Dubai's Desperate Housewife

Trials and traumas of a full-time mum in Dubai

Posts Tagged ‘Motherhood

On being kind in the night

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I had a pretty nice childhood. You know, that hazy 70s thing in England when we grew up in sepia tones, roller-skating down the main road, staying out on our bikes till dark and never worrying about anything. Every summer was the summer of ’76: a sleeveless t-shirt and shorts; limbs bronzed from the never-ending sunshine (though the lemon juice in the hair sadly never worked for me).

This makes Mummy happy.

This makes Mummy happy.

Yet some of my most enduring memories from childhood are of my mum being kind to me in the night.

Weird, you may think. But I was brought up never to bother my parents after I’d been put to bed. I always wondered what it was they were doing downstairs that meant I mustn’t go down (wrapping early Christmas presents, maybe) – and, inevitably, I did go down sometimes only to find my dad glaring at the Nine O’Clock news and Mum fast asleep in an arm chair.

Anyway, I digress.

I’ve managed to instal the same respect in my own children – namely, after lights-out, that’s IT. No whimpering, no moaning, no whingeing and certainly no coming downstairs to see Mummy devouring the Paatchis.

But sometimes, as a child, I needed my mum at night. Maybe I’d wet the bed, had a bad dream, got a fever, vomited, or perhaps there was a terrifying thunder storm. My frantic calls would eventually be answered by the tell-tale creak of the stairs followed by Mum entering the room.

‘What’s up, darling?’ she’d say, and I would be so overjoyed, so happy that she wasn’t cross with me. Whatever the problem was, she sorted it while I waited on the sofa, wrapped in a blanket and swaddled in Mum’s kindness. Twice in one night I remember her having to change my sheets and never a cross word was said.

It’s this I remember now when my children call me in the night. They know they’re not supposed to; they know bedtime is bedtime; that that Mummy needs a little down-time to herself; but, of course, emergencies happen. Water glasses are spilled, unexpected wees flood the bed, Petits Filoux are vomited into sticky peach-flavoured messes on the duvet and there is even, in the case of DD, a little insomnia.

And I try, when I pick up the children’s desperate night-time calls , to be as kind to them as my mum was to me. I hope, when they get older, they remember that, too.

Written by mrsdubai

November 11, 2013 at 8:57 pm

On conflicting resolutions

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It's all good on the 9-year-old side of the table... but in the other corner....

It’s all good on the 9-year-old side of the table… but in the other corner….

It occurred to me over the summer that, in England (read: without Gerlie around), I’m a much better parent. Forced to spend time with my children, I actually do. And – here’s the big surprise – this summer I enjoyed it. 

DD is now verging on nine; DS is four. They’re manageable. There are no more toddler tantrums; they go to the same school; they can make conversation about their day, referencing teachers they’ve both had and – much to my enjoyment – even have little conversations in Arabic.

So, when we came back to the UAE in August, I resolved to spend the children’s dinner time sitting with them; talking to them; leading conversations; opening discussions; enjoying hearing their emergent views, rather than shoving them in front of the TV with Gerlie while dashing off to my office to write this blog, which is what I always used to do (my excuse: they ate better when I wasn’t there).

All well and good, but this resolution coincided with another resolution: on behalf of my ageing skin and decrepit liver, I resolved  to give up my little 5pm tipple (if you think 5pm’s early, please remember I have, at that point, been up the best part of 12 hours – trust me, it feels like midnight).

So, two months in, how’s it all going?

Well, I’m still having dinner with the children – and enjoying their company. But there appears to be some sort of software glitch when it comes to refraining from an early-evening glass of wine while “encouraging” an ants-in-his-pants four-year-old to remember his table manners (how many times in a day can a person shout “Sit down!”).

Hey, one out of two isn’t bad.

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October 7, 2013 at 6:23 pm

When the school shoes hurt

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Buying new school shoes is not a job that’s taken lightly in this house. After I’ve chosen the selection I’ll be parading on the school run in autumn-winter 2013 (joke), we turn our attention to the children and their ever-growing feet. I stop feeding them protein for a bit, in the hope that their feet will shrink to fit into last term’s AED 300 (£50) pair – but it never seems to work – so I put them in a very hot bath in case that might shrink them, too. But it never does.

I honestly think DD would vomit over a pair like this. I suppose it bodes well for the future

An explosion of black leather flowers? No wonder DD can’t find a nice pair of school shoes

So we spend the nine-week summer holidays trawling the shops of England, Italy, Greece and the UAE for DD’s Year 4 shoes. We look at 25 different chains of shops that sell school shoes. Clarks, Ecco, Russell & Bromley, Geox, Skechers, Debenhams, M&S, Pabloksi – even blinkin’ Baby Shop with its range of

DD looks at 70 different pairs of flat black shoes with Velcro straps – and she rejects them all (I can’t think where she gets it from).

