Dubai's Desperate Housewife

Trials and traumas of a full-time mum in Dubai

Posts Tagged ‘school run

Car-seat Sudoku

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Think of a grid – say your average 7-seater car – 2 + 3 + 2. Put inside it one Maxi-Cosi high-back booster seat that’s fixed in place. Add two children, heat to 40˚C, pick up after school – and stir.

DS: “Can I sit in the back?”

6 passenger seats x 2 children = 12 options. Put them on a bus and get a sports car

6 passenger seats x 2 children = 12 options. My advice? Put them on the bus and get a sports car

Me: “No.”

DS: “Why not?  She’s in the back. It’s not fair.”

Me: “Your seat’s in the middle. Just sit in it.”

DS: “It’s not fair. She’s in the back.”

Me: “She’s big enough to be in the back. When you’re big enough to be in the back, you can go in the back.”

DS: “It’s not fair.”

Me: “It’s perfectly fair. When she was your age, she sat in the middle.”

DS: “Waaaaahhh… waaaah….. waaaaaaaaaahhhh!”

Me: “DD, can you come and sit in the middle please?”

DD: “I don’t want to sit in the middle….Can I sit in the front?”

Me: “No, you cannot sit in the front. It’s illegal!”

DS: “Can you put my seat in the back?”

Me: “Oh for fiddler’s sake, yes, I’ll put your seat in the back.” (Bear in mind it’s 40˚C outside and about 60˚C inside and my patience is wearing thin.) “Now get in the back. DD, can you help DS do his seatbelt please?”

<DD starts clambering forward over the divide>

Me: “DD! What are you doing?”

DD: “If he’s in the back, I’m not sitting in the back. I’m sitting in the middle. I want to sit in the middle.”

Me: “Please can you help with his seatbelt before you come forward?”

DD: “Nope.”

Me: “Okay, I’m going to get out, open the boot, collapse the other back seat, climb into the boot and put on DS’s seatbelt. Then I’m going to put the seat back up, put the headrest back up, shut the boot and get back in the front. And, for every second I spend doing this, I’m going to deduct one sweet from both your treats tonight.” <Opens door>

DD: <rolls eyes, leans back> “Okay…. done it.”

Me: “Four words, children: School. Bus. Next. Term.”

Written by mrsdubai

May 5, 2014 at 6:18 pm

The school run

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I appreciate that in yesterday’s blog I may have sounded a little bitter about the distance I have to drive to and from school each day – sometimes up to three times a day.

It’s actually up to 138kms a day. Just on school runs.

It’s my fantasy that my children can cycle to our local school, which is 2kms away. But that won’t happen unless my husband ditches his job and gets a job working for Emirates (the children of EK employees have priority at my community school).

Anyway, today DS was telling me how much he loves me. We like the book ‘I

The school run - further than the Moon and back

School – further than the Moon and back

love you to the Moon and back’ and it’s become a bit of a family joke to make inter-galactic declarations about how much we love each other.

So tonight I said, ‘I love you to the Moon and back infinite times, plus to the Sun and back and then to Abu Dhabi and back. Then I love you to England and back every day for the rest of my life.’

Impressive, no? But DS trumped me with the ultimate accolade.

‘I love you…’ He said, struggling for words that were big enough, distances that were great enough… ‘uh… to school and back.’

It’s not just me, then.

Written by mrsdubai

April 2, 2014 at 9:49 pm

The nine goals of the Dubai school-run driver

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I’ve spent quite a bit of time in my career as mummy sitting in the car at the school gates waiting for one or other of the children. And, in that time, I’ve observed a lot of drivers in action.

Now just to clarify, I’m not talking about the mums and dads here, but about the people many mums and dads employ to pick up their precious progeny. Through my observations, I’ve put together a list of goals that a driver here has to achieve in order to receive his monthly wage. Do correct me if I’m wrong but, as far as I can tell, they are:

The preferred vehicle of the professional school-run driver. Just don't ask him to park it

The preferred vehicle of the professional school-run driver. Just don’t ask him to park it

1. Get as close to the school gate as possible. Daily achievement is not measured in metres, it’s measured in millimetres. Five mms away from the gate and salary is deducted AED 10.

2. Open car doors at the gate (never, ever a metre past, no matter how many cars you hold up) to discharge uniformed nanny. She’s a strange creature – outside the school she doesn’t have legs; they only grow once she’s inside the school, so walking outside the gate is impossible.

