Why we left Dubai


I don’t know how many times I’ve apologized for the lack of updates on this blog so I’m not going to do it now because I can’t promise to be consistent in writing with all the things currently going on in my life. But if you are reading this, thank you for still being here.

If you have followed me on social media, you may have come across posts where I mentioned that we have left Dubai, our home for the past 10 years and 11 months. To many, it was a sudden move, a surprising decision even, especially when I said we’re moving back to Japan – it’s shocking to some people who has heard me say I will try hard not to live in Japan again, after we left in 2007. (But that is another blog post to write)

I struggled for the time to be able to sit down to write this post and even thought of just closing down this blog and quit writing. But who am I kidding? I don’t know if I’ll ever lose my love for writing. Sentences have already formed n my head even before our flight out of Dubai took off and I couldn’t wait to be able to open my laptop and write away these thoughts.

Also, when you have followers on social media and readers on your blog, you feel some kind of social responsibility to be transparent, to share the goings on in your life, especially they have followed you from the start. And I really wanted to write this post to collectively tell our story for those reading this and for myself, as a reminder years from now why we made this big move.

There is not one single reason why we left Dubai. It is a mix of so many reasons that snowballed into the major but necessary decision to pack up and leave.

Reason #1: my work

“Life’s too short to do the things you don’t love doing.”

Somehow, this quote had been crossing my mind so often I wake up in cold sweat in the middle of the night.

It wasn’t always like that. I am grateful to be given the chance to work in Dubai in my previous company with so many wonderful people who became not just my work colleagues, but my friends. My day job allowed me and my family to live in Dubai comfortably and indulge in life’s little pleasures like traveling outside of the UAE.

However, after many years, the stuff I do for a living has brought more stress than happiness no matter how I tell myself ,”get over it, this too shall pass”. Day in, day out, getting on the train, running to catch the time, sweating profusely during the grueling hot months (more than half of the year?!), sitting down from 8 am to 6 pm on mechanical mode going through papers and papers, putting in over time some of the time but feeling unappreciated, etc. And then repeat again till the last work day of the week. Lately, the theme of my life had been #WaitingForWeekends.

When you reach the point where you dread when the weekend ends and the work week begins, you know life has become stressful and unhealthy. When sometimes you find yourself half-assing your work, unconsciously, you know you need to put an end to it.

I know that sounds like a selfish thing. And there are bills to pay. Believe me, I have battled voices in my head saying, “you should be grateful you have a job!” or “the pay is good, the work is not difficult, why leave?” or “why don’t you just get up, show up, sit for 8 hours and wait for the paycheck?” and then on the other side, so many voices of reasons that would sum up:

“Are you sure you want to do the same thing everyday for the next ten years?”

And the answer to that was NO.

I guess when you work in a place that long, (10 years and 11 months for me in the same company), you would want some sort of change. I’ve asked for it but that change didn’t come and I didn’t see it coming at all. Doing something over and over again that long is not sustainable, at least for me. I feel my feelings weren’t normal because in my previous company, people have worked for 10, 20 or even 30 years. No one ever leaves (almost) that people didn’t believe I resigned and started to speculate and spread rumors that I was terminated. When I said I submitted my resignation paper last November 2017, there wasn’t a single soul who didn’t think I was joking. “Why would you?”

There’s also the lingering matter of my age. I’m 41 and it came to the critical point where IF I have to change jobs, I have to quit the current one NOW otherwise stay there till I retire. There was no change in the horizon with the current one and no, I don’t want to do the same thing I was doing day in and day out for the next 3,650 days of my life.

“So if you didn’t like your job, why didn’t you apply for other jobs, in Dubai?”

We move on to reason #2.

Reason #2: the kids

playing in the snow

There are several reasons worthy enough of a separate blog post that could be controversial to other families raising their kids in Dubai. Dubai is still a great place for families for many, however, PERSONALLY, I feel it wasn’t the best place for us anymore. The lifestyle didn’t fit what we wanted for our family.

I have a child who is transitioning into adulthood. She is 14, and while very open minded and sensible, I feel that living in Dubai as she transitions into this very important phase in life will not ready her or arm her with important life skills she needs and resilience when life is not so convenient and comfortable anymore in the outside world.