Too flat, too high, too ugly, the strap’s in the wrong place, they rub my heels, they look like something a three-year-old would wear, I hate bows, I hate butterlfies, why is there a double strap, they look like prosthetics (she has a good vocabulary), I hate the flowers, they’ve got pink bits, I feel like a penguin, they’re comfy but I still hate them and I think I’m going to be sick, blah blah blah. It’s like listening to me talking through my own shoe collection in the morning.

So then we finally find a pair, in the back of the crappiest shoe shop in Dubai. When you walk in, you smell not the expensive scent of soft leather uppers but the acrid tang of PVC and glue made from the decaying flesh of Kazakhstani ponies. I wouldn’t bother but I know that, at the back, tucked behind the fluorescent adult Crocs, they have a couple of racks of children’s Hush Puppies.

And it’s there that we eventually find a soft pair of leather uppers that fits DD’s requirements. They’re comfy, they’re reasonably fashionable, they’ve got a buckle and the strap’s a bit further forward than normal, making them look more like a ballerina than a two-year-old’s first pair of walkers. DD falls in love.

We buy the shoes. For AED ridiculous (£ a lot).

I stick the name-tags into the shoes and DD skips off to Year 4, proud of the new footwear. But, on day two, she’s not so keen. The shoes apparently give her blisters. Both on the top of her feet, where the fashionably placed strap sits, and on her heels.

“Can we go shopping for a new pair at the weekend?” she asks.

Choking on my coffee, I point out that the weekend is not a leisurely stroll through four countries in nine weeks, but two days and Mirdif City Centre. I don’t fancy her chances of picking a new pair before school on Sunday.

“Oh,” she says, morose. “Then pass me the plasters.”

Well, I suppose that’s progress.

Written by mrsdubai

September 10, 2013 at 9:58 pm

The paradox that is five hours’ sleep

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It never ceases to amaze me how five hours’ sleep can seem so much or so little, depending on your circumstances.

Imagine, if you can, that you’ve been on a wild night out. You’ve been dancing, drinking, having a great time till 2am, and then you get woken at 7am by, I don’t know, the bin men? Other people’s children? (this is pre-children, I imagine). Five hours’ sleep is nothing. You’re wrecked; destroyed. You lie in bed, groaning, till midday.

DH and I chink glasses in the morning. Five hours' sleep! Hurrah!

DH and I chink glasses in the morning. Five hours’ sleep! Hurrah!

And then take five hours’ sleep when you have a new baby. After a good few weeks of being woken for feeds every 2-3 hours, the first night you get five unbroken hours’ sleep you feel like you could conquer the world. You’re practically dancing round Spinneys on stilts, grinning at strangers and planning what you’re going to do with your new-found energy. Yes! You think. There is life beyond exhaustion. I did used to feel good once!

And then there are the nights when your children are sick. Maybe  they’ve been vomiting or got a fever; maybe you’ve even spent the evening in the hospital’s emergency department because you were worried about febrile convulsions, croup or dehydration and you’re allowed, eventually, to take them home around midnight. You put them to bed, look at your other half and accept that it’s going to be a bad one.

Preparations may even be made. ‘You sleep in the guest room. I’ll stay with him.’ Mentally, you prepare yourself to be up all night, mopping up vomit, changing sheets and pyjamas, comforting an upset child… and then you get an unbroken sleep till 6am. Five hours, in that situation, gets a massive morning smile from me.

Written by mrsdubai

June 25, 2013 at 5:58 pm

The different grades of mummy tan

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I’m looking a bit tanned at the moment, thanks to floating round the pool on a lilo while watching the kids on Friday mornings, but my “mummy tan” is far from the flawless version I used to sport pre-kids.  I think the type of tan a mum has depends a lot on the age of her children.

Kids aged 1-3: The playground tan 

Mind how you go , kids! (Can I roll over yet?)

Mind how you go , kids! (Can I roll over yet?)

Developed over endless afternoons spent pushing small, helpless children on the swing or helping them climb up the slide, this consists of a healthy, outdoors face, tanned shoulders and arms, white legs, and feet with a flip-flop “V” mark on them. It’s not great but, after the nightmare of having a new-born stuck on your boobs, you’re grateful even for that.

Kids aged 3+: The mummy tan

This is the tan you get when watching older, slightly more independent children.  It develops while you lie on your back (on the lounger or the lilo) watching the kids but, because they’re not yet old enough for you to be able to lie face down and ignore them while you roast the back of your body, only the front of your body – face, shoulders, arms, chest, legs and feet – go brown, while the back of your body remains completely white. It’s a bit embarrassing, but it’s welcome progress from the playground tan.

