Tuesday, 12 June 2018

Parenting Expat Children

Not all expat parents, parent this way, but in Dubai, some do manage to absolve themselves completely of the role and hand over full responsibility to others. Despite having lived abroad for 4 years in South Africa and 3 1/2 years in Dubai, we've never employed a maid or a nanny.

I'm not comfortable having someone living in my home full time and it's a huge responsibility in regards to their visa and has financial implications. For the first 3 years of life abroad we had 2 of the children living with us. Occasionally I would pay someone to do the ironing and we paid a gardener, but little ironing or gardening ever really got done.

In South Africa we didn't live in an expat community, we just rented a house on an estate, there were very few British people around, in Dubai that community is made up of expats. Only 21% of the population are Emirati's.

90% of those expats who have their spouse and children living here, have at least a part time maid, but most people who can afford it have a full time maid and/or nanny.

There is no police check required to live or work in Dubai, yes seriously, I wasn't even asked for one when I was teaching. But unlike Teachers, maids and nannies do not have to be qualified in child care to take on almost 24/7 responsibility for the families children. A monthly salary for a nanny is between £400 & £600 a month, it will often include 1 trip home a year, accommodation which is a small room and shower and medical aid.

While some parents are both working, many mothers aren't and yet the nanny does 99% of the parenting, or rather supervision of the children. I'm not singling out any nationalities and I am generalising (from personal experience) I'm also British and I will say what I'm about to say does not exclude them either.

Parenting is to be or act as a mother or father to someone. To me this includes the basics below:
  • raise/bring up
  • look after/nature
  • take care of
  • educate/lead by example
  • discipline
As well as supporting the child's physical, emotional, social and intellectual development.

It DOES NOT mean leaving your child to be supervised by someone else 24/7.

Take a typical walk around the mall, nannies pushing the prams, chasing after toddlers, carrying the bags.

Visit a restaurant and nannies sit on the children's table, running back and forth to the toilet and spoon feeding the children even at school ages.

Go to a park, parents often not present, nannies running after the children, picking them up when they fall.

Visit the pool again parents often not present. Maid/nanny on their phone, taking a break from picking up after the kids all the day and cleaning the house, children in the pool unsupervised.

When you trust your children to the care of another, that does not resolve you from any responsibility, nor does it give you the right to scream abuse at the person you've handed this responsibility over to. As the child's parent you have a duty of care to ensure that your child is in a safe environment, that they are guided and supported and heaven bid that they may be disciplined from time to time, to teach them values.

As a teacher, I discovered many parents thought their 4/5 year old was toilet trained. As the nanny was around 24/7 changing wet clothes, taking the child to the toilet and on some occasions still having the child in nappies, the parent was none the wiser because a) the nanny didn't tell them and b) they never did anything with their child without the nanny around.

When asking the nanny why she didn't tell the parent, she would reply 'I will lose my job'

Sadly the nanny is often stuck between a rock and a hard place. If they discipline the child and the child complains to a parent, they are also disciplined. Nannies are also maids responsible for cleaning the house, clearing up after meals, the families laundry and almost everything else.
They work long hours and it has only been in 2018 that a law was implemented to ensure nannies and other employees, work no more than 12 hours a day and must have a period of 8 hours in a row as a break, to ensure they get enough sleep.

The other week a child was having a melt down in the street, the other children had been withdrawn by their nannies and this child was lying on the floor, screaming and actually kicking the nanny. I asked him to calm down and what the matter was, he lashed out and ran off, the nanny just smiled and followed him, he hit her again, she backed off. I stuck my head through the open door of the villa and yelled 'please come and parent your own child' 10 minutes later I can hear the mother screaming at the nanny not to embarrass her again in front of the neighbours, a few minutes later the child was back outside with the nanny following at a distance.

As a member at the local swimming pool, I see children as young as 18 months, left totally unsupervised in the pool, with floats and toys. The nanny will often be on their phone or talking to another nanny. The children run around, the life guard will ask them not to run, but they ignore him. No one speaks to the nanny or heaven forbid even tell the child NOT to run if the parent is actually present.

It's not just the nannies though who are frightened they will lose their job if a complaint is made. Security and restaurant staff turn a blind eye to a lot of things also. Their response when I ask them why they don't say anything is 'I will lose my job if the parent complains about me'

I've been run into by a child riding a bike in a sports shop. I asked 'whose child is this? Please parent them' the parent just walked over to the child and told them to ride elsewhere. Security gave me a half smile.

In restaurants parents will sit and enjoy their meal, while kids run feral with the nanny chasing them around to make sure she knows where they are.

The nannies and the parents in these situations provide no guidance or discipline. They don't tell the children that their behaviour is unacceptable, they don't ask the child to turn the volume down or ask them not to disturb other people. They let them do what they want, when and how they want and if challenged, they will often ignore you and you'll not get any back up or support from the staff as they're frightened they're lose their jobs.

