x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 20 January 2018

Married life: After a long day, being with baby is what keeps us going

Friends with no kids can't help but forget that we have Baby A to contend with now.

Across the region, brides are donning their veils and grooms are shining their shoes. It’s wedding season in the Middle East and I’m really lamenting the fact that all this baby weight has yet to fall off. I’ve become seasoned at camouflaging bulges in a cocktail dress. If it weren’t for the fact that our friends would blacklist us for life if we begged off attending their wedding – and pre-wedding – celebrations, just because we couldn’t bear to leave our little girl behind, then nothing on Earth would have prompted Mr T and me to leave Baby A behind on an evening.

We’ve dealt with our fair share of teasing. “Better be careful or one day you’ll end up like my friend with the 8-year-old son who was in tears because she left him for the first time one weekend,” said one colleague. “When are you going to lift the self-imposed ban on going out without her? In 2018?” said another.

When Chris Tucker was in town a few months ago, my friend begged me to get a babysitter. If you’re Arab, you’d understand that Arabs don’t “do” sitters. I was horrified at the mere notion. And friends with no kids can’t help but forget that we have Baby A to contend with now. “You and Mr T should definitely head to Dubai and book at that hotel, dinner at their restaurant is absolutely sinful; so fancy and elite,” said a close colleague who had just returned from what he called “the best weekend ever”. Can I bring Baby A, I asked. “Oh, I forgot about your baby. Well, if you’re staying at the hotel, maybe you can ask the reception if they provide babysitting services?”

Then there’s the urging by well-meaning girlfriends to head out with them on a girls’ night out. “Just leave her with Mr T and come have some fun!”

My boss, noticing my abject terror at the idea that anyone but me would be allowed to get Baby A to bed, intuitively said: “Leaving kids always hurts the parents way more than it hurts the kids, especially at that age.”

Absolutely. This doesn’t even have anything to do with the crippling guilt of being a working mother who doesn’t feel right about leaving her baby to go have some fun seeing as she’s already forced to leave the baby in order to go to work. This is more than that – because I work and don’t get to see her for nine hours a day, I can’t drag myself away from her for the few hours I get to see her in order to go have some fun, despite how desperately Mr T and I might need a good night out.

And we do need it, as evidenced by the recent wedding we attended. Baby A was safely tucked in bed with grandparents presiding over Her Dictatorship, while Mr T and I slipped out to party the night away. And surprise, surprise. The world didn’t end, Baby A is not scarred for life and I didn’t have a panic attack in the middle of the wedding at the idea of being away from my baby. Life went on.

Sometimes I wonder if I’d be more willing to get a break from being a mum if I weren’t working full-time, or if I was on a year’s maternity leave, as is the case in countries like Canada or Denmark. I can imagine, then, needing a break sometimes.

But for now, Mr T and I can’t help ourselves. After a long day, being with Baby A is what keeps us going. And let’s be frank: if we were to go out on a “date”, the main topic of conversation would most certainly be Her Dictatorship. Because who else in the world would be willing to hear me talk non-stop about her but her own father, who just may be more obsessed with her than I?

Hala Khalaf is the deputy editor of Arts&Life

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