Kids 12+: The teen-mum tan

I’m hoping this will be the real deal – tanned back and front – because it’ll be gained from floating round the pool on the lilo all Saturday morning while periodically yelling at my teenage children to get their lazy asses out of bed. Gosh, from my current perspective of 5.45am wake-ups, that sounds mighty good…

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May 29, 2013 at 8:48 pm

A mum’s life: Time spent waiting

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Every now and then you hear about these surveys that tell you how much of your life you spend doing things like sitting in a traffic jam (66 hours a year in London, apparently), cleaning your teeth or thinking about sex.

Well, I’d like to add my own scale to that: Time, as a mummy, spent waiting. People talk about how the time spent with small children “flies by” or “passes in the blink of an eye” but, as one currently labouring at the coal face of parenthood, I’d like to note how much time is spent waiting.

"C'mon, kids!! Yalla!" I forgot the biggest wait  of all: Waiting for the children to be born in the first place!!! Love you, kids!! xxx

“C’mon, kids!! Yalla! Move it!!”

Usually in not-very-comfortable positions.

Just as a starter – a little amuse bouche, if you like, we have:

–          Waiting for the children to get out of bed (while hovering on the landing balancing two empty glasses, the days’ dirty washing, the children’s clean school clothes, one swimming kit, one guitar, one PE kit and a reading book).

–          Waiting for the children to eat their breakfast.

–          Waiting for the children to get dressed.

–          Waiting for the children to clean their teeth.

–          Waiting for the children to get into the car (while holding two school bags, two PE kits, a guitar and two lunch boxes. I’d like to say and with a water bottle balanced on my head, but you wouldn’t believe me).

–          Waiting for the children to get into their car seats (with your back bent and twisted at 90 degrees and while hoping a passing child doesn’t slam the car door on your legs).

–          Waiting for the children to pigeon-step slowly into school in 45˚C heat.

–          Waiting for the children’s school bell to ring (I mean, seriously, they’re on the school grounds now, talk about eking it out).

–          Waiting for the children to do a poo (while squatting in a smelly public loo cubicle trying not to let your Joseph linen trousers touch the wee on the floor).

–          Waiting for the children to agree to do their homework.

–          Waiting for the children to actually do their homework.

–          Waiting for the children to come in from the park.

–          Waiting for the children to eat their dinner.

–          Waiting for the children to get into the bath.

–          Waiting for the children to get out of the bath.

–          Waiting for the children to go to sleep.

Anyway, I’ve done some calculations, and I think that all this adds up to seven years of waiting per child – so about 17.5 years for the average 2.4 children. No wonder time as a mum flashes by. There’s simply no time left to do anything else.

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March 6, 2013 at 9:54 pm

The 3-year-old’s bedtime

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“Mummy, mummy, can I go on the iPad before bed? Just for a bit?”

She looks serene but she's dying inside - I know she is.

She looks serene but she’s dying inside – I know she is.


“Yes, but it’s five minutes iPad, then one story, then bed. Okay?”


“Just one story at bedtime if you go on the iPad. Got it?”

“Yes. One story.” [Pause] “But you’ll read it two times? The one story? You’ll read it three times? Lots of times till I’m asleep? Yes?”


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January 29, 2013 at 5:42 pm

The mummy ladder of desperation

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I had a play date today with a mum who has a child the same age as DS (note, the mums had the play date, not the children). We saw a lot of each other last summer, when we were both suffering our boys waking ridiculously early thanks to the sun rising at 5am. I have memories of meeting my friend in coffee shops throughout August, both of us hollow-eyed and desperate, as we exchanged details on whose son had woken the earliest, aka how knackered we each were.

Some mums have been so high up the mummy ladder of desperation for so long  they can barely remember the flowers down below. Hugs, ladies.

Some mums have been so high up the mummy ladder of desperation for so long they can barely remember the flowers down below. Hugs, ladies.



Anyway, today I asked how she was and she said something I think every mum of small children will relate to: “A little less desperate, thanks.”

And then, over a cup of tea and some chocolate shortbread, we devised the following scale of mummy desperation:

Top rung of desperation ladder: Child is either not sleeping or is waking way too early – and by that I mean 4.45am onwards. Mummy is gaunt, hollow-eyed, slightly manic, talking too fast, laughing too much and quickly conks out after one glass of wine. She has to pinch herself to stay awake on Al Khail Rd.

