A big 'thank you' to everyone who submitted questions for this Q&A post via my Instagram and my blog; I really appreciate your interest and have tried to answer all your questions in as much detail as possible. So, here we go...!
What are your biggest interests and passions in life? (Sara)
Good question! I have quite a lot... I'm very interested in properties: architecture, house design, interior design, landscape design, the real estate market etc. I also really love cars, and have done ever since I was little. As a child I collected toy cars and played with them more than dolls! Everyone who knows me knows that I'm passionate about football and I grew up supporting Fulham FC in England. After working in UAE football for the past 5 years and being consumed only by local matches, it has been nice to reignite my interest in watching the English Premier League since I left my job. And I guess I'm into fashion too, although I'm certainly not a fashionista. I'd say my style is quite classic, and I'm not overly adventurous with clothes, but I'm more into shoes, bags and accessories added to a simple outfit.
Can you speak Arabic and give some examples on your insta story? (Anonymous)
I can understand a lot more than I can actually say, but I'm getting there... I'm just shy to make mistakes! But communicating with my mother-in-law has forced me out of my comfort zone and made me brave enough to just talk and not worry about my grammar being perfect. She doesn't speak English, so the main thing is for my points to be understood, and she will forgive my grammatical errors. Inshallah I will speak in Arabic for you on my insta story in the next few days, but please don't laugh at my accent!
How did you learn to speak Arabic? I live in the UAE and plan to stay, but don't even know where to begin learning Arabic! (Anonymous)
I have a background of learning languages, and studied French, German and Latin in school until I was 18. I'm fluent in French and German. But with Arabic I sort of picked it up by osmosis; just by listening to people around me, figuring it out, and asking them to help me understand. I'm lucky that I've always been surrounded by locals ever since I moved here, whether it be my friends or at work, so that helped me to pick up Emirati Arabic. But as a language student I would definitely love to take proper classes sometime and learn all the correct grammar. I've heard Al Ramsa Institute is the best in town for learning Emirati Arabic - you should give it a try!
How did you meet your husband? (SO many people asked this!! haha)
I was working in the same field as him for 5 years. Although we didn't work directly together or work for the same company, our paths crossed from time to time, and after a few years (yes, years!) we finally got talking. So basically we met through work.
How did you know that you wanted to marry your husband? (Anonymous)
I had always said since I was very young that it would be my dream to marry my best friend. He very quickly became my best friend above all else; we share a similar sense of humour, we are always discussing ideas and challenging each other intellectually, and we both have similar interests and ambitions. He always treated me with the utmost respect. When he asked me to marry him I had no hesitation in saying yes.
How did your husband's family react to him marrying a non-Emirati? (Amna)
I have been very lucky in my experience with my husband's family; I know a lot of people in my situation have a really difficult time being accepted. Fortunately my husband's family have been supportive right from the start. When he first told them that he wanted to marry me, of course they asked for us all to meet. So we went for dinner with his mother, sisters and brother - I was terrified!! It started off like a job interview/interrogation (!!!) but ended up with us all laughing together as friends. At the end of the dinner, my husband's mother told him to bring me to the family house next time and she would cook lunch for me. At that point everyone round the table started celebrating and said "It's official: you've been approved!!!"
I'm immensely grateful to my mother-in-law for how welcoming and how fair she has always been towards me. My husband and I are quite simple and would've been happy just to get married by signing in court, without a big party, but my mother-in-law was adamant that I deserved the same treatment as any local wife would get, and so we did have a traditional wedding. She wanted to show me to her friends, extended family, and the community, and show that they are happy to have me as a member of their family. She also insisted that I get the same amount of mahr as my elder brother-in-law's wife, even though I didn't ask for any at all. But she said I should be valued equally, and I can't express how much that meant to me as a principle. We have a wonderful relationship, and I also love my sisters-in-law as if they were my own sisters.
What has been the biggest challenge to you about being involved with an Emirati husband and in-laws? (Fatma)
Of course there are some cultural differences with my in-laws... even when planning the wedding party, we had some differences of opinion on the style of the setup, the style of dress, the number of guests etc... But I think that's normal in any family, right?! We always managed to come to very amicable compromises and never had any major issues at all al7amdellah. Since having Baby Z, again, there are some cultural differences in terms of child-rearing practices...but as long as I explain my reasoning for doing things a certain way (for example waiting until 6 months to start solid foods, instead of starting at 3 or 4 months) then they are always very accepting and understanding.
I would say the biggest challenge for me with regards to my husband being Emirati is not being able to share his identity the way it would be so normal to do so in my culture. It has been challenging trying to explain it to people back home too; for example, they really don't understand why I don't post him on my social media - not even mentioning his name or tagging his account - and vice-versa. I think in the UK and in the western world in general, we are very public about relationships and certainly if a couple is married, it would be expected for everyone to know that they are husband and wife, and they are usually both very proud to show each other off. But here it's different and I respect that. Having said that, I really love the way there are Emirati couples like Salama Mohamed and Khalid Al Ameri, as well as my dear friends Hind Beljafla and Majid Al Qassimi, who are proud to share their love on social media these days. I think it's very inspiring, especially for the younger generations.
