Employing a nanny in Dubai
Choosing the right childcare can be a mothering minefield
Originally from the UK, Sarah Silvey was a nanny for 13 years and now juggles part-time studying with being a stay-at-home mum to her two boys Felix, seven, and Oscar, five. Sarah has had the same live-in maid since she arrived in 2008.
Karen Stock has been a stay-at-home mum to April, seven, and Beatrice, four, since moving to Dubai from the UK three years ago. She has an occasional babysitter but is considering childcare options as she’d like to return to work.
Samm Schnoor has two children here, Amber, seven, and Sonny, three. She runs her own catering business and has had two live-in nannies in Dubai since moving from South Africa six years ago.
Former nanny Jodi Boys has been a stay-at-home mum since moving to Dubai nearly three years ago from Australia. She has three children, Mia, nine, Chloe, seven, and William, two, and has a part-time maid.
What got us talking…
Living in Dubai with children and without family support can be tough on mums, which is why childcare – be it a live-in nanny, part-time nursery, or occasional hired help – is often a necessity. But with many expats unused to hired help, it’s no surprise they may find the childcare offerings a confusing and challenging prospect. Is nursery better than a nanny? How do you find good nannies? Are there issues with letting someone else bring up your child? We asked four mums with a variety of experiences and expectations, all about the childcare issue over lattes and pastries at More Café in Garhoud.
Is hired help a necessity here?
Jodi: I was working two jobs back home and, with my parents’ help, juggling to bring up the girls. When I first arrived, I refused any help, but soon realised that it made sense. I have a part-time maid who helps with housekeeping and occasional childcare.
Samm: I work, so it’s necessary, but I’m also used to help. I was brought up by a nanny in South Africa. It makes your life less complicated, having someone who can watch one child while you take the other to school.
Karen: I’ve been here three years without help, except an occasional babysitter. I wouldn’t have anyone at home, so why here?
What are the childcare options in Dubai and are they adequate?
Sarah: They call them nannies here but they’re really maids who can become a ‘mother’s help’. Though I don’t work, mine lives in and helps me with housework and occasional childcare. But I wouldn’t use her to do my ‘job’. I was a fully qualified nanny in the UK for 13 years – even as a childminder there, you need qualifications. The best you can expect here is nursing qualifications, which is why I wouldn’t entrust my children full-time to most maids here. I’ve heard of a company that offers basic nanny school for maids – I think that’s a really good idea for mums who work full-time.
Jodi: When you’re putting your trust in someone else to keep an eye on your child, that’s different. They don’t have the same motivation you have. If I had a young child and was working, I’d put them in a nursery. At least you know that they’re in a controlled environment with boundaries.
Karen: Yes, when I worked, my children were in nursery. They’re at school now and I’d like to return to work, but it’s a difficult decision because I’d have to find someone to look after them. I’d worry if they were safe or if they’d been dumped in front of the TV.
Sarah: I would either opt for a qualified nanny – so would probably hire from overseas – or send them to nursery, though you have to be careful with nurseries too. I know someone who works in admin at a nursery school here and she found herself being brought into classrooms to teach if a teacher was off sick, even though she’s not qualified to do so. I would be cross if that was my child. It is possible to work full-time and be a mum here, but you do need support and the problem is, outside of full-time nursery, where do you find that qualified and experienced support?
How do you find the right hired help and what criteria do you look for?
Sarah: Recommendations from reputable families are best. The family’s maid from across the road (they had employed her for 10 years) had a daughter-in-law who was looking for work, and we hired her. I asked for three references though, and spoke to all of them.
Samm: Common sense and initiative are important for me and can be surprisingly difficult to find. I looked for my nanny on Dubizzle – I felt that someone who had the initiative to create and upload an ad would have some common sense. You still have to teach them your way, but basics like common sense are a good start.
Jodi: Recommendation is key. I also deliberately chose a qualified nursery teacher. I’m happier knowing that when I leave the girls with her, she can, and does, do interactive things with them. I think a lot of the decision comes down to gut feeling – as a mother, you tend to get an instinct about someone.
Karen: I only have a babysitter, but even then I was particular. She’s a fully-qualified former teacher, which I feel comfortable with.
Time Out Dubai,