Middle rung of desperation ladder: Child is either waking only one or two times in the night or is waking for good after 5.30am. Mummy is knackered and trowels on the under-eye concealer and Clarins Beauty Flash Balm but, with two coffees, a good handbag and a fair wind, can convince others that she’s perfectly sane and not about to collapse, sobbing with exhaustion, onto her chocolate croissant.

Bottom rung of desperation ladder: Child sleeps through the night at least 5 nights out of 7, or wakes consistently after 6am. Mummy, although still chronically knackered and bearing battle scars from being on the higher rungs of the desperation ladder, feels like she’s taken amphetamines – she is invincible, she is unstoppable, she is Beyonce on stilts. She sees a hint of the possibility of having a life once more: Hobbies, a social life, maybe even some work. (It’s a beautiful thing but I’m sorry to say it doesn’t last long. I don’t think you’re home and dry till the child’s turned five.)

Happy days.

12:12 12.12.12

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DD brought up the topic of 12/12/12 in the car on the way to school today.

It really is once in a lifetime

It really is once in a lifetime

“It’s a very special day today,” she said. “It’ll never happen again because there aren’t 13 months.”

To be honest, I hadn’t even thought about it. It was 7am and I’d been up since 5.20am, washing my hair, getting ready, making packed lunches, packing school bags, dressing children, cleaning their teeth and dashing out in the car as the sun rose.

As DD brought up the topic, I was accelerating through six lanes of dense traffic onto Emirates Road. It wasn’t the best time for a discussion.

But once we were in the fast lane, I clicked on the cruise control and turned a little of my focus to the conversation.

“It’ll happen again in 100 years,” I told DD, “when it’s 12/12/2112. Your great-grandchildren might be talking about it on their way to school (in a rocket ship) in 100 years’ time but none of us will be around to see it.”

“Why not?” she asked.

“Because we’ll be dead,” I said. There was a tiny gasp from behind me. I could almost hear DD’s eyes snap open with shock.

“Dead? What’s going to happen to us?”

“Nothing darling, it’s just that you won’t live that long. With the best will in the world, you won’t live to be 107 and a half. DS could potentially be 103 and a half, but I doubt it. And I certainly won’t make it to 141.”

“So, mummy? We’ll be dead after you?” piped up DS.

“Yes, that’s the general idea,” I said. “But I’ll be waiting for you,” I added, trying to offer some sort of consolation as it seemed a terribly depressing topic for a bright school morning. As we talked,  we were watching the pinky-orange sun come up over the desert dunes and the distant Burj Khalifa light up like a rocket in its golden reflection. “I’ll be waiting for you and I’ll be so excited to see you again.”

There was a thoughtful pause. Then…

“But mummy,” said DS very seriously. “You’d better take the iPad, because I’m going to be a long time.”

Sweet words from my littlest one – and how I hope he’s right.

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December 12, 2012 at 7:10 pm

The boy haircut

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I’m a girl-mum. It’s not surprising since I had a girl first. Ever since my first pregnancy, all I knew was “girl”; everything was pink and purple, Angelina Ballerina, hairclips, dollies, prams, colouring, fairy wings, shoes and handbags.

But now, even though I have a boy, I’m still a girl-mum. I just “get” girls better – I get the hairstyles; I get the twirly dresses, the jewellery, the stationery, the high heels – I even get the emotional complexity (but ask me again when she’s 15).

Sorry darling.... I just don't get boys' hair!

Sorry darling…. I just don’t get boys’ hair!


Initially I thought I’d never get used to “boy”, but, generally, I am getting there. He’s a simpler creature; his emotions are black and white; his needs more basic (hungry / tired / needs a hug is about it).

But I still get caught out when I have to take DS to the hairdresser. When it’s DD’s turn, we’ve looked at hairstyles online. We discuss her hair type, the care routine and the products. We know exactly what we want and we give the hairdresser precise instructions. But my first trip to the barber for DS’s haircut caught me short.

“How you want it?” asked the (rather cute) young Lebanese chap.

“Um. Cut?” I asked.

His eyebrows rose.

I tried again: “Shorter?”

It hadn’t even occurred to me that there were “styles” for boys. That there might be a decision involved at the barber’s.

And even now we’re a good two years and plenty of haircuts down the line, I still get taken aback when the (flirty Syrian) stylist asks what I want.

“Shorter at the back,” I say, imagining Hugh Grant in Notting Hill, “and a bit longer on top?”

“And the sides?” he asks.

“Cut?” I suggest.

“Clipper or scissors?” he asks.

And, really, at that point, I’m like “Can I just sit down while you make his hair shorter? However you see fit? Seriously, do you have any sparkly pink hairclips that DD and I can look at?”

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December 11, 2012 at 7:14 pm