by Annabel Kantaria

Whether here or in your home country, you can usually divide women into two camps: those who work, and those who don’t. Throw motherhood into the mix and you often get quite a heated debate between the working mums and the stay-at-home mums: who has the tougher time? Who’s made the biggest sacrifices?

But, in the UAE, that clear-cut boundary is blending faster than pineapple in a NutriBullet. Perhaps because of the difficulties involved getting credible part-time work in the UAE, we now have another, significant category: the work-at-home mum, aka the ‘mumpreneur’. You know her: she’s the one at the ARTE market each month selling whatever beautiful thing it is she creates on her kitchen table while the kids are at nursery. Or she’s the one who freelances as a PR, photographer or web designer; she’s the lady who imports those kooky gifts you can’t find in shops here; the businesswoman who set up that successful SME; the creative who now runs a designer dress agency or writes a profitable blog.

And, as we all know, the work-at-home mum, or WAHM, is the poster girl for a balanced lifestyle. She’s there for the kids when they need her and she runs her home like clockwork, yet she manages to keep her career alive, dabbling her elegant fingers in whatever she pleases to raise a second income. Lucky lady: she’s the envy of working mums so frazzled they don’t know how many children they have, as well as of stay-at-home mums missing the clothes, the colleagues, the travel and the perks of their previous incarnation as Vice President of Something Important That Absolutely Cannot Be Done Part-Time.
But before you start sticking jealous pins into a mini figure of WAHM, take a minute to remember what the ‘W’ stands for: Work.

Just because she’s at home doesn’t mean WAHM’s lolling about on the sofa watching daytime TV or, worse, diving back under the duvet the moment she gets back from the school run (much as she might want to). What WAHM actually has is most of the stresses of a full-time job without the support, resources – or pay cheque – of a full-time employer.
And, despite what you – or WAHM’s visitors over for a fortnight and wondering why she can’t just drop everything and take them to the mall / beach / Abu Dhabi – might think, she’s not sitting around all day checking that her nail polish is dry. She’s not waiting by the phone for you to call and ask her out for coffee and she’s certainly not pouncing on her phone every time the school WhatsApp group pings as the class mums analyse the new teacher’s sartorial style.

Far from it: at 7.30am, the WAHM is rocketing about the kitchen in her gym kit making Nigella’s Rocky Road for the kids’ after-school snack with one hand while waiting on hold to the government licensing department. She’s spent the weekend pre-cooking the week’s suppers so she can grab 45 minutes at the gym three times a week, and she knows she’ll be up till midnight to make a work deadline because the afternoon’s going to be spent driving the kids to rugby and netball while listening to the smallest child practice her reading in the back of the car.

WAHM’s at home and that’s wonderful, but it also means she’s always available, always on call to everyone, be it a work contact, a child or the a/c technician, and that brings its own challenges: work call to the States with three toddlers fighting at her ankles? You can guarantee there’ll be tears before bedtime, and I don’t mean the kids’.

No: WAHM may give the impression of being swanlike but, trust me, those big, webbed feet of hers are paddling frantically under the surface to keep up that air of calm and professional control you see at the school gates. Far from being fancy-free and leading a balanced life, what WAHM actually does each day is cram a full-time job into part-time hours while trying to keep the house running as well as a stay-at-home mum would. So, please, on behalf of my fellow WAHMs, let me gently point out 10 things never to say to her:

“So, what do you do all day?”
“Do you think you’ll ever go back to work?”
“You’re at home: why don’t you volunteer to be parent rep?”
“I’d stay at home, too, if my husband earned enough!”
“Let’s meet up for coffee! I’ve nothing on this week…”
“I’d be so bored if I spent all day at home.”
“I’d love not to have to go to work.”
“What did you used to do when you worked?”
“What do you do with all that free time?”
And that absolute conversation killer: “So, what does your husband do?”

This article appeared first in Stylist Magazine @sylist_Arabia on Instagram.

It was written by Annabel Kantaria (below), who is a mother, journalist and author of Coming Home. Her second novel, The Disappearance, will be published in Spring 2016. @BellaKay on Twitter.

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Feature image credits: Jess at www.whatwouldkarldo.com

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