Ladies Only

Move over Mary Poppins – meet the Granny Aupairs!

Worried about leaving your kids with the housemaid? An older nanny with wisdom and a sense of adventure could be just what you need

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Granny Bobby couldn’t imagine just staying at home after retiring

Bobby’s dream was always – should she be alone after retirement – to spend time abroad with a family as a ‘temporary Granny’. Thanks to an award-winning nanny agency that places women aged 45+ in households all over the world, her dream came true, and a family in Dubai has benefitted enormously from her life experience.

“I was always working between the age of 16 and 65 and couldn’t imagine just spending time at home with my various hobbies,” says Granny Bobby. “Some of my friends could not believe I would do this, others were really supportive. I kept my flat and my car, leaving them in the care of my best friend and neighbour so I could always return if it didn’t work out.”

Granny Bobby’s first placement was in Bangkok with a German/Filipino family, initially for six months which turned into three years. This was followed by six months with a German/French family in Paris with two small girls. “From the beginning of 2016, with a few breaks, I’ve been in Dubai with an expat German family, who have a six-year-old boy, Joel,” she says.

Joel had just started school, with quite a heavy workload already. “After he returns home in the afternoon, I cook for him, read and do homework, and then play outside or go to baseball. When his mother comes home we eat dinner together before Joel goes to bed. At the weekends, we go on trips to the zoo, the beach, or go shopping or travel.”

Granny Bobby says she finds it extremely rewarding that she can support the family, and has built a very friendly relationship with the mother. “Her husband works in Riyadh and is only home irregularly for the weekend, so the three of us spend quite a lot of time together.”

Older women are usually better than younger aupairs because they have more experience of life, says Michaela Hansen, founder of Hamburg’s Granny Aupair agency. “Families like to take them on because they are reliable, serious and know how to be strict.”

Aged between 45 and 75, the women registered with the agency have brought up families of their own and are now keen to travel or learn another language. Many are former teachers, child care workers, secretaries, flight attendants or nurses. The idea of an aupair is based on mutual help. The granny helps with housekeeping and children, and gets free board and lodging in return.

Following a period with a German/Italian family of five in South Korea, Granny Anni travelled to Dubai last year. “The mother (German) is a single mother with an 18-month-old daughter. On arrival, I got to know the month of Ramadan and the heat (45 degrees!), as it was the start of summer,” she says.

“I am up early in the morning to prepare breakfast, and am also responsible for lunch while Mum is at work. I quickly realised that my presence was really needed which was a good experience for me. At the weekend, we do the food shopping for the week. I also went on a trip to Abu Dhabi, which I found to be a different world altogether.”

Granny Anni says she also has a “wonderful relationship with the Mama”. After her initial stay in 2016, she returned to Dubai in January and is currently finding the heat “not so suffering”.

Hansen points out that lots of mothers stay in contact with their Granny following the aupair stay. “Often she becomes a motherly friend and is a ‘replacement’ if their own family lives far away.”

Another benefit, she says, is that the Grannies often share their secret recipes. “How lovely is it to arrive home with the whole place smelling of freshly baked cake? Many of our Grannies are true masters of the stove.”

Granny Bobby believes her years as a Granny Aupair with small children or adolescent boys have changed her views enormously, above all with regard to dealing with young children. “I was often brought to my limit, as I had to learn to scale back my needs to respond to the needs and wishes of the youngsters, which was not always easy. But it’s worth it when the kids say they love you and want to be taken into your arms. I am getting so much back and will certainly be visiting other countries as a Granny Aupair.”

Find out more about Granny Aupair here.

Ladies Only

Help! I need somebody

I’m not sure whether to post this as it makes us sound terribly spoilt, but here goes.

In the Middle East it’s possible to outsource every task you could conceivably think of – from the ironing to banging a nail into a wall, changing a lightbulb and assembling Ikea furniture.

Even things I didn’t think were possible to avoid can be delegated. Had we wanted to, we could have valet parked at a children’s party this week, and already today I’ve politely declined having someone carry my groceries to the car and having the car washed while I shopped.

Expats tend to follow a typical pattern. They hire a cleaner, pay a teenager to babysit, then farm out the ironing. Before too long, they realise it’s cheaper to sponsor a live-in maid
Because the truth is, it’s really, really difficult not to have help in Dubai.

One of my favourite bloggers, Where’s my ruby slippers?, posted a wonderful and honest account about this aspect of Dubai life, and I found myself nodding in somewhat shame-faced agreement when she described how, that morning at the mall, a lady had taken her parking ticket at the exit and put it in the machine that operates the barrier. “Had she been able to shut my car window without cutting her arm off, I have no doubt she would have done that as well,” she wrote.

The drawback, of course, is how lazy it makes us. How it becomes too easy to throw money at a problem – and, the most concerning part, the effect it has on our children. I’m constantly reminding BB and LB that there are many things in Dubai that aren’t normal (“Where’s her nanny?” asked BB once in England, on meeting a little friend in a park filled with mums, not paid staff).

But, here’s the thing: apart from our trips home, this is the only existence my children know, and teaching them that life here can be a little too easy is a challenge.

This week, our doorbell rang and it was DH’s dry cleaner, dropping off his freshly laundered and pressed uniforms. We thought nothing more of it until we realised the impression it had made on BB.

I bought him some new school uniforms a couple of days ago, but one item was out of stock so I placed an order and left my phone number.

“They call when my shirt arrives?” BB asked, looking a little puzzled. “Won’t they deliver it, like Daddy’s work clothes?’

Sigh! Time to revisit real-life for a reality check, me thinks.