We are Expats. What does that mean? It is a person temporarily or permanently residing in a country other than their citizenship. Thats ok, we are 2 people from 2 countries that have 2 girls that have 2 different countries citizenship, neither born or lived (holidays are quite cool) and residing in a country that we have no attachment to – except that the #crazywife and I like it and Dubai has cool stuff for kids).
But, in a new country you move houses. You don’t buy them, you rent. You rent because none of us never know how long we will stay. My CrazyWife says ‘No its two years max’. Then I say, ‘No I like it here’. Then our oldest crazy daughter says, (I would like to say for reference that she is a copy of her crazy mother), “Baba I like Dubai. This is good for us but we need a big house.”
Moving with kids is not easy. We were in our same villa (very small) for 3 years. You find a place (no matter if its Dubai or Kuwait or Bahrain or anywhere). You find a place that works at that time and at that moment.
I will say that moving with kids is not easy. It actually is very difficult. I’m trying to find a way to adopt them out for a few days so that we can do this ‘stuff’. ‘Stuff’ is running around to a landlord, signing documents, closing off DEWA (the Dubai utility company), starting it again, setting up Wifi and satellite connections, getting those clearance documents settled and then making sure the movers show up on time.
CrazyWife has 3 things in mind when moving – open kitchen, space and a garden. I’m a stay at home dad. When my wife tells me her specific requests I get very confused because that is not an arabic thing. We do closed kitchens (smells), we sit there like princes and we wait. My only thought was a garden and the water bills.
So, here I was, between last school runs and dealing with arranging summer camps, I had to find a new house. She even wrote them on a post-it (because apparently I can’t remember what ‘we’ want).
I would like to give a few bits of advice in a few areas. The first one being finding a living space.
1- If you are a husband or wife – get your ‘things you want’ down at the beginning. Keep it to 3. Make those the must have things that work for you and the kids. Do the other stuff that you want (my wife wanted a bouncy castle – not for the kids for her) on a separate list.
2- The kids schools rule everything. Find a school that works for them. You moved and it’s your issue and not theirs. Find a place that works for them and you do the running around yourself. Personally, we are GEMS people (not being paid for this or anything but only because we had chances to move everywhere but chose a great school GEMS Royal Dubai and I really like the GEMS group . ) A house is one thing but kids being in a stable environment and not being tossed around every year because of rental contracts is a bigger thing.
3- Have the kids start going through their toys and clothes with you. My wife was nuts about doing his each time we moved. She called it ‘Spring Cleaning’ (I don’t know what that means but everytime it happens it always seems to be July). Donate Donate and Donate. There are great charities here and bins to drop off in like Al Maktoum Foundation or Red Crescent
4- Find a good moving company. When you find them, plan. Plan to send your wife and kids away to a hotel. Just do it for a night because the less they are there and the drama the more you can coordinate. I put this out to single mums as well. Have the kids stay with someone else overnight and take care of things as they need to be. It can be a bit scary seeing all of the stuff pack up and all of these movers coming in to tow away their things. I did the same thing and just sent them off the day before so that the movers could finish packing and I went to them at night and came back in the morning. They had a great time chilling out (and those dads out there – when the wife is relaxed, your life is much better and you actually don’t have anyone trying to dictate every tiny thing that happens – #crazywife).
In our case, we lived in the same villa for 3 years since we moved to Dubai (my wife calls it a condo which again, I have no idea what that means but I hope it means a house). After a lot of arguing and thought and rental prices going down (which is a good thing when that happens in any country), we decided to upgrade. No more compound living (if you don’t know what compounds are – they are blocks of properties in the same gated area, the same barking dogs, the same yelling kids, the same paper reminders about where to park, the same constant posters about not pee-ing in the pool, the shouts outside the window at 11pm to have kids stop playing football against your garage, kind of things.)
We went for an semi-independent villa. That means we share a big cement wall (which helps when the 3 year old screams with the force of breaking windows).
We went from a 3 bedroom 2 1/2 bath (with an outside maids room) to a 3 bedroom 3 1/2 bath with a maids room (which we ended up building a door for her to go outside – long story and the crazy wife I have seems to think it is continually ok to yell at people that don’t offer resolution. I just bought myself a book on Kindle about ‘How to deal with difficult people’ – she wasnt impressed).
But we had that open kitchen – we had that garden – we had that space.
Long story short – the first few weeks – seeing my little girls playing in the main area because they had space was amazing. We weren’t in this small and compact space anymore.
I saw my crazy wife able to take conference calls in the open kitchen, make lunches when she was able, periodically scold the kids and I and swish us out to the garden.
We were able to sit outside and have coffee on a Friday morning and chat about stupid stuff. We have been together almost 10 years and we never sat outside in our pyjamas and just had coffee. I know it didn’t take a garden to do that but talking my wife out of bed at 8am on a weekend is only needing a bomb to go off to do it.
Time goes by so fast. We have friends that have upgraded and downgraded. But over all of them, it was to make sure the kids were ok. Everyone said, every single person I talked to, it was for the better of their family and specifically the kids.
That can mean a lot of things – saving more money for their education, living, changes of jobs, continuing school fees, or just things that happen.
I guess my point is not about the place – it is about what you make it. Its about what makes you a family and who and how you are together in tough times and good times.
Moving house is tough. Moving countries is tough. Moving anywhere (even to the grocery store) with kids is tough.
Making a place that kids can see as their home and know that even in a one bedroom apartment with 4 people together, if it’s family, its home.
Moving houses will never be easy. But if we focus on making it easier for the kids to transition, it makes a huge difference. And, please, if you have a wife/husband, send them away, don’t let them do anything, let them go off somewhere and you can have peace and quiet to do whatever it is we are suppose to do at these times.