The other child is six years old and always happier when taken outdoors, not just for a period of time (cooler months in Dubai) but everyday.

Reason #3: the husband’s job instability

Background: we moved to Dubai because of my work; he was the trailing spouse.

To his credit, he really tried. He has come a long way from someone who didn’t know how to speak or write proper English sentences to someone who can negotiate business affairs using a language foreign to him. He is Japanese and only speaks Japanese language with me from the start. And in Japan where we previously lived, there is no need to use English.

In the past years when his job doesn’t work out due to various unfortunate reasons like salary was too low to compensate for the long hours, company downsizing, etc, he managed to get another and then another. He even worked in Saudi Arabia for a year while the kids and I remained in Dubai in 2016.

We decided, ENOUGH.

Now that we are in Japan, he can find something that would suit him better here. It’s his home country after all and as for me – I can manage to fit in, as I did for 10 years I was here before moving to Dubai. I can find something here should I decide to work (I have worked here for 5 years after graduation before).

Reason #4: there’s no forever in Dubai

Dubai is a transient place. More than 80% of the population are expats from 200 different countries…who will ultimately leave one day, it’s just a question of WHEN. It’s actually scary when you really think about it.

Why? The UAE doesn’t offer permanent residency – visas are tied with your job that if you lose it, you only have 30 days to either find a new one or exit the country, no citizenship offered as well.

It’s a temporary place where people come to earn and/or save.

I liken living in Dubai as part of the story of the Japanese folk tale of Urashima Taro – a fisherman who gets to visit a beautiful kingdom under the sea as a reward for rescuing a tortoise. The kingdom under the sea is like paradise and Urashima Taro lingered on, enjoying every moment, forgetting about the outside world. When he came up and went back to land, he was shocked to find out so many years have passed since the last time he was there.

Most expats in Dubai, us included, arrived thinking they’ll stay “just for a couple of years” but then the lifestyle is too comfortable, convenient and appealing, the malls so big, bright and shiny LOL, and we all end up making Dubai our semi-permanent home and before we know it, we’ve been living in this glorious city for years and decades.

And leaving gets harder and harder the longer you live in Dubai.

It’s a transient place and we’re all waiting for that “snap” that could be in the form of: you or your spouse losing your jobs and can’t find one before the 30 days grace period ends, you or your spouse’s company closes down and can’t find another company to sponsor your visa before the 30 days grace period ends, Dubai’s economy all together snaps and you become redundant or worst case scenario, war erupts in the Middle East (the UAE is peaceful right now and I think it will be for the next years…but then again, there’s no guarantee?)

So what if the “snap” happens tomorrow and we have no savings or when we’re 50? Where will we go? Will there be any companies to accept us back home or somewhere else?

We felt it is time to settle and build a permanent home.

ben walking in snow


We are all Japan passport holders, my husband is from here and we have family here (his side, our children’s grandparents who are so delighted with our move). Japan will always be that place we can base ourselves the easiest, move with least effort, financially, logistically. Here, we are eligible for social insurance and school for the kids is free.

Also, we feel it’s time for our children to get to know the culture and heritage that’s part of who they are.

Are we staying here for good? I don’t know about the “for good” part but “for now”, yes.

No matter how comfortable and almost perfect life is in Dubai, we are only there on borrowed time. With the visa, we are given the privilege to stay in Dubai/UAE. In Japan, we have the right to stay as long as we can.

One interesting thing about this move – much like when people in Dubai asked me why we left Japan, people here in Japan are asking me why we left Dubai – a seemingly modern day Utopia where everything is convenient; even the heat is a mild matter as we live in temperature controlled houses and sleep with our comforters even when it’s nearing 50C outside.

The grass is always greener on the other side, eh?