Why don't you post your face on Instagram? Does your husband not allow you to? (Anonymous)
It's not that he doesn't allow me to, but once we knew that we were getting married he said he would prefer me not to. So I deleted all pictures of my face and didn't post anymore. At first I felt a bit like I lost my identity on Instagram, but then I realised that it wasn't necessary to show my face in order to connect with people and share my experiences. The purpose of my account is not to publicise the way I look, and once I found a way to tell my stories in a way that is true to my own character I understood that there was no reason to share my face anymore. I have a private account for family and friends only, where I can share pictures of myself and pictures with my husband with the people that matter the most to me in a safe and private space. So that's the compromise we came to and we are both happy with it.
What are some of your goals for this year? (Anonymous)
This is the first year where I've actually written a list of goals for 2018 on paper. Last year, as I mentioned in a previous post, I felt very unproductive professionally, but that's because I was busy being productive physically by growing and birthing a baby(!), so I should really cut myself some slack. But this year my main targets are to complete my Property Development qualification (which I am doing via distance learning from a UK university), to improve my blog and social media content and grow my following, to embark on a new business venture which I have recently partnered with and hope to introduce to the market in the next few months, and on a more personal note, to get my fitness level back and work out to achieve my best possible post-baby body. Also, as someone who has always been financially independent, I feel it's very important for me to start contributing financially to our household again. I've earned my own income since I started working at the age of 16, and I'm not used to relying on anyone else. I understand the culture here that the wife takes a salary from her husband, and I appreciate the opportunity it gave me to rest and focus on our home life when I was pregnant and adjusting to motherhood, but now it's time for me to start working towards achieving our ambitions again.
Are you going to start working? And if yes, where? (Anonymous)
I started working part-time while I was still at school, and then full time as soon as I finished school 18, and I didn't stop working until February last year. But now I'm in the fortunate position whereby I don't need to work. What I have decided is that I don't want to work for someone else; I don't want to have to report to anyone and I don't want to be based in an office. I want to be my own boss, and I have started to work on some projects already in order to make that happen inshallah.
What are the most important things to buy for a newborn? (Anonymous)
- Nappies!!! But I wouldn't advise bulk-buying Size 1 nappies just in case your baby is quite big and goes straight into Size 2 or 3... Baby Z was in Size 1 for the first 4 weeks but then jumped straight to Size 3. Sizes are hard to predict, and that's why I would recommend holding off from bulk-buying until after your baby has arrived.
- Full-length 100% cotton sleep suits in Newborn and 0-3 Months sizes (with fold-over sleeves, so you don't need to worry about scratch mitts)
- 2 or 3 100% cotton hats in Newborn size
- Swaddling blankets (preferably cellular blankets - the ones with little holes in for breathability)
- Car seat
- I really do recommend a SleepyHead (Deluxe size) - it was the only thing Baby Z would sleep in when he was born. He NEVER used his Moses basket! I would also recommend getting a spare cover for it because your baby will inevitably spit up and/or pee on it, so you'll need to have one in the wash and one on the pod!
- Pacifiers (they usually come in packs of 2) - Baby Z likes the MAM and Avent brands
- A barrier cream (to prevent nappy rash) - I recommend Metanium, which is available from Boots and on Mumzworld
- If you are planning to breastfeed - I recommend getting a pump. I used a manual Tommee Tippee pump and an electric Medela Swing pump.
- If you are planning to express your breastmilk and/or formula feed, you will need plenty of bottles... Start off with the small 120ml or 150ml bottle size for a newborn. I recommend the Tommee Tippee 'Closer to Nature' anti-colic vented bottles.
- You will also need a steriliser for any bottle feeding - again, I recommend the Tommee Tippee electric steam steriliser.
- If you will be formula feeding I highly recommend getting the Tommee Tippee Perfect Prep machine - it will make your life MUCH easier!
I would say those are the main essentials... Each baby is different and will have differing requirements and needs, so just keep in mind that you will not be able to be 100% prepared, and you may also find that you buy things which never get used!
Did you face any issues after your thyroid removal and hormonal imbalances in order to get pregnant? (Anonymous)
Al7amdellah no, I didn't have any fertility issues at all, which I am sincerely grateful for because I know that thyroid and hormone imbalances can be major causes of infertility. But often if there is a fertility issue caused by thyroid levels, it can be solved by taking the correct dosage of synthetic thyroid stimulating hormone and regulating the TSH levels.
Are you planning on more children? And if you have a girl what would you name her? (Anonymous)
I think for now I'm just happy to focus on raising Zayed, and I would ideally like a gap of around 2-3 years between him and the next one. I don't have any brothers or sisters and I always said I would want to have more than one child, so inshallah we will be blessed again when the time is right. We have a few options for potential girls' names but nothing specifically chosen yet - it's still up for debate!
How do you cope with not seeing your family every day and adjusting to life in Dubai? (Anonymous)
I've been here for 6 years now so it definitely got easier with time; especially now that I have created my own family here. But I didn't find it that difficult to make the transition, even though the first year living abroad was most certainly the hardest in terms of the emotions of being away from my mother and my grandparents. With technology these days it's easy to communicate and stay in touch with people back in the UK.
Will your mum move to Dubai? (Anonymous)
No, I don't think she ever would. She's very attached to her life in London. She's been here to visit a few times and loves it, and hopefully she will be coming to stay again quite soon. But I don't think she would ever leave London behind.