Being an expat stay-at-home mother has its share of challenges, especially when the cultural norms for motherhood differ greatly from your home country. Beth Stranko shares her ten tips for enjoying life as an expat SAHM without a nanny…
Avoid brain drain
Stay connected in your field through professional publications and online forums. Join a book club, start a new hobby, take online classes, find other stay at home mums you connect with, and make the most of pre-school/nursery time (if your child is in school). If there’s something you would like to see, such as a club, home school, or playgroup, start it! The web makes it much easier to connect with other people who share your interests and struggles.
Establish household help
Employ a cleaner once or twice a week to do a deep clean and/or all of your least favourite jobs around the house.
Plan and deliver!
If you do most of your own cooking, plan your meals for the week, then utilise a free grocery delivery service to have the ingredients delivered straight to your door. Your supermarket trip with kids now includes a much smaller list and a much smaller chance of a toddler meltdown. Try DinnerTime.me, Live freshr or Hello Chef (pictured) to have someone else do the planning and shopping for a very reasonable price.
Can you say babysitter?
It may be a splurge to hire a regular babysitter, but full-time expat mums need a break from the kid-centric universe they inhabit 99.9% of the time. Have a set day and time to go out with your spouse, friends, or alone. What you choose to do during your time away doesn’t need to be expensive – read or browse the internet at a coffee shop, relax at the beach, check out the eats at Kite Beach, or splurge on a good brunch. The most important thing is to feel like you’re getting a break from the mum routine (bonus points for complete thoughts and uninterrupted conversations).
Some places are easier to go with kids (and no help) than others. A few of my favorites are: The Journey, Kite Beach (pictured is the skatepark there), Fun City, Magic Planet, Al Barsha Pond Park, The Reform, The Polo Club, The Beach at JBR (Splash Pad and new playground on south side of complex), Cheeky Monkeys, Elevation Burger Beach Road (free indoor playground on second level), Dubai Aquarium, Atlantis aquarium, and Lime Tree Café.
Another great way to connect with new mums before your children are school-age is by doing an occasional mum and baby class such as, Baby Splash, Mums & Tots, mummy and me yoga, or one of the many other mother and child classes available.
What is admittedly lacking in combining childcare and fitness. However, there are enough options that most mums can find a class that meets their schedule and budget. Here are a few fitness centres and training programmes that cater to mums who need childcare: Fit Republik, b2b Fitness, Urban Energy, Dubai Ladies Club, Pure Fitness, and Mountain Buggy Fitness.
Cut yourself some slack
There are times when the best option is to turn on the TV, unwrap a bar of chocolate, and sip on your favourite bevvy. I promise, the kids will be all right.
Don’t buy into the motherhood rat race. Being a mum is not a competitive sport and the pressure to have your children in structured activities, lessons, and uber-rich sensory settings can be intense. Research shows that until early elementary school, kids thrive in unstructured environments with access to quality play materials and books. Make your home the best place for you and your kids to be – you can stay on top of chores around the house while your kids benefit from learning to manage their toys, time, and creativity.
Say yes to fast food
Kudos to the mums who always have sliced organic produce, homemade hummus, baby protein muffins, and green smoothies ready to go, but that is not reality for most stay at home mums. Pre-made baby food, pre-packaged organic snacks, rotisserie chicken, or a restaurant with fresh, quick food are all great choices. Buy the best option that your time, money, and sanity can afford and don’t look back. Seriously.
Count your blessings
You have made the courageous choice to be the primary caretaker for your children. It’s an exhausting job paid in kisses, crayon scribbled love notes, and the occasional glimpse of the person your little human will become. In particularly stressful moments fueled by toddler-doggedness, I use a trick from Dr. Laura Markham and tell my son that I need a hug. The sweet embrace almost always brings us both back to a place of peace and reminds me that my presence is the best gift I will ever give my children.