Living in Dubai has many perks – all year round sunshine, no income tax, beach access every weekend…..the list really is neverending. However, one of Dubai’s best perks is the ability to employ live in help who clean, wash, iron, cook, and where necessary, babysit. Most expats here are far away from home, with no family support around. For me, live in help offers (but could never replace) the equivalent of Nana’s and Grandad’s helping hands. The odd babysitting gig with someone we can trust was our main reason for hiring help. Having someone to do the household chores on top of that was a bonus.
It is amazing how quickly one adapts to live in help. Concerns about a ‘stranger’ living in one’s house soon flit away as the once perceived chaotic combination of 3 adults + 3 kids under one roof falls into a comfortable routine. Everyone knows what to do and when to do it (with the exception of me who cannot get my head round who should wear their PE kit to school on which days!). Yet, having a constant helping hand could be the start of a slippery slope.
One day at DS1’s football training a coach comment got me thinking. During the hour long coaching session, the coach of a bunch of U9 kids must tie about 253 laces. Football boots, of all sizes, have laces and not the school preferred velcro…..Clearly none of the kids (apart from my extremely talented son who practised like a demon from the age of 6!!!) can tie laces. The coach remarked ‘these Dubai kids make me laugh. They are soooo pampered with maids wiping their bums and tying their laces, they have no clue where to start with their football boots!’ At AED85 per hour, that’s a very expensive lace tying lesson!
Not long after that incident, DH had his own tale to tell after one of DS1’s football matches. Picture the scene – all players’ Dads and Mums stomping up and down the sidelines, biting fingernails and eagerly cheering on the youngest representatives of the school in an inter-school competition. It is tight. It’s neck and neck. It is anybody’s game. The opposition scramble together a practised manoeuver and shoot for goal. Miss! A collective sigh of relief is ‘phewed’ upwards. The ball went past the goalpost, bobbling along the bumpy pampas grass. Meanwhile, the team’s goalie stays put. His only move was to turn around to see where the ball stopped. Both teams and the referee look in his direction, all expecting him to get the ball and kick it back into play. Alas the goalie continued to stand still and support the goalposts….until a frustrated, yet practical Dad could take it now longer ‘X, your maid is not going to come along and get the ball for you, move your a@@ and go and get it.’ An ‘aha’ moment for a Dubai 8 year old!
It’s not just the kids who become blindly reliant on having everything done for them. Mums and Dads are also susceptible to unwitting reliance on home help. One weekend, when my helper was off , I needed to use the washing machine. It had been a while since I has operated the intelligent, shiny, silver machine. With a total of 3 buttons to push to shiny Persil cleanliness, how hard could it really be??? It would seem my memory is not that great. I recall, to my embarrassment, standing looking at my washing machine, feeling puzzled. I was literally scratching my head trying to remember into which compartment I should pour the washing gel and into which the softener! And if I am really honest…..I really only knew what 1 of the 3 buttons did……..
I no longer know when I should re-stock milk/bread/fruit/cereal supplies. Accustomed to a 24 hour turn around in washing and ironing, I forget that rain can throw a spanner in the works, leaving me with no clean, dry PE kits or sweaters for the chilly 20 degree temps at this time of year. I can’t find anything. I go crazy looking for things here, there and where I expect them to be. Alas our helper has her own system and can pinpoint the required bicycle helmet wedged between two car seats in nano seconds. For a control freak…..taking stock makes for an eerie feeling.
A ‘double whammy’ as they say!