When I started this series, I wasn't so much interested in what it's like to live and parent in different countries as I was interested in hearing how women and mothers just like me deal with raising their own children far away from family and eventually having two places they call home. While we were in Switzerland, I felt so strongly that even though I loved it there, felt very much at home there and liked being a mother there, that I couldn't stay there. The pull to be closer to family and raise our children "at home" was overwhelmingly strong. It never really went away, ever. So when we finally left, I expected a huge sigh of relief to follow. But here I am, over two and a half years later, still missing Zurich and Switzerland and our life there in general. It feels like a catch-22.
Some of you may already know and follow expat mama blogger Corinne Fox of Mommy in Dubai. If not, I'm so excited to introduce you to her and her family and their time making a home far from home.
My name is Corrine, I am a 30 year old mama & blogger. Married with 2 children (Ruby 6 & Nate 3). I have been living in Dubai for almost 9 years. Next to my family whom I love and adore, my passion is crafting. I enjoy needle felting, making dolls and sewing. Usually small outfits for the kids and their dolls!
How (and when) did you wind up in Dubai?
I originally moved from Toronto, Canada to Dubai in February 2008, only 21 years old. This was shortly after I graduated from Media Arts. I had a nice job at an animation study smack downtown in Toronto (next to the famous Music Music). I had a lot of fun in my youth growing up in Toronto. Single life was great! But I also felt there was more to the do and see in the World. Boy was I right!
One summer I saw an advertisement in the paper that Emirates (the local airline carrier in Dubai) was hosting an open day in Toronto looking to hire flight attendants. Always one for an adventure and do something wild and crazy, I packed up my belongings and left my family in Canada to travel across the world to Dubai, UAE. What an experience and time I had! Not to mention all the friends I made, and interesting people I met. Sadly, all these years later, most of them now back in their own homeland.
On one of my long flights (one week trip) which took me to Bangkok and Sydney I met my husband. We dated almost immediately and then shortly thereafter we got married. My husband is Austrian, (not Australian) and no I did not marry a Sheikh! Although that sure would have been interesting! Fast forward 6 years, and we have been on crazy a roller-coaster ride of raising a family. I decided to be a SAHM like my mother was to my brother and I, which means putting everything on hold for the next few years to raise my littles.
What is a typical Dubai day for you and your family?
As typical as any other place except that it is always hot and surrounded by sand! I specifically chose to be a stay at home Mom because I did not want someone else raising my children. Ruby & Nate are now at school full time, so life is a little different than say last year! However, on days when they are home (they get tons of school holidays here) we have our old routines. Being an animal loving family, not only do I raise kids but I also now raise chickens!
The kids jump out of bed, gently run downstairs in their PJ’s and head outside. They love to check for eggs! Together we clean the coop, feed them, tend to our vegetable patch. I think these little traditions are helping to raise my children into beautiful, caring people. We then head inside for breakfast, and if the kids are lucky they may catch their favorite cartoon on Netflix (Daniel Tiger).
We drive into Dubai if we have any errands, events or venue reviews to attend. There is SO much to do and see living in Dubai and almost everything is catered towards families.
On weekends we occasionally go to a nice brunch or visit one of the many shopping malls. Our day is finished by either a trip to the Ocean, otherwise we go to our community pool. This is the best quality/bonding time with the kids! They love water!
What sort of things are quintessential Dubai - things you do on the weekends, things you couldn't do anywhere else?
Hrmmm...this is tricky. Everything in Dubai is very grand, so if you go for a brunch it’s always at a 5 star hotel. Not your typical Mom n’ Pop breakfast joint back home. The shopping malls come equipped with indoor aquariums that host sharks and other amazing sea creatures. Another mall has an indoor rain-forest with a live sloth and exotic birds on display! And of course the gorgeous beaches of the Persian Gulf! That’s one thing I will miss the most when we do move one day (who knows when).
Do you ever plan to move back to Canada?
We plan on leaving UAE one day in the future, although not too sure where we would like to settle down. One option is living in Vienna, or perhaps settling in Canada? The thing that scares me...is winter! Not easy for someone so used to the warm desert heat to be subjected to freezing cold winters! Wherever we do end up going, we know for certain we will make it home!