3. Once nanny is clear, reverse as fast as possible back through school car park to closest available parking space. Fingers crossed you don’t run anyone over!

4. If a parking space isn’t available within 10 metres of the school gate, double-park across the front of any other car. Pick a nice-looking Western lady as she’s least likely to shout about it. Shrug nonchalantly if she looks pissed off.

5. If you do get a parking space, don’t bother with mirrors – just reverse in and out five times to make sure you get the car roughly between the lines. Crooked doesn’t matter; neither does the traffic jam that builds up as you sashay in and out.

6. Leaving engine running, exit the car and gather with your peers at the school gate. This is the ideal place to have a quick fag / hoik up the contents of your lungs / spit on the floor / ignore the irate mum whose car you just parked in. Added bonus: you can ogle the mums in short skirts. Wazaaa!

7. Leap back in the car just before the nanny and child(ren) return – this is a highly skilled position we’re talking about here – and move the car to within one millimetre of the gate because, don’t forget, nanny’s legs fall off at the gate. Remember: AED 10 deducted from salary for every millimetre the nanny has to walk. She’s a bitch, and she’s telling Madam.

8. Open the window / sunroof so unrestrained children can hang out waving to their friends.

9. Drive over the speed bumps at 0.5kph, then indicate right while turning left (what a jape!) before driving home at 100kph in the second from fast lane, causing cars to weave around you in a pretty pattern – it entertains the kids no end.


Written by mrsdubai

June 18, 2013 at 5:47 pm

Back to school

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The children went back to school today, after what felt like 10 weeks off. And, having dreamt about all the things I was going to do once they went back to school, I dreamed last night that the alarm went off in the middle of the night.

As it turned out, it did. I was woken by DH shaking me. “Darling! Darling!” he said. “Your alarm!” 

"Bye darlings! Miss you! Mwa!"

“Bye darlings! Miss you! Mwa!”


And, heavens, he was right. Much as I’d been looking forward to the start of the new term, it was cold, it was dark and, worse luck, it was time to get up.

“This is it till April,” I said cheerily to DH (he needn’t know that my eyes were still cemented shut at the time). “But at least it’ll start to get lighter soon.”

“And hotter,” he said. Oh yes: The joys of our bed at 6am.

Anyway, despite my happiness at getting the kids back under the care of their headmaster rather than having them bankrupt me in Kidzania every day, it seemed so wrong to get up at six given that we’ve spent the entire school holidays training DS to stay asleep or, if not to stay asleep, to stay in his room until 7am – with some success, I’m proud to say.

And today, for the first time ever, I had to wake the little monkey from a deep sleep before dawn. Poor boy.

But I got over it as soon as I waved them off at 7.10 this morning – and I know I wasn’t the only one. You should have seen the scenes in Spinneys as mums skipped about buying slimline tonic and Cheddars without children hanging off their clothes. Me, I was practically dancing by the bananas despite the early wake-up. Happy spring term kiddies!

Written by mrsdubai

January 7, 2013 at 6:11 pm

The made-to-order (petrol station) sandwich

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I had one of those busy mornings today that meant lunch would either be incredibly late or taken on the run. And the only place between me and school pick-up was, unfortunately, a petrol station – so I stopped to grab a sandwich.

As is often the case when you try to pick up a petrol-station sandwich at 12.30pm, they were all gone bar the egg mayo with margarine on white. Frankly, I’d rather eat my own toenail clippings.

But then I noticed that the petrol station “bakery” had a made-to-order sandwich service. Why not? I thought, pushing thoughts of salmonella out of my head. I was hungry enough.

I established contact with the head honcho. I think he was Kenyan. He had an engaging, laid-back manner and I liked him at once.

“Yes madam,” he said with a huge smile. “We can do that for you. You want ciabatta?”

“No. Brown bread, please.”

This is as enticing as I could make it look. Sometimes, all that matters to me, is that the sandwich is made my someone else’s hand – and not from things left over in my fridge (told you I’m not a foodie)

After several long seconds entering in the right code for tuna salad, extra cheese, on brown, he sent me over to the cashier to pay before he was allowed to start work. I handed over Dhs 12.50 (8.50 for the bread, butter, tuna, sweetcorn, mayo, lettuce, tomato and cucumber. And another Dhs 4 for a small slice of processed cheese) and returned to find him cutting open a brown ciabatta.

