I don’t know how she does it!

“I know I’ll get lost,” I told DH this morning, somewhat nervously. The truth was I was feeling reluctant about attending my first activity of the day – partly because it involved walking into a roomful of strangers, but I also wasn’t feeling particularly sociable at 8.45 in the morning.

I mean, who meets before 9am, other than high-powered working people? And Mums. Of course.

You know it’s coming at the start of every school year – and you know you should go to the meet-the-mums coffee morning. And it’s never as easy as just nattering with all the Mum friends you made last year, because the classes are mixed up each year – plus there are always several new arrivals to Dubai.

“You’ll find it,” responded DH, sleepily from bed. “Just use the compass on the car.” (like I even know where that is)

The movie of the book: I’m imagining Sex and the City’s Carrie with kids and letting herself go a bit. Hope I won’t be disappointed!
Needless to say, I had to be guided in by Host Mum, whose beautiful, enormous zillion-dirham villa was the venue for our first get-together of the term. Once inside, she led me to a table laden with baked treats and pastries – prepared, I suspect, at the same time as jigging her toddler, child #3, on her hip and flawlessly applying mascara.

I made a bee-line for Swiss Mum, who I knew from last year and always looks effortlessly chic in designer clothes. “I got here at 8am,” she confided, her bobbed hair framing her sun-kissed face perfectly. “Thought it was straight after school drop off.”

“Really?” I replied, thinking how come she didn’t get hopelessly lost in the rabbit warren like me?

Having missed the initial chit-chat, we were invited to sit in a circle by Class Mum, who last year voluntarily held drama classes for the kids and this year is the co-ordinator mum for, not just one, but three different classes.

And, as we took turns telling everyone a little bit about ourselves including what we ‘used to be’, I learnt that among our group – most of whom had moved here fairly recently from places such as Germany, Australia, Jordan and South Africa – there was a lawyer, a banker, a child-protection officer and a social worker.

But none of them working, because everyone had given up their careers to become a “trailing spouse” (ie, husband gets well-paid job in Dubai, wife and family pack their bags to follow).

Instead, they were setting up home in Dubai, caring for children full-time and protecting their kids like tigresses.

With the expat schools in the UAE all fee-paying, expectations are high so the conversation soon turned to the finer details of our children’s lives at the international school BB attends.

All very interesting, especially as when BB gets home he always tells me he did ‘nothing’ – and rather humbling, because, having got him on the school bus this year and gone straight back to work, I haven’t actually been into school yet this term. Never mind where the kids get changed for swimming, I’m not exactly sure where the new classroom is – and the teacher is still emailing my husband rather than me.

I nodded in agreement when the mums all promised to not try to outdo each other when it comes to our children’s birthday parties (while thanking my lucky stars that BB’s birthday is first so the stakes won’t be too high!) and tried to enter a debate about what kind of cupcakes it was OK to send in for the bake sales (note to self: will open my cupcakes-that-have-never-been-made folder this year).

And, as we discussed having a BBQ to get the Dads together, the Christmas party, fundraisers and playdates for younger siblings, I found myself thinking, “I really don’t know how these women do it!” Life is so much easier in the office, I swear.

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11 thoughts on “I don’t know how she does it!

  1. Hilarious! And I so agree with you! I went to pick up both kids last week to be able to sit through ECA and after that experience, I swore to Whomever that I’ll never do that again! I felt like an alien and I swear people were staring, like you have this big sign on your forehead: The one that never picks up her kids and refuses to interact. Yes, office is so much easier!

    • Thanks Pia! Glad you liked it – and so glad I’m not the only one who feels like this! I’m just loving having the school bus this year – even tho we only have a ‘stand-by’ spot in the afternoon so the bus nanny is my new best friend!! Every day I text her to find out if there’s a spot for the way home – So far there’s always been space and it’s wonderful! Two extra hours a day, no stress when I’m working and no social pressure! I must go in soon tho so they know I exist!

  2. Molly Gryskiewicz says:

    oh Marianne…expectations seem so high, ugh! Reality continues here at my house 😉 Miss ya!

    • Back atch’ya Molly – miss you loads! Reality sounds lovely! I hope you’re all settled into the Kindergarten routine now and Andrew’s loving it. It sounds like Colin is becoming a big boy, too! Isn’t it all going so fast, despite some long ole days in there too!

  3. Ha! This is so true! At least I am fortunate because mine are no longer in the birthday-party/cupcake phase. Son #2s homeroom takes turns supplying snacks, though, so there is hot competition to provide the coolest snack, but that’s really not too hard..You do meet lots and lots of very amazing, sophisticated women, all with really interesting backstories. I have met countless women lately who moved here from Dubai and Son#2 has several boys that he hangs out with who recently arrived…I have no doubt that at some point I’ll cross paths with someone who knows you!

    • Yes, it’s so interesting finding out where everyone is from, why they’re an expat, etc! I’m a very curious (ie, nosy!) person, so I love it. It’s fascinating how everyone has a completely different story. And, yes, funny how the ‘expat world’ is quite small and with people moving around all the time, there’s a good chance of coming across friends in common. Did I tell you my father-in-law worked in Korea for 10 years or so – well, I should say worked out of Korea, as he was a pilot for Korean Airways – based near the airport I think, so my mother-in-law spent lots of time in Korea too.

  4. Totally agree with you M – fab post Where we live is full of alpha moms, most of whom have given up a successful career in New York to come and live in the suburbs and raise the perfect family. The ones who still work full time, you never see. I’m unusual in that I am there at the bus stop and in the playground after school, but also work – so I don’t make it to many school events. People always look slightly horrified when I say I haven’t signed up to be a chaperone on the school trip or to be a class mom, but in reality I would much rather be working than doing either thing!

    • Thanks A! Same boat here, being freelance from home most of the time means I get to go to some of the school things but not all – so I aways feel like I’m just dipping in and in some kind of in-between world and not quite sure where I belong! But it’s good to get the best of worlds! I did get roped into helping with swimming, oh, about five terms ago, but the moment the teacher turned her back, I lost control of all the boys completely and they all started climbing the wall!! I’m succumbing to twitter today – just found you! I hope you’re loving your new home – it sounds lovely – and the insurance company is being cooperative. xx

  5. Great post. Horribly accurate, it made my toes curl in sympathy when I remembered the subtle – or not – one-upmanship of birthday cupcakes. Fortunately, healthy eating now prevails in our local schools. It’s difficult to get creative with pineapple and cantaloupe melons – having them listeria-free is as competitive as it gets, until some enterprising mom with too much time on her hands starts a fruit-carving contest. With pumpkins being in shorter supply than usual on the East Coast because of last month’s hurricane, that may happen sooner rather than later…

    My alter ego, Libby, is struggling with the Tiger Moms of her own playgroup circuit. (Her “diary”, Libby’s Life, is at The Displaced Nation.)

  6. Janet McLaughlin says:

    Love your posts Marianne! I read them all and forget to tell you how fabulously fun they are for someone living life in the Midwest. Having no kids and dreading the prospect of another long cold winter, for me your blog is a fun glimpse into another world. Big hugs! Janet

    • THANK YOU Janet! Thank you for reading! It’s funny, b’coz I miss life in the Midwest sooo much – maybe not the winter, but everything else! Plotting to get back in the summer of 2012 for a vacation! Can’t wait!!!! Big hugs to you too!

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