Listening to language lessons while doing household chores can help keep your brain active.
Listening to language lessons while doing household chores can help keep your brain active.

Domestic bliss?

In a country where many are accustomed to having their laundry folded, beds made and floors mopped, taking up the homemaker's apron can be a tough sell. But pay cuts or the loss of full-time wages in some households are driving people to economise on "luxuries" such as home help. Some find the change from water-cooler talk and power lunches to the silent monotony of housework a traumatic one. Others relish it.

There's something about the lure of a weekday at home that is particularly hard to resist. When I tell people that, having lost my job earlier this year, I now work at home full-time, the response is usually one of envy: "You don't have to deal with office politics. You can get up whenever you want. You're your own boss. I bet your laundry pile is non-existent." For the most part, that's a pretty fair description. But I also know the flip side: the lack of interaction with others, the alienation from the outside world and the boredom of repetitive chores.

Amy Thomson, who lost her job as a visual merchandiser for a Dubai-based home interiors company six months ago, says: "I went from a highly creative and social job that involved meeting clients and creating interior designs to tidying away dishes, doing laundry cycles and having to ask my husband for money. It hit me pretty badly. "I like having a nice house; our furniture all matches and we are both quite clean and tidy, but I found myself starting arguments over things like discarded yogurt pots because I had spent the day tidying the house and felt that my husband, who was at work, didn't appreciate it."

Thomson struggled with the shift in balance that her homemaking had in their relationship. "Before, if there were clothes on the floor, he'd pick them up himself, but now he's started leaving them for me. I find that quite irritating." She secretly believes her husband enjoys being looked after. "He loves me being at home to see him off and have dinner waiting when he comes home. His shirts are ironed and the housework is always done. And it's not all bad. I do enjoy doing nice things for him and looking after him, even though if I had a choice, I'd rather not."

Thomson's iPod proved to be a saving grace. She downloads and listens to French lesson podcasts while she cleans. "At first I put on playlists but I decided to use my time at home to learn a language. I started listening to lessons while tidying the house to keep my brain active." That's a key to being happy at home, says Roghy McCarthy, a Dubai-based clinical psychologist. "If you find yourself at home, you should try and make the most of it. You can use the time to discover a talent you never knew you had."

McCarthy says those without career goals or with a set of unrealised ambitions can sometimes become depressed, unhappy and resentful. "In this day and age, most little girls don't grow up saying: 'I want to be a wife or mother.' No boy in the playground says: 'I want to be a husband and father.' They want to be an astronaut or a pilot. Being a stay-at-home spouse or parent is not just about coffee mornings. When you lose your career, you are losing self-esteem, confidence and the self-fulfillment that the career brings. You can lose some respect in the community, and your economic freedom."

Nick Langmead, an Australian who says he made an "ill-timed move into a real estate job" before the credit crunch hit Dubai, says being at home - while difficult at times - hasn't been all bad. "I'd been attracted to property because of the potential rewards, but after four months of not making a single sale or rental, I had to throw in the towel. While looking for a new job I've put more effort into other things like getting fit and eating more healthily, learning Norwegian because my girlfriend is Norwegian, and helping my family around the house."

For Langmead, this goes further than picking up a mop and ironing a few shirts. Since leaving his job he has become a carer for his mother, who was paralysed in a moped accident while holidaying in South Africa in 2008. "My mum broke her back and neck and I have done things like organising carpenters to build a wheelchair ramp, running her to doctors appointments and taking her to see friends. I've also been doing lots of housework and cooking. I like the cooking but not the housework so much. I do the washing up, take the rubbish out and hang out the washing. For me, it's more a case of keeping the place a bit cleaner and discovering those filthy bits that have never been touched."

Langmead admits that while he has been happy to help at home, he would prefer to be working full time. "There have been days with quite a bit of cabin fever. Even though I'm helping my mum and doing all these self-improvement things, I would still rather be bringing in some cash. Being at home hasn't been all bad, though, and it was even quite fun at first. I don't know if I could become a stay-at-home dad in the future. I don't think there is as much of a stigma attached to it but most blokes would rather be the breadwinner."