“Do you have normal brown bread?” I asked. His look became ever more quizzical as I reeled through everything I could think of. “You know? Sliced bread? Sandwich bread? Not puffy bread. Normal bread?”

“Ah!” he finally got it. “You mean triangle bread!” He got out a loaf of very square-looking “triangle” bread and started to scrape on the thinnest layer of tuna mayo you could possibly imagine.

“Do you have butter?” I asked.

“Butter?” he asked, slapping his forehead. “Yes! But I just put on one side for you. Other side now has tuna. One side butter only, madam. Better for you!”

I laughed. Although I could have made a better sandwich in a quarter of the time (and was beginning to wish I had), it was hard to be irritated. It was a little like watching live comedy, to be honest.

He scraped some margarine onto one piece of the square-triangle bread and added the four-Dirham slice of cheese. Then work stopped for no apparent reason.

After a couple of minutes of toe-tapping, I asked if he could just bung the salad in so I could get going. At this rate I wouldn’t even get two minutes to eat it before pick-up.

As he carefully laid a quarter of a lettuce leaf across the thin scraping of tuna mayo, he smiled a megawatt smile.

“Madam,” he said with gravitas. “Sorry for the delay. But be patient…” He added a generous two slices of tomato and two fat slices of cucumber, wrapped it in paper and handed over the somewhat limp creation. “… Rome was not built in a day.”

Clearly not.

Written by mrsdubai

October 30, 2012 at 5:55 pm

The first day at “big school”

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We all know what an important day the first day at “big school” is. Long before it arrives, we start mentally preparing: The night before, we lay out the requisite clothing, and we prepare the bags and shoes. In the morning, we wake with that familiar nervous feeling.

First day at big school – the most stressful day of mum’s life.

And that’s just the mums.

Because, seriously, the first day at a new school is actually more about the mums than it is the children. The kids – they know the drill – most of them have been in nursery since the year dot. Let loose in a bright classroom full of exciting new toys, they don’t look back.

The mums, on the other hand, they instinctively do that thing where they decide, in a 10-second sweep of the classroom, with whom they’re going to be friends for the next 15 years.  They decide towards whom they’re going to push their children for play dates so the mums can enjoy shopping dates, holidays, barbecues and gin nights (or is that just me?).

But I’m not exaggerating. I saw it for myself this morning.

Between the coaxes of “Darling, why don’t you make me something in the play-kitchen?” I saw the other mums sweeping the room from under their eyelash extensions. Who looks nice? Who’s trying too hard? Who’s too cheap? Who looks genuine? Is she yummy mummy or manufactured mummy? With whom am I going to get on?

Within seconds of entering the classroom, the judgements were made.

“She chose to wear that? On the first day of term?” (Cripes, don’t they own a mirror? Did she get dressed in the dark?)

“I wonder where she gets her hair done.”

“Oh my life. Was a diamond-fringed abaya really necessary?”

And “Yes, dear, nice Gucci bag – genuine – but I’d rather you didn’t whack me in the head with it when turning to grab your son.”

They say that people make decisions about each other in the first three seconds. But, seriously, in the classroom, I’d give it 10 because you’re not only checking out the mum, but the offspring too. Is he/she good enough for my child? Is he/she well-behaved? Do they look like they live near us? Is the mum overdone? Trying too hard? Can I imagine sharing a bottle of Sauvignon with her at 5pm?

Honestly? I’m glad that’s over for another two years. Oh, hold on – I’ve got to do it all again with DD’s new class tomorrow.

Written by mrsdubai

September 3, 2012 at 9:06 pm

Stepford Wives

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I’m sure we all like to think we’re unique as we struggle, or glide, through life. We work harder than others or are more loving than them; we have more or less money than them; we parent our children differently; fill our days more efficiently.

Others may not be able to tell us apart physically (I say this in particular reference to DD’s wonderful school teacher, who still sometimes mistakes me for my reasonably similar-looking [though much prettier] friend and sends the wrong child out of the classroom to me) but, if we were asked to compare ourselves, we could come up with a host of differences: While my friend and I, for example, might have a similar haircut and be approximately the same height, she likes Chardonnay, while I like Sauvignon. She can wear pale blue and silver, I can’t. She loves interiors, I don’t see them: See – we’re all unique.