January 13th 2018 (that’s today in my time zone) would have been our 11 years anniversary in Dubai but we’re no longer there. I wanted to start the new year fresh and new so I chose to leave before 2017 ended. Honestly, I thought I’d write a really sappy post how I missed life in Dubai but not right now. I actually didn’t have time to grieve over leaving the city we called home for nearly 11 years. I was so busy with so many things like patching things at work before my exit, selling/giving away/disposing things at home and preparing to leave for the Philippines last month for my sister’s wedding. (Had several incidents even before we landed in Manila with Benjamin suddenly getting sick on the plane and we had to call emergency when we landed and then the airline losing 2 of my checked in luggage and typhoon Vinta got our flights to my hometown cancelled …who has time to be sappy about Dubai?)

And then this move to Japan.

I might eventually get nostalgic and write the sappy post someday but not today. I’m busy looking forward to the challenges we’ll all face. The kids’ attending Japanese school, me looking for a job (or deciding to stay at home!), looking for a permanent house etc.

Oh, and the harsh winter. I am more bothered of the cold, cold temp inside the house this winter to be grieving about the past.

I do have a passing thought and probably an advice to you expats thinking about leaving Dubai: don’t leave when Dubai is at its most gorgeous in the “winter” months, especially if you’re destination is the real winter world. You’ll miss and long for Dubai’s glorious sunshines in December.

Leave during the summer when you’re cursing your way out of the airport and happily looking forward to your normal world destination where you can stand outside without your arm pits transforming into waterfalls of sweat and you can breathe without being choked by 95% humidity.

Oh and one last thing keeping me from grieving?

I need a new blog name.

What I learned from living alone again after 13 years


I think there are two types of people: one who loves being in the constant company of people and people who find solitude when alone. The alone but never lonely kind of people. As weird as it sounds, they do exist.

Recently, I lived alone in our two bedroom apartment in Dubai for a few weeks – the husband was away for work and the kids were at my parents’ house in the Philippines to spend the rest of their summer vacation. It’s a little lonely without the little humans in our home but I know they are better off there than be cooped up indoors here in Dubai because outside is hotter than hell.

Anyway, the last time I lived alone was in 2003, when I was single and working in Japan. To say that I’ve forgotten how to live alone would be an understatement. It’s only a few weeks, but here are some things I’ve realized from living alone again, after a long time:

1. You will find out if you are an introvert or an extrovert.

As if I needed further confirmation aside from getting an INFJ personality as a result of my Briggs Myers personality test, living alone made me realize how I can be alone at home and not feel lonely. Ok, at times I do get lonely but not dying of loneliness kind of lonely.

Maybe it’s the thought that I know this is only temporary or the fact that my life had been non-stop crazy chaotic since getting married and having a baby thirteen years ago that I find this little break kind of invigorating. I go to work, go home and on weekends, I only go out when most required (when I run out of food!). The weekend would pass where I don’t see a soul but I’ve never felt more refreshed.

P.S. I can’t believe I am totally ok with just staying at home sitting on long stretches of time writing blog posts like this. Pajamas all day. Boom.

2. More time but it doesn’t necessarily equate to doing more things

When I thought living alone without my husband and kids would give me more time to do the things I wish I had more time for, like blogging, reading or redecorating, the joke’s on me.

True, I’ve done this before, living in Japan for 7 years alone but I’ve forgotten how it is to be the captain of your ship without any crew – from doing the laundry, to cooking, to washing dishes, ironing and all the other chores. By the time I am done with everything after work, including taking out the trash at night, it’s already 9:30 pm and I don’t have any more energy left.

And when I finally find a chunk of time, I sometimes fall into the deep , bottomless abyss called the internet.

3. Preparing a meal for one is more difficult

I first knew the struggle of cooking for one when I arrived in Japan in 1996 and lived in a dormitory inside the school having my own room. Prior to that, I used to cook for 8 back home. I’ve almost forgotten that struggle till late when I had to do it again.

I end up eating the same type of dish for days…

4. Routines sometimes fly out the window

When the kids were here, we aim to follow certain routines, most importantly fixed times for eating meals and sleeping. We aim to be in bed by 8:30 pm during school/work days and we have been following that with great success.

Being alone makes you do anything you please and that could mean irregular meal times, skipping main meals because you have stuffed yourself on Doritos (I want to convince myself this is just PMS), watching reruns of a favorite old tv series, overdosing on social media and doing all kinds of distractions known to man.