What do you miss from or maybe feel like you're missing out on in Canada?
I miss my family. Not being able to see them often is hard. Yes, we communicate daily via Facebook and Skype but it just is not the same. You miss out on family gatherings, birthdays, happy events and even the passing of loved ones. Being so far makes it almost impossible to get home within a few hours. My brother lives on the West Coast in Canada and my parents are alone in Toronto. I do miss the 4 seasons and there is nothing like Christmas in Canada with family.
How has moving to Dubai impacted you individually - as a mother, for your career, etc? Would you say it's been more of a boon or a sacrifice?
This is what I know best, raising my family here in Dubai. I have never known any other way of doing it. Of course if I was in Canada or Austria, I would have the help of family to assist with the kids. Maybe give me more breaks to continue doing the things I love (taking art classes) but I manage in my own way. I do also miss working in the film industry. and if I was in Canada I know for sure I could slip right back into it...
What advice would you give to someone moving to Dubai?
Remain humble, do not forget where you came from and save your money. Do not compete with the Jones's, it can get you into trouble. I know so many who spent money without a care and went back home poorer than when they arrived.
What is your schooling plan for your children?
Both of my children, go to a private school. That is the norm here. Education does not come cheap that’s for sure! For my 3 year old son, schooling is upwards of $10,000 USD. Each year that they go up a grade the price increases. Imagine when we they are teens! Yikes! I do love the fact that they are taught in both English (as a primary language) and Arabic (as a second language). Both of my kids have embraced the language and culture of the Emarati people. It makes me very proud. I love to hear them chatting in Arabic at home (even though I don’t understand) or singing songs. It’s wonderful!
Do you feel any pressure from family or friends to move back home?
My family is very supportive no matter what my decisions are. Friends back home often ask when I will move back. The answer is always the same “I don’t know”. My husband's family wishes he would move back, I know that. But at the end of the day, we are trying to make a comfortable life for both our children and ourselves. Sometimes you have to make sacrifices. In this case it is have a long distance relationship with family. Not an easy one either!
How often do you go home to visit in Canada? What are visits typically like - length, etc?
I am very lucky that my husband works for Emirates, which means numerous complimentary tickets and discounted airfare. I usually fly back to Canada 2 – 3 times per year. I come for the summer with the kids usually mid-June, right after school is over until mid-August. During this time we have the kids signed up for summer camps, sports camps and craft camps. We do some local touring of Ontario i.e. Niagara Falls, Canada’s Wonderland, Centre Island, trips on the Subway, trains etc.
Last summer we went to Chicago. We also have family coming from Montreal to visit and usually my brother and his wife are able to come and spend a few days with us as well. My second trip of the year is one I usually take alone, usually for a bloggers convention or family occasion. And the third trip of the year is around the Christmas holidays. We usually come for about 2 weeks prior to Christmas and then we either fly back home to Dubai or to Vienna to spend with my husband’s family. Otherwise his family fly out to Dubai to spend the holidays with us.
What about people coming to visit you?
We get lots of visitors, sometimes it feels like a bed and breakfast! Family come often and distant family, occasionally some friends come while on a stopover to Dubai for a few days. It's never boring around our house.
Is there anything else you'd like to add?
I started blogging almost 4 years ago, at that time I was pregnant with Nate and diagnosed with cervical cancer. Thank goodness for my angel Nate, otherwise I never would have known I had cancer! When I was twelve weeks pregnant with him, it was mandatory for me to have surgery to remove the cancer. There was a great fear I might lose the baby. Someone above was looking after us. After the surgery, I was very much limited with activities and bed-ridden halfway through my pregnancy. I had a cerclage inserted and was even limited in walking.
Thank you so much, Corrine for your honest and heartfelt answers! If you would like follow Corinne's expat mama journey, read her blog, Mommy in Dubai and follow her on Instagram.
PS - Read more Expat Mamas interviews here: Doris, Kate, and Johanna.
PS - Read more Expat Mamas interviews here: Doris, Kate, and Johanna.