While redundancy is gender blind, it is usually the woman who takes on the role of homemaker when a baby arrives. Most women will give up work for at least a few months and it's not always an easy transition. "I went from presenting annual reports, reporting to company directors and organising international conferences with some of the biggest players in the industry to making frozen lasagnes and mating socks," says Tara Foster, who lives in Dubai. "I had been in charge of 30 people, taking home a salary that rivalled most of my friends' and driving a brand new BMW. Then I found myself asking my husband for grocery money and spending my days in an endless cycle of nappy changing. Some women adapt easily but I lost my self-esteem and became quite depressed and overweight."

Not all women fear becoming a Stepford wife. Emma Riedel, who runs a party planning company from home, deliberately eschews the services of a maid. "A maid will never do it as well as me," the 31-year-old Australian says. "I stopped working when I had my baby and thought there was not much point having a maid when I was home all day. I don't mind housework; I even enjoy it. I think a lot of people are in for a shock when they go back to their home countries and have to start doing it all themselves again.

"People say it's hard to run a home but it's easy. I tend to do everything quite quickly but then I find myself with little to do. But I would still rather be at home because that is why you have a child: to see those milestones and be there to raise them." Different people will react differently to being at home, and women shouldn't be hard on themselves when they make this transition, says Susan Ayers, a health psychology lecturer at Sussex University in the UK. "This is a massive period of change and adjustment and it is about what is right for both the mother and the baby. Any big change in life has the potential to be stressful but whether women are affected or not is individual. It depends on the woman's thoughts and expectations about being at home.

"Generally, people feel stressed when the demands placed on them are more than their resources to cope. So a woman who is not confident about coping with children and has few people to support her would find it very difficult. On the other hand, a woman who finds coping with children easy, has lots of support and is not confident in her career will find it much easier. Either way, women should prioritise themselves and the baby.

"At the end of the day, happiness is more important than housework."

The rules of the road keeping cyclists safe

Cyclists must wear a helmet, arm and knee pads

Have a white front-light and a back red-light on their bike

They must place a number plate with reflective light to the back of the bike to alert road-users

Avoid carrying weights that could cause the bike to lose balance

They must cycle on designated lanes and areas and ride safe on pavements to avoid bumping into pedestrians

Company profile

Date started: Founded in May 2017 and operational since April 2018

Founders: co-founder and chief executive, Doaa Aref; Dr Rasha Rady, co-founder and chief operating officer.

Based: Cairo, Egypt

Sector: Health-tech

Size: 22 employees

Funding: Seed funding 

Investors: Flat6labs, 500 Falcons, three angel investors


Name: Xpanceo

Started: 2018

Founders: Roman Axelrod, Valentyn Volkov

Based: Dubai, UAE

Industry: Smart contact lenses, augmented/virtual reality

Funding: $40 million

Investor: Opportunity Venture (Asia)


Northern Warriors 92-1 (10 ovs)

Russell 37 no, Billings 35 no

Team Abu Dhabi 93-4 (8.3 ovs)

Wright 48, Moeen 30, Green 2-22

Team Abu Dhabi win by six wickets


Starring: Lupita Nyong'o, Joseph Quinn, Djimon Hounsou

Director: Michael Sarnoski

Rating: 4/5

Mia Man’s tips for fermentation

- Start with a simple recipe such as yogurt or sauerkraut

- Keep your hands and kitchen tools clean. Sanitize knives, cutting boards, tongs and storage jars with boiling water before you start.

- Mold is bad: the colour pink is a sign of mold. If yogurt turns pink as it ferments, you need to discard it and start again. For kraut, if you remove the top leaves and see any sign of mold, you should discard the batch.

- Always use clean, closed, airtight lids and containers such as mason jars when fermenting yogurt and kraut. Keep the lid closed to prevent insects and contaminants from getting in.




Company name:

Started: June 2013

Founder: Alex Tchablakian

Based: Dubai

Industry: e-commerce

Initial investment: Dh10 million

Investors: Self-funded

Total customers: 300,000 unique customers every month


Director: Lee Isaac Chung

Starring: Glenn Powell, Daisy Edgar-Jones, Anthony Ramos

Rating: 2.5/5

What is Diwali?

The Hindu festival is at once a celebration of the autumn harvest and the triumph of good over evil, as outlined in the Ramayana.

