“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)
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.