Every Friday, Denise Hession, who left Cork to live in Abu Dhabi, pens a dispatch on life as an emigrant
ISOLATION, boredom and borderline insanity are all associated by-products of expats’ wives — and moreover expat young mothers.
Being a natural organiser and also keen to determine whether my one-year-old is anti- social or just naughty, I decided to start a play group every Wednesday for mums and toddlers — “bring a toy and one to share” was the tagline, although I was mindful that the last time I’d heard that was at an Ann Summers Party in Cork.
Attending a playgroup was never some- thing I would have envisaged doing, but 14 hours of Disney Channel with Handy Manny, Mickey Mouse and Jungle Junction can wilt the brain. When you find yourself singing the hot dog dance after the tot is asleep you know you’re in trouble and need to meet adults fast, before you start referring to yourself in the third person, “Mommy said No, Mommy will do it, Mommy’s going mental!”
The first meeting was attended by three fabulous young mums and their adorable kids. I chatted to the other two and we decided the group was a hit. The task for next week was to try to bring one extra person each, to widen our children’s circle of friends and perhaps extend the net for gossip-mongery.
Chat flowed easily and having so much in common, as expat stay-at-home mums, meant we could empathise with each other’s situations. The children whinged and were given snacks to suppress the discontent. Heaven.
The day of the second meeting, I received a text from one of the founders. She had an appointment but really didn’t want 15-month-old Trixie to miss playgroup, so she had arranged for her maid, Shangi, to bring her instead. Would it be OK for Shangi to mix with us other mighty mortals?
No problem, I said; I would never leave any- one out. I allowed myself a self-satisfied smile, the group was going just the way I wanted, multi-national, diverse and western- led, brillo!
The meeting went well, there were two new recruits. The four of us sat smiling politely across the room at Trixie’s maid, as she sat on the floor playing with her charge, while we chatted among ourselves.
The next week, I decided to up the ante to perhaps entice a few more mums to the group so I brought a flask of coffee — nothing like a nice cuppa with the oul chinwag.
At 10.30, I was setting up the snack table and the texts started flying in, Sarah had a mani-pedi at 11 and doubted she could make it, Anais had to rush to meet a friend for lunch and Kira was unavoidably detained. The good news was, each of their maids would bring along the children; it was a one-off. Next week, the full compliment would be back.
So, this week, I arrived at the group with pre-packed snacks, no coffee and waning enthusiasm. I set up the snack table alone and got just the one text, from Kira who was again, unavoidably detained. The maids started flying in with toddlers in tow.
I stood by the snack table; it was me and seven maids. Gone with the notion of playgroup providing the perfect platform for me to meet new friends, but I noticed that the chairs were packed neatly by the wall and the maids were sitting on the floor, getting down with the toddlers. They played, laughed and shared toys — just what you’re meant to do at a playgroup I suppose.
Then the circle broke and Shangi, Trixie’s maid, came to me and said: “Would you like to sit with us? We don’t like to leave you alone.” The gesture was welcomed and the message wasn’t lost.
Read Denise’s musings every Friday in the Cork Evening Echo