The parents don't give the nanny authority to parent the child or discipline them. The child often has little or no respect for the nanny. The nanny in effect just follows the child around, wipes their mouth and their backside and lets them do what they want, making sure they get returned at the end of the evening.

This is a huge problem for society in the future. Children without boundaries, awareness of other people, entitlement (you see this in a lot of the adults here) few manners, the problems children will face when they return to their home countries, attending new schools, not having maids and nannies, having to tidy their own bedrooms, have restricted pocket money and still expecting the best of everything,

I challenge this and any other unsafe practice I witness. My husband tells me to keep out of it, but as a former Child Welfare Officer and a teacher, I'm unable to ignore unsafe practice.

I don't know when life became so hectic that people had to employ full time nannies to look after their children, especially when not working. I have been informed for a lot of expats, it's security. They're thousand of miles from home with no family support either.


  1. Yes it provides security for the rainy day... but there is a big difference between having security and handing over your parenting responsibilities to someone else. And the worst is raising kids who have a sense of entitlement and feel (actually know) they can get away with “murder”

    1. sadly it wasn't just Dubai, saw too much of this in SA also

  2. There's been a lot of stuff in the press here about children not being toilet trained and ready for school here Suzanne. Obviously not for the reasons you have talked about here though. This is obviously a big thing where you are with the nannies. It sounds more as though having a nanny is a lifestyle thing there and I can see why that would make one wonder where it is all heading. Different strokes, different folks I guess. Interesting post. Thanks for sharing with us at #tweensteensbeyond

    1. yep, lifestyle for sure. I worked as a nanny in the UK and it was very different

  3. I think my image of a nanny is someone strict and firm, with definite notions on how children should behave - these nannies seem very different. Not only are parents opting out of responsibilities but it seems the nannies are too. It would be interesting to know how difficult these children find it to fit in when they leave their rather pampered lives in Dubai #tweensteensbeyond

    1. i dread to think, so many entitled people coming into the world

  4. I spent a period as a single mum and a nanny in inverted commas was the best option, someone who could be there when I couldn't but there were times when it all fell apart because there was and still is a limit to the number of hours someone could work and the clock started ticking as soon as she arrived so allow travelling time there and back, it was never enough. It was for me as a parent very stressful. I also found that no-one looks after your children the way you do or would. Add to that the money you spend someone else to look after your child and you get why so many mums walk away from a career. It's tough. I think it's better now than in my day but there is no easy answer. #TweensTeensBeyond

    1. I worked as a nanny 15 years ago and it was very different, i was to parent the way the parents wanted, i had little leeway

  5. It is interesting to hear about lifestyles in other countries. I don't agree with Nannies, but support for those who have to work is good. My Mother in Law watched Ben when I used to work in an office but now I work from home, she has him twice a week so I can get most of the work done then as the twins arent too difficult to work around. It can be done, so I guess it's seen as a luxury? But a luxury I wouldnt indulge in. I want to see my kids grow up into the person I shaped them to be!
    Thank you for sharing this with us at #TriumphantTales. I hope to see you back next week!

    1. no it's not something i would do and I wouldn't recommend it to others either,

  6. It sounds nuts. Ridiculous to absolve all responsibility especially if not working. Nannies are often so young they don't have children themselves, so the parents need to ensue there's clear boundaries.

    I've got a friend in Dubai at the moment - she was an expat as a child until she was 10 as well, she's got a 7, 5 and 4 yo. In the UK when she went back to work after the 3rd, they had a nanny for the school run in the morning, and after school care, and looking after the 3rd but it wasn't live in, so it was more like a childminder in their own home. Now they're in Dubai but she's not working, so they have a maid, but no nanny. The children are mostly at school/nursery so the mum has plenty of time to enjoy and get out and meeting people without handing all the care to others.

    1. it sounds like your friend has the right balance, but even with a maid sometimes the children have little idea how to behave as the maid does everything for them

  7. It sounds like a disaster in the making - responsibility with no authority, poor nannies. It also sounds like a horrible example of privilege gone mad. A generation on whom there are no checks and balances because they hold too much power. It just doesn't seem like a sustainable situation. This was a real eye-opener Suzanne and a fascinating read. Thanks so much for sharing with us at #TweensTeensBeyond

    1. I'm sure there are plenty of people where it does work out, especially when there are no family members around, but in general it's not good

  8. Hi Suzanne, it does make you wonder why some people have children. When I first met my sister-in-law, she was eleven and had a closer bond with her nanny/ house maid than with her parents and I found that so sad. It was all a different world to me and not one I felt comfortable in... And if parents need to hire a nanny they shouldn't berate them for disciplining the child (within reason) they should thank them for at least trying to help them develop into well rounded, decent adults... Just thinking about what those children grow up to be like is enough to make me shudder!

    Thank you for linking up with #keepingitreal


    1. when we lived in South Africa there were so many children that spent more time with their nannies than they did their parents