Long story short, I can therefore conclude that the study saying married people live longer than single people could be true.

Unless the marriage is unhealthy, unhappy, and it contributes significantly to stress, emotional strain…then that can be lethal to your health and emotional well-being and you’re well off staying single.

For me though, I personally think, I’d live longer with my family around.

5. THIS: The constant fear of something or someone in your house is sometimes irrational and dramatic, but so real.

Every break in the steady silence, the slightest creak and squeak makes you imagine a thousand and one possibilities of what it really is. Once I heard something fall in the kitchen but I never bothered to check what it is. When I woke up the next morning, there was nothing on the kitchen floor…

It’s also frightening to look up at the mirror after rinsing the foam out of my face when washing. My eyes are closed till I grab the towel and turn my back from the mirror and run back towards the other room!

BONUS: Your smartphone can become your room mate. And it’s not good or healthy.

Whenever I can’t sleep or get up in the middle of the night, I just stay in bed and reach for my smartphone to scroll through social feeds, send messages to sleeping people living on the other side of the globe, read news and self-help articles to soothe me back to sleep (who am I kidding??). Before I knew it, I had blown hours of “alone time” and the sun is already peeking through the curtain. Then I’d feel guilty being too connected to the screen and completely disconnected with myself.

Morning comes and I’d murmur,

Way to go, self. Another groggy time in the office today.

So, enough about me and my realizations on living alone. How about you? Are you living alone? If not, when was the last time you lived alone?

Top photo for illustration purposes only, taken from Google images. That’s not me or my house.

I survived driving to Kite beach

beach day

Last weekend, I woke up and decided I would take the kids to the beach, never mind I’d be driving for 30 minutes to get there. If you know me, you know how I feel about driving, especially with routes I am not familiar with or have not driven to at all.

I’m happy to say that yes, we have arrived safely and in one piece at Kite Beach. I was so exhausted but after seeing Benjamin’s reaction when he stepped on the shore? Every drop of sweat on my palms and other body parts too scandalous to mention was worth it. Even Pristine was so happy never mind she couldn’t swim as the water was still too cold at this time of the year.

P in beach 1

Why was I driving when I dread driving? Well, the husband is away and I’ve been single parenting for the 2nd week now. This is actually nothing new because even when he is here, I am single parenting most of the time anyway. So when he is gone, I say to myself “Heck, what’s the big deal? What’s the difference?”

But alas, it’s only when the other spouse is away that we realize, it isn’t the same after all. This family thing is not a one man or one woman show, especially when there are children involved. We are a team and it’s not the same if one team member is not around. It’s funny how different it is when you’re married and have kids than when say, compared to when you were just dating. The I-miss-you-how-am-I-going-to-cope-up-without-you moments have been replaced by I-can-handle-this, I-should-handle-this! mentality. 

I am proud to say I can manage most things alone. I can run the house alone. But then, there are times when I wish my spouse was there to fill in the gap. Like driving, for one (and wirings gone wonky around the house…).

Though I was driving every day while we were living in Japan before our move to Dubai, driving in Dubai is a whole different ball game for me. I am terrified of driving to places I am not familiar with. Hello big burly speeding cars, impolite drivers and 7 lane highways!

(You have no idea how grateful I am for the Metro!).

Ben at the beach 1

p and b at the beach 1

The kids and I had so much fun at the beach where we stayed till around 1 pm. What a liberating feeling to have no restrictions on time. 


I didn’t realize there was a T Swift song playing in the background when I took this video… A video posted by Grace | Sandier Pastures (@sandierpastures) on


Don’t you just love days where you don’t care about what time it is?

I wish I could do this more often so I can conquer my fear of driving especially if the kids are in the car with me. But yesterday, I managed to get to Kite Beach (and back home) with Google maps, pure guts and sweaty hands.

Several articles on the internet point that frequent travel of one spouse have negative effects on the family. Maybe. But I think there’s also a positive side. The spouse who is left behind is forced to develop themselves to become a more mature, more courageous parent and individual.

