There is an very common Arabic phrase that is “Maafi moshkela” (no problem).
“Maafi moshkela” for my life. Normally. With the exception of the last few days.
As Arab Baba’s (or any dads out there), we get to a point where we realize we’ve lost a bit of ourselves. Don’t get me wrong, we’ve gained a BIG part of ourselves by becoming parents – parts that we had no idea we had (and some of those parts are continually covered in dried cereal or topped with a cheerio or two). But, we lose a bit at times as well. And, eventually, it starts to blow.
My job is handling our family life. That can mean school runs, grocery store, kids shopping, changing contracts, renewing leases, car service, back to the grocery store, drop the cats at the vet, find a vet first, coordinate the maintenance guys to fix the aircon, pickup school uniforms, pay the school fees, forgot the receipt, go back to the school and get it, buy the birthday cake, choose the birthday cake (by means of sending pics back and forth to my wife) and then be tasked with finding birthday presents because our oldest can’t figure out what she wants for her birthday so it becomes an interrogation with our 5 year old in the car about Shopkins versus Barbie.
My wife, in the meantime, does as much of that as possible by delegating and still working 50 + hours a week. Not in a bad way. But delegating in giving ideas or where to go or what to look for about 40 times a day. We make a good team. And, she’s good that way. I mentioned before, she is more organized than I ever hope to be (all because of that stupid, damn app on her phone which I swear to all I will find and destroy!). Plus, it’s better not to let her loose on poor shop keepers because her patience is about as thin as the line of drool from a teething baby – it will break at any time if she doesn’t get what she needs. So, its a balance and promotes peace in the world (trust me!).
I have lived the last 6 years as a stay at home Baba. My wife gets to go and have fun at work and I get to control everything that comes in and out of this house, handle the appointments, most of the school meetings and manage to keep my children in one piece. I did, however, work part time in Qatar because of our kids (nights). This worked well because atleast I saw my friends, was able to hang out a bit (I really miss my friends) and still be able to be with my girls.
Moving to Dubai was tough in the beginning. I didn’t know anyone. My sister lived in Al Ain and it’s not like it was a quick drive there and back, I had to figure everything out on my own with my “Map Girlfriend” (the name Saffiya calls the car navigation system). It was getting odd when I was starting to talk back to the car after the first 3 months!.
In saying all of that, Dubai was probably the best place to choose to live. It’s great for families. So many activities and opportunities to do things. The education sector (kids) is above and beyond what we were used to before and life, in general, is really good here (for about 3 months it is miserable as hell for the heat – but for 9 months – its amazing!).
But, I’m on my own. Sure, I can join the Mummy-Coffee-Mornings that are out there (because that was a BIG success when I tried that in Doha and the women started talking about ‘sensitive parts of their body’ after having kids and then realized I was there and quickly shut up with blushed cheeks as I grabbed my pink diaper bag and tried to slip away before I fell on the floor rolling). Or, I can start my own Baba-Coffee-Mornings. Should be a big success because I’ll be the only one there. But, atleast I don’t need to talk about sensitive body parts and worry about who’s child is walking first and who’s child is still crawling (and the mum of the one that is still crawling – yes, they are talking about you when you aren’t there).
I am given a reprieve 3 days a week now that the littlest is in nursery and the oldest is in school. I get to go to gym and, if I’m lucky, sit at Starbucks, alone, utterly alone in my own world for about 42 1/2 minutes before I pick up the littlest from nursery. The wife (I call her ‘The government’ – affectionately, ofcourse) takes the ‘kid duty’ on the weekends so I can hit the gym on Fridays and Saturdays. But I really want time alone – whatever that is.
I know I’m not the only baba out there that thinks this and I’m not asking for a 5-day paid holiday to the Maldives (although I wouldn’t turn it down) but I’ve gotten to the point where although I have a couple of friends now, I just don’t have the time to ‘go out’.
During the week there is so much going on as we coordinate between homework, getting kids set for the next day, getting 30 minutes of adult conversation with “the government” which normally consists of the days briefing or whats the plan for the next day, where is the swim suit and the 50dhs for the outing the next day.
If we are lucky, we might get to pawn the littlest off on a friend or my sister every couple of months so the wife and I and our oldest can head to Friday Brunch (because the kids go off in one direction and the wife and I sit in peace and quiet for 4 hours talking about everything and nothing).
I understand why people have nannies- for this reason. I get it. But I also know how it easy it is to pawn them off daily on the nannies at every possible time making it easier to do stuff ‘alone’. I can also see that I might get used to it (as I’ve seen friends do). I don’t want to do everything ‘alone’. But I really do want a small chunk of time on my own.
The crazy thing is, trying to figure out what to do with that time. Do I go plant myself on a beach? Do I just drive with the sun roof open and window blaring (wait, was that a cheerio that just fell from the visor?)? I’m not the clubbing type. I’m not the shisha guy. I know, all of this sounds completely UN-Arabic. Do I just go to Jumpboxx and throw myself against trampolines and get out this energy?
Even if I do have that time alone, I have absolutely no idea what I would even do! Am I going to feel guilty because I’m not at home? Am I going to be messaging my wife saying “what are you doing?” and is she going to do the same? What are the girls doing? Did my wife give our youngest her bunny? Which cheerios did she give her – she hates the honey nut!
I was excited about going and getting gas last week, alone and I even took the long way home and felt refreshed. And then, I see the cheerio on the back car seat.
Being impulsive lost way to schedules and routines. After 6 years, I’m still trying to figure out how the rest of the world does it. Is hiding in the bathroom for 20 minutes the only solution until they turn 18?
I’m having to choose my friends carefully because if they don’t have kids, it’s only going to take 2 invites that I turn down for them to just dump the idea of inviting me altogether. And for friends that have nannies, those impulsive invites don’t happen because it’s just me, the kids and a lot of cheerios.
I’ve got to figure out where that balance is that I get the time that I need even when I don’t even know what it is that I want to do.
Maafi Moshkela used to be the best – it solves everything. No problem!
Now, things revolve around, “I’ll see you, inshallah (Arabic for God-willing)” (after I grab a bag of cheerios to appease the small masses)