According to the Sanskrit epic, penned by the sage Valmiki, Diwali marks the time that the exiled king Rama – a mortal with superhuman powers – returned home to the city of Ayodhya with his wife Sita and brother Lakshman, after vanquishing the 10-headed demon Ravana and conquering his kingdom of Lanka. The people of Ayodhya are believed to have lit thousands of earthen lamps to illuminate the city and to guide the royal family home.

In its current iteration, Diwali is celebrated with a puja to welcome the goodness of prosperity Lakshmi (an incarnation of Sita) into the home, which is decorated with diyas (oil lamps) or fairy lights and rangoli designs with coloured powder. Fireworks light up the sky in some parts of the word, and sweetmeats are made (or bought) by most households. It is customary to get new clothes stitched, and visit friends and family to exchange gifts and greetings.  



Name: SmartCrowd
Started: 2018
Founder: Siddiq Farid and Musfique Ahmed
Based: Dubai
Sector: FinTech / PropTech
Initial investment: $650,000
Current number of staff: 35
Investment stage: Series A
Investors: Various institutional investors and notable angel investors (500 MENA, Shurooq, Mada, Seedstar, Tricap)


Director: Michael Mann

Starring: Adam Driver, Penelope Cruz, Shailene Woodley, Patrick Dempsey

Rating: 3/5

Specs: 2024 McLaren Artura Spider

Engine: 3.0-litre twin-turbo V6 and electric motor
Max power: 700hp at 7,500rpm
Max torque: 720Nm at 2,250rpm
Transmission: Eight-speed dual-clutch auto
0-100km/h: 3.0sec
Top speed: 330kph
Price: From Dh1.14 million ($311,000)
On sale: Now

Brief scores:

Manchester City 3

Aguero 1', 44', 61'

Arsenal ​​​​​1

Koscielny 11'

Man of the match: Sergio Aguero (Manchester City)

Meydan racecard:

6.30pm: Al Maktoum Challenge Round 2 (PA) Group 1 | US$75,000 (Dirt) | 2,200 metres

7.05pm: UAE 1000 Guineas (TB) Listed | $250,000 (D) 1,600m

7.40pm: Meydan Classic Trial (TB) Conditions $100,000 (Turf) 1,400m

8.15pm: Al Shindagha Sprint (TB) Group 3 $200,000 (D) 1,200m

8.50pm: Handicap (TB) $175,000 (D) 1,600m

9.25pm: Handicap (TB) $175,000 (T) | 2,000m

10pm: Handicap (TB) $135,000 (T) 1,600m


Director: Mohamed Kordofani

Starring: Siran Riak, Eiman Yousif, Nazar Goma

Rating: 5/5


Round 1: Beat Leolia Jeanjean 6-1, 6-2
Round 2: Beat Naomi Osaka 7-6, 1-6, 7-5
Round 3: Beat Marie Bouzkova 6-4, 6-2
Round 4: Beat Anastasia Potapova 6-0, 6-0
Quarter-final: Beat Marketa Vondrousova 6-0, 6-2
Semi-final: Beat Coco Gauff 6-2, 6-4
Final: Beat Jasmine Paolini 6-2, 6-2

Most polluted cities in the Middle East

1. Baghdad, Iraq
2. Manama, Bahrain
3. Dhahran, Saudi Arabia
4. Kuwait City, Kuwait
5. Ras Al Khaimah, UAE
6. Ash Shihaniyah, Qatar
7. Abu Dhabi, UAE
8. Cairo, Egypt
9. Riyadh, Saudi Arabia
10. Dubai, UAE

Source: 2022 World Air Quality Report


1. Chad
2. Iraq
3. Pakistan
4. Bahrain
5. Bangladesh
6. Burkina Faso
7. Kuwait
8. India
9. Egypt
10. Tajikistan

Source: 2022 World Air Quality Report

The biog

Name: Marie Byrne

Nationality: Irish

Favourite film: The Shawshank Redemption

Book: Seagull by Jonathan Livingston

Life lesson: A person is not old until regret takes the place of their dreams

Company profile

Company name: Fasset
Started: 2019
Founders: Mohammad Raafi Hossain, Daniel Ahmed
Based: Dubai
Sector: FinTech
Initial investment: $2.45 million
Current number of staff: 86
Investment stage: Pre-series B
Investors: Investcorp, Liberty City Ventures, Fatima Gobi Ventures, Primal Capital, Wealthwell Ventures, FHS Capital, VN2 Capital, local family offices