I certainly feel braver now.

We’re nine years in Dubai

pristine 2007

The above photo was taken exactly NINE years ago, today. It was the morning after we landed in Dubai from a long flight from Japan (my camera even still showed Japan time). Our daughter Pristine had just turned 3 years old and I just started working at my current company. We moved to Dubai without any concrete life plans other than “testing the waters” and that whatever happens, we could always go back to Japan.

P in 2007 2

Nine years later, we are still here. NINE. Sounds like a long time, right?

I still don’t know until when we’ll be here but for now (we are asked that expat year end question again and again), Dubai is (still) home. I lived in Japan for 10 years and 3 months. Do you think I’ll surpass that record in Dubai?

Warm winter this year in Dubai

dubai winter 1

Something’s wrong with this year’s “winter”. Well, before I begin – I know the thought of “winter” in the Middle East might have you all laughing. But as a matter of fact, there IS winter in desert land, even if people living outside of the Middle East would like to prefer to it still as summer. 

I can’t blame you…it was 29C at 2pm today.

It’s really strange because for the past few years, we turn our aircondition off by mid-November. What’s the date now? It’s already December and it would still be difficult to sleep well without aircon.

P and me in Prague

Pristine and I was just in Prague exactly a week ago. We were wrapped in layers and layers of clothing and waterproof jacket, with leather gloves, beanie hats and half knee boots.

P and me

Today we are in Dubai, feeling the warm desert sun and digging our heels into the soft, powdery sand.

us at the beach

I realized I’ve not posted photos of the kids lately, so here are some taken this afternoon while we were at the Ritz Carlton Dubai (Jumeirah Beach Residence) for their Christmas tree lighting ceremony. We had ample time before the event started so we headed out to the beach.

dubai winter 4

dubai winter 2

Can you tell how they love the beach?

dubai winter 3

The water was already a little bit cold (I wouldn’t swim in it, personally). But the afternoon sun felt so warm.

The cloudless blue sky was perfect background for the airshow as well.


airshow 2


We didn’t know there would be an airshow. December 2nd was the UAE National Day thus the display of the colors of the UAE flag. It’s my first time to see anything like it.

dubai winter 5

I am expecting the weather and temps would mellow a bit in a few days. While I do not mind the warm winter, it would be nice to turn off the aircon to save on energy and sleep with the windows open.

Between the grass and the clear blue skies

park at lunch break

Lately a work colleague and I have been spending my lunch break at a small park behind our office building. We only have 30 minutes of break – it used to be an hour but then it was shortened in exchange for off on Saturdays but I’ll take a short lunch break to be able to spend two consecutive days of weekend at home.

Dubai weather is great right now, with temperature that is warm enough to not wear a jacket outside (we do wear a jacket outside in the winter months, believe it or not!) and not hot. It’s the Goldilock’s weather we have here, just right. The sky is cloudless and blue.

looking at the sky

There is gentle wind and sound of chirping birds in the tree (bird, don’t poop on me!). I remember the laid back life while growing up in the Philippines. It’s the same weather, the same wind.

sky 2

I lied down, looking at sky. And I felt so good. So free, so liberated. Then I remember, I’ve been a big sky watcher before. Why did I stop looking up? It’s a very peaceful thing to do. I often lose myself looking at the seemingly endless sky. It feels very comforting and calming just looking up, forgetting the time.

You should do it, too. Sometimes.

My female work colleague told me not to lie down as not to draw attention to myself, our office being just a few meters away. And that “people are looking, they might think you’re a whack job lying down on the grass”.

sky gazing

But such vastness. Immense space. I could care less. Strange how everything below can have chaos and pain while above the sky is peace, sweet blue gentleness. What a therapeutic thing to do, I bet I can only do this a few weeks more before Dubai’s real deal summer starts.

And suddenly I feel the 30 minutes of break was long enough.

Moving to Dubai

On the Up: Moving to the UAE and What to Consider

Moving to Dubai

People are flocking to the United Arab Emirates these days. With the subtropical climate,flashy lifestyle and all the travel opportunities a place like Dubai offers, it’s hard to blame anyone for upping sticks and grabbing a piece of this for a few days. Dubai tourism has grown significantly in recent years and although the city is a great tourist destination, or stopover between destinations, many people are making their stay in this international hub more permanent.