Dubai mums: Coiffed, polished and living the Identikit dream, we’re more Stepford Wife than we care to admit

Anyway, one of the things I like to play my imaginary violins of sympathy for is the amount of running about I do in a day. I may be on a “housewife” visa, but “driver” is actually more accurate – and no time is this more relevant than this week as DH is away and I’m doing the full complement of school runs toute seule (alone, for those who never learned French). In total, it’s about 120kms a day.

But today I learned an important lesson. I am not alone. And I am not unique. In fact, I am one of a tribe of fellow Stepford Wives. Let me explain.

07:25 – I see a lovely looking lady in the school car park. I clock her because I’ve already seen her in my yoga class and she’s wearing a nice outfit for one who got up at stupid o’clock.

08.15 – 30kms away, I see her again at DS’s nursery. So, we’ve both got up at 6, got one child and ourselves breakfasted, dressed and ready, driven like a bat out of hell to school, dropped off that child and driven like a bat out of hell back down the highway home, picked up another child and dropped them at nursery.

08.30 – I see her again in the supermarket. She’s also picking up groceries after dropping off the kids. (Unique? Me?)

13:00 – I see her disappearing into her car at DS’s nursery. She’s beaten me to pick-up.

14.25 – I see her again back in the school car park ready for pick-up. Once again she’s parked opposite me (clearly we both have our favoured spaces) but she’s changed into shorts and a vest. (I don’t blame her, it’s hot).

My life? Unique? Sometimes it’s more like The Stepford Wives than I’m comfortable to admit.

Written by mrsdubai

May 14, 2012 at 9:52 pm

The morning school run

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There’s not a lot I won’t do for my children. I’ll wipe bums and clean snotty noses; I’ll get covered in vomit, stay up all night, calm tantrums in Spinneys, pick up stray pooh by hand and even sit through the horrors of sports’ day with a smile and a cheery wave, but there’s one thing at which I draw the line: The early-morning school run.

In fact, to date, I’ve done everything I can to avoid it. I do it, as a matter of principle, on the first day of the new school year – and then, never again. Luckily, school is on the way to DH’s office, so he’s more than happy to oblige. (If any of you are thinking what a lucky coincidence that was, you’re seriously underestimating me.)

Don’t get me wrong, it’s not that I’m in bed enjoying an extra hour’s sleep in the mornings, or having my personal trainer over for coffee and a few stomach crunches. I’m up at 6am with the best of them, but the big advantage is that, when I’m not doing “the drive”, I don’t have to get showered and dressed until after DH and DD have left for school.

Instead, from 6.15am to 7am, I’m usually cooking DD’s breakfast (she has a penchant for hot breakfasts: Homemade apple and cinnamon pancakes, scrambled eggs, or sausages, beans and toast), making her packed lunch, listening to her reading, testing her spellings, brushing her hair, packing her PE kit and her library book, Tweeting Catboy on the radio and doing all those other little things that make life run smoothly in the mornings.

But, drum roll please, this week DH is away – and it was with a heavy heart that I realised I had neither friends to bribe nor neighbours to cajole: I was going to have to do the morning school run myself.

For a week.

So now I not only have to do all the above-mentioned tasks in the morning, but I have to shower AND dress like Elle Macpherson by 7.10am (have you seen her school-run outfits?)

It’s inhuman, that’s what it is.

Anyway, we’re two mornings in already and I know you want to know how it’s going.

On the positive side, I’ve been enjoying the early-morning drives. Despite the suicidal maniacs going hell-for-leather in the Abu Dhabi direction, the traffic’s not as bad as I imagined it would be, and the sky can be very pretty as the sun comes up over the desert. It’s also been pretty chilly, so I’ve got away with swathing myself in a large shawl, which hopefully covers the fact that I’m wearing yesterday’s yoga top with my scruffy jeans (eat your heart out Elle Macpherson).

On the down side, being over 40 and without a morning bike ride to get the circulation going, my face looks positively crumpled for at least an hour after I wake up, and, at 7.30am drop-off it’s still a whisker too dark for sunglasses. If you see me, please do the gracious thing and look the other way, I beg you.

Strange, wispy fog formation on the school run this morning. Beautiful, no?

