Mum-of-two Helen Farmer is the founder of parenting blog The Mothership and has been in Dubai for more than ten years. Here she shares her advice for staying sane as a parent in the city…
One of the biggest benefits of living in Dubai is the weather (well, most of the time). As soon as it’s cool enough, hit the beach – Kite Beach has loads of restaurants, toilets and showers, and is on a 14km beach track, which is perfect for a family walk. If you don’t have a pool, I really recommend getting a Privilee card, which gives you membership to pool and beach clubs at hotels across the city. You get discounts on food too, and some even offer free kids’ club access.
Never pay full price
While some things in Dubai are weirdly inexpensive – namely taxis and Diet Coke – it’s definitely not a cheap place to live, and with kids to feed and entertain, spending can easily get out of control. One way to save money is to download the Entertainer app, which offers buy-one-get-one-free deals on everything from soft play to dinners out, and even includes some of the big attractions and waterparks.
Ask for help
Being an expat can be really exciting, with new friends and endless sunshine, but it can be lonely too, especially as a parent to young children. Most people do not have family here, so it’s essential to get support from other sources, whether it’s childcare through a company like Babies & Beyond or Malaak, or emotional help from a trained counsellor like Helen Williams from Mindful ME or the team at The Lighthouse Arabia.
Yes, it’s super scary to be the new one at the school gate, or to walk into a mummy meet-up and not know a single person, but remember that everyone has been in your shoes. And you might be surprised by how welcoming other mums are. Facebook groups like British Mums Dubai and The Real Mums of Dubai are valuable for getting information or advice, though conversations can get a bit heated, so don’t take them too seriously! Your community, especially if you’re living somewhere like JVT, The Springs or Mira, may have it's own Facebook group, which can be useful for buying and selling second-hand items without having to travel halfway across town.
Speaking of travel, Dubai’s roads can be pretty intimidating (it took me six months to get the courage to get behind the wheel) with most drivers displaying a somewhat… different driving style to what you might be used to. Services like Careem Kids are fantastic when you first arrive, as their drivers have GPS and provide car seats for the kids, with payment linked to your credit card. When it’s time for you to have a go, try to practice somewhere quiet on a Friday morning, rather than tackling rush hour with a car full of kids.
Don’t get caught up in it
It’s very tempting to get carried away with the Dubai lifestyle, all brunches, shopping and staycations, but it is possible to live a normal life here. There’s a whole other side to the city, away from all the five-star extravagance and shiny malls – you just need to know where to look. My Facebook page is a good place to start! And remember to make the most of your time here, with camping in the desert, breakfast on the beach and barbecue dinners every night of the week, because it’s one of the best places to raise a family.
You can find out more about Helen Farmer and her journey as a mum of two at themothershipdxb.com