Am I the only mother left in the UAE for the summer?

As the country empties out for the hot months, perhaps the grass isn’t actually greener for those ‘going home for the summer’

As families leave the UAE for the summer, it's a nice time to take advantage of the peace, quiet and available restaurant tables. Unsplash / Katerina Kerdi
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The supermarkets are empty. Even on a Saturday morning.

The roads are quiet. There’s no monster truck bearing down on me in the rear-view mirror, lights flashing because I dared move into the fast lane for 3.6 seconds.

The maitre d’ who usually laughs down the phone when I tentatively ask if they have any tables for tonight isn’t laughing anymore. He’s saying: “Yes, madam. For how many people?”

The mall is … No, I’m just kidding, the mall is always busy.

With 17 years and counting in the country — every one of those spent staying right here in the UAE for July and August — the annual summer exodus doesn’t faze me in the slightest.

In fact, I will admit to getting a little kick out of watching other parents’ faces when I have this conversation six times a day throughout June:

Them: “So, are you leaving for the summer?”

Me: “No, we stay here.”

Them: *shocked Pikachu face*

Yes, I am that woman. Behold: The Only Mother Left In Dubai For The Summer.

To those taking your children out of school early: why?

Each year, many parents with children head back to their home countries for two, and even three, months. Getty Images

Every year, it seems families leave earlier and earlier for the summer. At my children's school, parents began taking their offspring out in June after the end-of-year assessments. To which I can only ask: why?

“They don’t do anything in the last few weeks, anyway,” is the reason I hear most often, as if parents and students spend the month sitting around with their feet up on the desks. Besides, everyone knows the last few days at school are the most fun.

But also, isn’t two months' holiday enough? No child needs three — a quarter of the year — off school just to save a few dirhams on a flight home.

But that’s just me. Like Ross Geller from Friends who won’t leave a hotel room until bang-on check-out time in order to get his money’s worth, I too, will squeeze every single fil out of the money I’ve spent on my children's education, arriving at the school gate to collect them on the last day not one millisecond before the final bell rings.

‘Going home for the summer’ is a misnomer

We’ve all heard parents loudly listing off how “amaaaaazing” it’s going to be when they go home for summer. Good for them, genuinely.

But in my opinion, “going home for the summer” is the Instagram of declarations — misleading, creating false narratives and having been run through about four different filters.

For starters, everyone “at home” is at work. They haven’t taken two (or three) months off like you, so by and large you’re going to be on your own with the children throughout the week.

Will you see family? Of course you will, but they, too, have their own lives and schedules and stuff going on.

If you’re staying with your family for the summer, it’s all fun and games for the first 72 hours, until there’s an argument over the “correct” way to make toast. Then you'll find yourself anxiety-breathing into a paper bag and hiding in the downstairs toilet while having a whispered phone conversation with your therapist about “boundaries”.

Not to mention that it’s expensive, especially right now. If you’re not staying with family or friends, you’re renting a house, hiring a car, entertaining the children … By August, you’ll have spent roughly the GDP of a small European nation.

Quite frankly, I'd rather spend that on exploring a new country than on two months in a place I've already spent 28 years.

Surviving July and August. Two words: Summer camp

Summer camps keep the children entertained, allowing them to meet new friends and learn new skills. Unsplash / Ashton Bingham

The main reason I hunker down into the air conditioning for summer in the UAE is because I have a job, meaning I can’t just abandon everything and jet off for two months. And it’s the same for my husband.

But even if I could, I don’t think I’d be saying “sayonara” for the best part of eight weeks. Besides, my husband tends to buy weird stuff on Amazon that we don’t need when left unsupervised with a credit card in an empty house.

As for surviving summer in the UAE with children, it’s not rocket science.

We still get up early as we do on school days, in order to take advantage of the cooler morning hours. We head to the park to exercise the children for a couple of hours, and get home before the heat kicks in.

And here I shall invoke the two of the most beautiful words in the English language: summer camp.

The children go off to various camps, where they meet new friends, learn new skills and have a lovely time. Afternoons are spent watching a movie, doing activities, hitting Arabia's Wildlife Centre (my ultimate Sharjah secret weapon) or splashing about in the pool.

But ultimately, whether you go home for the hot months or stay here with me, good luck to all parents on surviving the summer. See you in September.

Updated: July 10, 2022, 6:16 AM
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