Here are a few things to consider if you’re thinking about joining this ‘nation of expats’:

The UAE is an Islamic nation, so before moving you should research how this might affect you in terms of your job, family and lifestyle. If this is very different to how you’ve grown up and what you’re accustomed to, consider spending a trial month in Dubai to see if a permanent move is right for you and is worthwhile.

Women, especially single women, could find a trial period in the UAE particularly beneficial. Spending time there before you commit to moving will allow you to become acquainted with the local laws, customs and cultural etiquette.

If you’re moving to the UAE, you’ll need a visa that allows you to work there. Visa rules can differ slightly different between the emirates, so it’s best to contact the emirate you’re relocating to and find out what the requirements are. If a job transfer is bringing you to the UAE (congratulations!), then your employer is likely to apply for the appropriate work permit and residence visa for you. Check with them first, of course,rather than take this for granted.

You’ll probably have friends planning their visits to your sunny new homeland, encourage them to look into tourist visas. If you enter the UAE through Dubai, then the Department of Naturalization and Residency Dubai will be the point of contact for all visa-related questions. Tourist visas are typically valid for 30 days, but the visa type required determines according to the type of visa required, so this needs to be researched before any flights are booked.

The UAE health care system is modern and well-equipped. Health insurance laws in Dubai have changed recently, so that all citizens, residents and visitors in Dubai must have health insurance. You won’t be granted a residence visa, or allowed entry as a tourist, to Dubai unless you have health insurance. Make sure this is something you organize before you go.

One of the biggest perks of moving to the UAE is the financial gain possible. Salaries aren’t taxed — though you may have to pay tax to your country of origin, however — so you can move there, work for several years and potentially save a fair amount. However,keep in mind the cost of living can be quite expensive. Renting an apartment or house may be pricier than you’re used to, and you often have to pay for a year’s rent up front.

If you have kids, sending them to school could cost you anywhere from a couple of thousand to dozens of thousands each year.Dubai isn’t the kind of place that you can just walk into, but with some careful planning beforehand you can really enjoy a step up in your lifestyle when you’ve arrived. The sky’s the limit in Dubai. You’ve just got to do the groundwork, or rather the paperwork,first!

Top image by cherrylet, used under Creative Commons licence.


Does being an expat make you fat?


“You were a lucky bitch!”

A friend snapped at me when we were talking about expat life and how it makes one fat – most of the time. But the first time I became an expat, I was not fat – and because of that, I earn the title, “lucky bitch”. 

I was 19 when I landed in Japan from the Philippines. I was on a scholarship program, had a room all to myself in the school dormitory and was given monthly stipend. You know what a young girl would spend with sudden money landing on her lap month after month?

If you guessed clothes, wrong. I was not into clothes. Or shoes. Instead, I was on a mission to buy all the food I didn’t have before. Back home, life was tough having to share everything with five other siblings. I send some of my monthly allowance back home but still had extra. The fear of gaining weight didn’t grip me with fear. I bought and ate whatever I fancied.

When you’re 19 or in the early 20’s, you can actually get away with eating junk and lots of carbohydrates (hello late night ramen!!) and not look like a sumo wrestler. Your metabolism level is kick-ass. My typical days always included lot of whole fat milk, Pringles, sugary drinks, candies and chocolates. I had one ambitious goal that time: test and taste ALL the chocolate brands I could find! And I think I achieved that goal on the first year itself. Too bad this was in 1996-1997 when there were no blogs, Facebook or Instagram!

I remember I used to wake up in the middle of the night and creep through the lonely halls towards the direction of the vending machine in the dormitory ground floor. The vending machines in Japan fascinated me. I’d put coins and press one new button per day. I got hooked to the awesome strawberry milk the most. I also got hooked to Mister Donut, paired with hot chocolate on winters. Whoa.

