Isolation, boredom and borderline insanity are all associated by-products of expats wives and moreover expat young mothers. Being a natural organizer and also keen to determine whether my one year old is anti-social or just naughty, I decided to start a playgroup, every Wednesday morning for mum’s and toddlers,” bring a toy and one to share” was by the by-line, mindful that the last time I’d heard that strap line was at an Ann Summers Party in Cork. I had toyed with the line, “Come for a gossip and bring a kid”, but decided to keep it simple. Hey ho, unfortunately life moves on and I had a tonne of strawberries to peel and slice for the busy toddlers before playgroup at eleven.
Attending a playgroup was never something that I would have envisaged myself going to in the past but fourteen hours of Disney Channel with Handy Manny, Mickey Mouse and Jungle Junction can wilt the brain. It’s when you find yourself singing the hot dog dance, after the tot is asleep that you know you’re in trouble and need to meet adults fast, before you start using baby-talk and 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 instantly decided that the group was a hit. The time and venue would stand and 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 living away from home and having young children, we could empathise with each other’s situations immediately. The children whinged and were given snacks to suppress the discontent. Heaven.
The morning of the second meeting, I received a text from one of the original founders, a week prior, she had an appointment but really didn’t want fifteen month old Trixie to miss playgroup, so she had arranged for her maid, Shangi to bring Trixie along instead. Her query was would it be ok for Shangi to mix with us other mighty mortals. “No problem” was my response; I would never leave anyone out. I smiled a self satisfied smile to myself, the group was going just the way I wanted, multinational, diverse and western led, brillo! The meeting went well, there were two new recruits. The four of us, sat on the chairs smiling politely across the room at Trixie’s maid, she sat on the floor, playing with Trixie and the other children while us ladies, chatted among ourselves. Gossip was thin on the ground, other than a girl in Zone 3, was seen feeding her child chicken nuggets which had an unacceptably high level of sodium. (Note: I’m not sure whether the level was unacceptably high for children in general or just some of the moms in Abu Dhabi)
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. Ten thirty on the button, I’m setting up the snack table and the texts start flying in, Sarah had a mani-pedi at eleven 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. All the children gravitated to where the four mommy representatives sat on the floor, leaving the yummy mummies talk the same conversation that was talked the week before.
This week, I arrived with pre-packed snacks, no coffee and waning enthusiasm. I set up the snack table alone and with the exception of 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 site with us? we don’t like to leave you alone”. The gesture was welcomed and the message wasn’t lost.