After a summer overseas, we are back in Dubai – and I have to be honest, there really is no place like home.
Don’t get me wrong; we had a lovely time – but sharing the sofa with my parents every evening for two months, watching murder mysteries from the 1980’s, whilst dealing with 5am starts (who knew the sun rose so early in other parts of the world?), preparing meals in someone else’s kitchen, and arguing with the GPS lady as we negotiating unfamiliar roads, wasn’t exactly as idyllic as I had envisaged.
There was another factor too – as whilst I discovered a new-found respect for single mothers the world over as I cared for our two small humans alone, the husband was mostly home alone in the desert.
This leaves me with very mixed feelings. I felt sorry for him at times, as he wished he could join us in cooler climes for quality family time (hold the violin music and box of tissues, as he got to do that for a few weeks at the end), but mostly I just felt, well, pretty jealous.
In practicality, I’d never want to be away from my children that long – but let’s be honest, it sounds quite nice on paper. I’d get to discover everything I enjoyed about Dubai before I had children – the lazy days by the pool, the evenings meeting friends for relaxed drinks and chats, and the mornings lazing in bed before heading to an eatery for a long breakfast. I could go to the cinema in the afternoons and feel no guilt whatsoever. I could head to the gym or swim laps in the pool whenever I felt motivated. What fun! What freedom! I’d surely enjoy every second!
Dubai mothers that depart every summer know, however, that it is never quite like that in reality for the men in our lives. They enjoy the first few weekends of lazy lie-ins, trying desperately not to give the game away when we call them at 11am and they are still under the duvet (we know, we always know) – but some time during those early weeks, they realise they miss the pitter patter of tiny feet at 6am, the whir of the smoothie machine and pop of the toaster as breakfast gets started just minutes later, and the yells when the children fight over a box of cereal and send 10,000 mini hoops flying across the room.
It’s true, right? They miss us! They must do! Surely?
Whether I am convincing myself of that fact or not, I think he is happy to have us back. And now, normal life resumes.
Well not exactly – because things change in two months and he didn’t get the memo. Take, for example, yesterday morning. My husband walks into the lounge to find the toddler crying: “He needs his morning nap,” he announces, before scooping him up. ‘Well’, I interrupt, ‘He doesn’t actually have one anymore, he dropped it over the summer.’ My husband looks dumbfounded, before announcing: “Well he needs his milk then” and heads towards the kitchen to grab a bottle from the draining board. I block his path: ‘Well no, he doesn’t have morning milk any more. He dropped it over the summer.’ Looking slightly irritated, he says: “Well why is he crying? What can we do? What does he want?” I walk over, open a cupboard, and find a pack of rice cakes. ‘He wants his morning snack,’ I say, as I hold out the packet to the little one. He grabs them and a smile spreads over his tear-soaked face as if the last five minutes never happened.
And then there are the times I’ve been caught out. Like when the three-year-old announced during a supermarket visit: “Daddy, do you know what Mummy gives me if I am a good boy in the supermarket?” I tried to communicate with him through the medium of wide-eyed staring and head shaking that he shouldn’t give the game away, but there was no stopping him... “A lollipop! So I’ll choose one in a minute from the sweetie shelf? Yes Daddy?” My husband gave me a hard look, but I was busying myself studying labels of tinned vegetables (fascinating, you should try it).
We’ll get back in the swing of things soon enough and it will be like we’ve never been apart. But until then, I can guarantee that my husband will give me several more irritated looks when he realises that something else has changed - and that I will shoot them straight back when he tells me about the amazing film he watched one morning in bed when the kids were thousands of miles away being looked after by their exhausted, lollipop-wielding mother.
We had a wonderful time, I promise. But there really is no place like home.