Graduation day in Japan  2001 – the year I graduated from the university in Japan (I am the one in pink), 4.5 years after I landed

My friend started her life as an expat in the UK last month. She’s 28. Like me, she is amazed by what is available right in front of her eyes. Those things she could not find at home, most importantly, the ones she could not afford before. But at 28, her metabolism is not on kick-ass level anymore and paired with the UK’s ever gloomy, depressing grey and cold weather, she is in no mood to exercise. On the contrary, it makes her want to be in the comfort of chocolates and buttermilk pancakes and hot chocolate drinks.

“Help, I’m getting fat!” was the SOS message I got a month after she landed in the UK. “I know I will get fat but the Toblerones, Cadburys and Ferreros are always on sale and I can actually buy them now. I’ve been hoarding.”

Oh, life abroad. I was indeed a lucky bitch for having to taste it all without having to buy bigger jean sizes.  But those were the days – I am feeling the pinch right now, being an expat again in Dubai at a much older age. With all the fantastic dining options available, it is hard not to gain weight. In fact, there’s a popular term called “the Dubai stone” – a catchy expression of the theory that living in Dubai will result in your regular weight increasing by somewhere in the region of 6.3 something kilograms.

But at least I am done with my chocolate experiment. 

Are you an expat? Did you gain weight than when you were back home?

Top photo credit

5 Reasons why we hired a house help

kitchen sink

We have a live-in house help.

I am not afraid or ashamed to admit this because I am not a supermom who can do everything and keep my sanity: work, kids and a less-cluttered house.  She takes care of my son when I am out working. She helps me run the house so everyone is well fed and happy.

We are happy. Actually happier here than we were in Japan!

She is not related to us by blood but our children loves her and we treat her like family. My son is very attached to her (since she started working for us when he was only 2 months old, he is turned 2 years a few days ago) making me feel very secure I am leaving him in safe, loving hands while I work 6 days a week.

Being able to hire a live-in house help (I don’t like the term “maid”) is one of the reasons we prefer to live in the UAE.

Of course, if you’re an expat and doing very well without a house help, then great. No need to judge. We do what works for each of us. You have your reasons and here’s our reasons why we hired a live-in house help.

1. Less exhausted moms make better mothers.

I remember when we were living in Japan. We were working parents juggling career and taking care of a small child. Sure Japan offers probably one of the best daycare services to working parents but at the end of the day, I was coming home alone with my daughter, tired from my full day at work and having to face the dilemma of the mess we left in the morning, what to cook for dinner, the laundry and the other sights I did not want to see.

Japan is a work-centered society. I guess no one have thought of that when they tell me, “why did you leave? Japan is a great place!”

It’s a beautiful place, yes but a work-centered society focuses on, what else but work. Company workers ( “salaryman“) work long hours. I was part of that society before I got out and accepted a contract job after having my daughter. The contract job still demanded I sit on my desk until 6 pm. My husband is worse, he is not home until 10 or 11 pm.

To cut the story short, I did almost everything alone simply because my husband worked long hours. I was constantly tired and wasn’t able to bask in that glow moms have when they’re with their children. I felt robotic – I am able to feed, bathe, take care of my child but I wasn’t really enjoying being a mom to the fullest because I am tired and the next day’s schedule of cooking, cleaning, etc constantly looms at the back of my head.

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We were not really thriving well, just ‘getting by’, one day at a time.

Here in Dubai, I feel very fulfilled I am able to spend time with my children more because someone is there to take care of the other chores. Finally I am able to enjoy this thing called motherhood all over again (my son is very lucky to have a mom who can give her full attention to him when I get home from work), catching up on time lost with my daughter.

My children runs to meet me at the door when I come home and I hug them back without thinking about anything else but them. No doubt, I am a better mother now.

2. Tired wives make crappy partners.

I’ll tell you how our life was when we were in Japan. I finish work at 6 pm, drive to pickup Pristine from daycare, sometimes make a trip to the grocery store, come home and cook dinner with her at my hips, feed and bath her and read books in bed by 8:30 pm.

There is no resident elf or any magical creature to do the laundry, the mess we left in the morning or the dirty plates piling in the sink. No cat to lick the used frying pan clean, either.

