need for Miss C to be visiting the spa and LPV to go an activity every day, we actually just love going to play dates in the park. We are just doing the best we can, keeping it real while the rest of the city gets sucked into the lifestyle everyone thinks we lead. We get out of bed each morning, argue as to who's going to get up with the baby, feel like the worst parent ever when you forget their library book or send a cereal bar in their packed lunch. We're just being parents - we just do it in the sunshine!


I love Dubai and have visited a handful of times and I think the whole cosmopolitan thing really appeals to me. My friend has recently moved there too and is loving the sunshine and lifestyle and how they're able to get a better quality of life there for their money compared to London. It sounds like LPV and little miss will be well rounded individuals. You're already teaching them important like skills and to do things themselves too.

  • mumtoamonster10 March 2014 10:25

    I enjoyed reading this. Its interesting to learn how things are different around the world

  • bod for tea10 March 2014 10:28

    I'm glad you enjoyed it! Check out the other articles in the series here:

  • bod for tea10 March 2014 10:29

    Yes I've been a few times too and loved it - I think a lot has changed since I last visited though. And I agree with you - ExpatMammy is clearly doing a great job!

  • Kids Making Change13 March 2014 06:48

    Raising a kid far from "home" without any family support is tough, and every place has its pros and cons. I think you manage it just fine. Greetings from an expat overseas ;-)

  • Misplaced_Brit15 March 2014 23:04

    Loved the insightful glimpse into life somewhere else :-)

  • bod for tea16 March 2014 06:33

    Thank you - I'm so happy that we've had some great guest bloggers for this series and I agree it's so interesting to read other perspectives.

  • bod for tea16 March 2014 06:34

    Thank you for reading and commenting *waves over the miles*. Would you like take part yourself? Drop me a line at or tweet me and let's chat.