Written by mrsdubai

January 30, 2012 at 6:16 pm

A note to school mums everywhere

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Maybe I’m odd, but I see driving as an extension of manners. I try to treat other drivers with the same courtesy I extend to the strangers I meet during the course of the day.

If you were entering a building with stranger next to you, for example, would you stamp on their foot and shove them out of your way, just so you could claw your way through the mall door ahead of them?

You may look the part, but if the beauty's not inside, it ain't outside either

When you saw a queue at the Ralph Lauren check-out, would you shove past everyone to the front and dump your jeans right on the till while flicking the finger to the rest of the queue?

Would you?

I bet every single mum I know would be horrified to think of such bad manners. And this is where it gets messy because, fellow school mums, on the approach to school, I see how you drive; I see the way you treat the other road users and I see how you park. I see the colour of your soul.

And then, at the gate, I see who you are.

Oh yes. You who barges in front of everyone, hooting and queue-jumping, double-parking and flicking the finger. You, who feels more important than every other mum who’s patiently waiting their turn.

I see you do that and then I see you get out, in your flippy little chiffon frock and your heels with your fake nails and your fake tan, with your handbag and your diamonds, thinking you’re the business, and then I see you standing at the school gate, going, “Oh hiii! So lovely to see you! How’ve you been? You look gorgeous by the way! Have you lost weight?”

And I think to myself, what a miserable phoney you are and what vile manners you really have. Honestly, I’m tempted to stamp on your foot and barge into school ahead of you, but I won’t. I won’t because I’m not you and, frankly, that’s not what I do. Karma, my dear, karma.

Written by mrsdubai

October 20, 2011 at 7:55 pm

What is it about Debenhams…?

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It occurred to me today that I’m going on holiday (Oman, baby!) on Sunday, and I need to buy a few bits for myself and the children before we leave. Today was the last day I’d have a chance to make it to the shops, so I seized it with both hands in a two-pronged attack on Mirdiff City Centre.

Carpe diem and all that.

So, the first wave started at 10am with me loitering with intent outside Debenhams, waiting for it to open while hoping no-one I knew saw me.  I needed Debenhams because, for some reason, the shorts I bought yesterday for DD were three sizes too big (duh!) so I wanted to exchange them for a more appropriate size. Managed it, then span around the mall looking for:

          A strapless bikini that doesn’t make my boobs look like pancakes.

          A pair of white shorts that aren’t the style of jeans cut-offs (I’m not 16 anymore, trust me, the child-bearing hips don’t look good in those).

          Small, lightweight toys to amuse DS on the day flight to London. You know, the flight DH will not be on. Just me and the kids. DH is coming, alone in Upper Class, later. He tells me he’d rather be with the children. It’s a whole new blog, that topic.

Anyway, needless to say, in the 90 minutes between mall-opening and school pick-up, I didn’t find my magic bikini, my flattering shorts, nor any toys for DS. So I bombed it back to pick up DS, cooked our lunches, put DS to sleep, cooked our dinners, realised DD’s new shorts still had the security tag on them, then bombed it back to Mirdiff City Centre for stage two of the big shop, DS safely ensconced for the hour in Little Explorers and DD on a play date in Mirdiff.

This time, I had one hour and counting: Little Explorer’s “Shop & Drop” deal is 60 minutes, with a Dhs 30 penalty for being late. (I ask you, who in this country can shop for just one hour?)

So it was back to Debenhams to get the security tag taken off the shorts (after pinging every security alarm from Carolina Herrera and Michael Kors to GAP to H&M) and then I saw the dresses on 50 per cent sale in Debenhams. You know: Coast, Fenn Wright & Manson and the luscious silk Ben de Lisi evening gowns.

I swear, I nearly bought this very Ben de Lisi number for the school run... perfect with a black hat and Jimmy Choos, no?

And what I have to ask you is this: What is it about a rack of frou-frou silk dresses that makes me think I have a lifestyle in which I can wear them? What is it that makes me think: “Ooh, that strapless silk number would be great for the school run – far better than shorts and flip-flops. Oh look, it’s only Dhs 560 down from Dhs 1,020! I’ll team it with a pair of heels and look fabulous tripping through the sand at midday in the 46-degree heat”??

Is it me? Is it Dubai? Or is Debenhams playing some sort of subliminal “buy-me-frou-frou dress” music disguised as pan pipes? What do you think?

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July 5, 2011 at 9:45 pm