Most of the time, I doze off while making my daughter sleep until I hear my husband come through the door at about 10-11 pm. I crawl out of bed (literally as we are sleeping on the tatami floor!) to the kitchen. We look at each other and begin to pick up the dishes, clean the floor, put the laundry in the machine, iron clothes, prepare our little girl’s things for the next day.

The husband sits down to eat his dinner then we’ll both sit down to watch the news while folding laundry. It’s silent except for the TV. There are plenty of times when we were too tired to even initiate a discussion.

More like: tired wives become angry tigers?

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You know what happens when you’re both tired? Little things make you snap like it’s PMS every single day. I mentioned about us both working, juggling career and taking care of a young child. But not just that, our relationship was up in the air as well.

Now, I am more relaxed, less anxious about the small stuff. I can enjoy longer and slower dinners with my spouse and listen to his talks fully because I’m less tired. Our relationship is better now.

3. It creates jobs.

Our house help is a single mom, who raised two (now grownup) kids but still has to provide them for their emergency needs, wish to give something nice for their birthdays and Christmas and more importantly, save for her old age. Job is scarce in the Philippines (her home country) and you’ll see women leaving their children and families to work abroad.

Benjamin and his nanny

These ladies need jobs to sustain them and in Dubai, there is that demand. I think so many children have gotten through college through their moms who work as house helps or nannies here.

4. Having someone as backup.

According to this article, Why do so many  of the UAE’s expat families rely on live-in help? by long time Dubai expat Annabel Kantaria,

Having a live-in helper isn’t just about having your ironing done or your floors polished and your children looked after while you loll about in the spa. It’s about having a backup.

My husband works shorter hours here in Dubai compared to when were in Japan but he works odd hours. He has night shifts that end at midnight and he mostly works on Fridays when I am off leaving me becoming like a single parent most of the time.

I need a hand on situations like when I need to attend school events for my older child and it’s difficult to take an overactive toddler, attend an event myself, occasional dinner dates with my spouse (we never had this in Japan!) or simply I need someone to take care of the baby and run the house when I fall sick.

mom sick

* In Japan, if you’re child has even the slightest fever, you will be called to pick him/her up immediately. They won’t watch your sick child for you until you finish your work timing.

5. It’s nice to come home to a clean house.

Try to go home to a filthy house after a long, tiring day from work (and there’s no dinner). Cluttered home = cluttered mind. Enough said.

Though because our house help’s main responsibility is our little boy, we do not expect her to clean the house perfectly. Just to keep it less cluttered, throw the garbage and keep the kitchen clean, most of all.

So those are our reasons. Hire a help, don’t hire a help – we all have different circumstances, find the balance of what makes you happy and go for it.

If it’s logistically possible in the country you live and you are comfortable with someone non-family living in with you (or coming in to clean or help out a few times per week), willing to pay the minimum wage or more and treat your house help with respect and dignity then I’d say why  not – outsource the household chores and spend more time with your children or your spouse.

For me, there is no need to feel guilty about hiring a house help if it helps you keep your sanity and be a better parent to your children because since when did asking for a better quality life a bad thing?

Next up: How to legally hire a maid (this is the proper term used here) in Dubai

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Pristine and Laila

Saying goodbye, until we meet again

Pristine and Laila

Countdown to broken heart: T-2 days.

They both knew this was coming but they didn’t want to think it was coming this fast. Pristine’s first friend in Dubai, whom she knew since she was three at school is going to relocate to Canada with her family. They will leave in a few days.

The hardest thing about expat life is that, all of us are going to say goodbye – it’s just a matter of who says it first.

They met when they were three – the time and age when we build genuine, deep friendships regardless of age, gender, size or even language. Pristine didn’t know how to speak English when they first met, yet they immediately clicked and have been inseparable ever since. They breathe each other.

My daughter wants to send off her best friend at the airport. But is it even a good idea? Won’t she be hurting more? At this age, it’s difficult to understand that saying goodbye is part and parcel of expat life. Sometimes, I envy people who have remained in the same town their whole lives with family and friends on their doorstep, for whom the airport is about the excitement, adventure and holidays.