x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 20 January 2018

What life is like for stay-at-home dads in the UAE

The UAE is fast becoming home to a growing number of house husbands who love being stay-at-home dads and who claim to be pretty good at the chores.

The British expat David Baker, a stay-at-home father, with his children William, 7, left, and Matilda, 5. Christopher Pike / The National
The British expat David Baker, a stay-at-home father, with his children William, 7, left, and Matilda, 5. Christopher Pike / The National

While his mum Sarah works as a teacher in Abu Dhabi, the two-year-old Aiden has someone who cooks, cleans and takes him to playgroups – his dad.

The British resident Jonathan Weekes is one of a growing number of “house husbands” in the UAE who are happy to let their wives do the earning while they take care of the home. Weekes made the decision to give up his job as an IT manager and look after his son full-time when he and his wife moved here two years ago.

The family has a cleaner who comes to their flat on Reem Island once every other week; and the rest of the time Weekes does the housework. “But I gave up the laundry,” he says, after he managed to mess it up one day.

David Baker from the UK lives in Dubai with his Danish wife Helle Bach, and his children William, 7, and Matilda, 5. “It’s great being a house husband,” he says.

“The mums are all supportive, and a lot of dads are quite jealous of my lifestyle.”

Before moving to Dubai from Denmark in August, Baker worked as a facilities manager. His wife, an HR manager for an international oil and gas company, is now the breadwinner in the family.

Baker’s daily schedule involves taking the kids to school, shopping, play dates, a lot of driving and overseeing work at their villa. “When tradesmen come to the house, they think I have stayed off work especially for the day.”

When Baker first joined the Arabian Ranches Mums Facebook page, someone questioned his application because of his gender. But it was accepted, so now all the posts read “To Ladies and David”, and he meets up with the local mums regularly for coffee. But he adds: “It’s very important for me to meet their husbands first and get on well with them, so they don’t find it weird.”

His wife says: “David has been very good at the social side of things. He might go stir crazy in a year, I don’t know, but for now it’s working. And I can concentrate on my work.”

Weekes says he gets frustrated by some playgroups that discriminate against dads, especially with titles such as “Fun with Mum”, or “Play with Mum”, but it doesn’t put him off.

“I make a point to do something with Aiden once a day. We go to playgroup and gym, and meet up at friends’ apartments. Aiden’s a really well-adjusted boy. I have a couple of friends who are house husbands like me, who stay at home all the time.”

But Weekes points out that going out with small children brings up issues such as the lack of baby-changing facilities available for men to use.

Trips to the doctors can also create pitfalls.

“Aiden still desperately wants his mummy when he’s sick,” Weekes confesses.

Baker says, “Today, my son had to go to the doctors for a check-up and my wife found it hard not to be the one to take him. I had to tell her: ‘I have that under control.’”

His wife says: “It’s been a bit of a challenge for me because I used to be the one to do those jobs in Denmark, so it’s hard for me to let go of that control. To hand that over, it has been really scary – but also a relief.

“David doesn’t have to worry about the housework because we have a maid. I think she was surprised at first to have David as her main person to go to, and found it odd, but she’s fine with it now.

“In the end, the kids are happy and that has to be our measure of things. We didn’t want to have the nanny take care of the kids and neither of us see them. They had their worlds turned upside down when we moved here, but now they’re content and that’s because their dad’s dedicated to making sure they’re OK.”