This question drives me insane! I get it quite a lot, and I suppose I take it personally because it sounds slightly judgemental….
The truth is, that I do somehow manage to keep busy all day. I really enjoy not having a normal ‘job’ to go to, but then I have always been quite good at keeping myself entertained and I do enjoy being on my own (it’s an only child thing!).
The sad fact is that expat wife-life isn’t a constant round of spas, lunches and coffee mornings. I’ve never been to a coffee morning, I hardly EVER go out for lunch and the only time I set foot in a spa is either for my monthly waxing torture, or because we have visitors and I want to spoil them.
I spend most days on my own at home. My life revolves entirely around our 11-month old dog, as she requires a lot of work and creates a lot of housework! I have set up a separate blog about all things dog at doglifeqatar.com
Having a dog, I will freely admit, is more work than I ever imagined! It’s very rewarding, but there were times when she was a puppy that I thought I’d never be able to cope, and it wasn’t unusual for my husband to come home from work and find me in a weeping huddle in the corner of the kitchen. I would never take on a puppy again; a fully grown rescued adult, maybe, but never another puppy.
It was partly bad timing; we rescued her from the streets at the beginning of May, just weeks after I’d first landed in Qatar. We never intended to keep her, but didn’t succeed in finding a home for her. Now she is very much loved and part of the family, but being trapped at home by a puppy which needed constant attention was, at the time, very debilitating and difficult to cope with, because I really needed to be out there making new friends to help me settle in.
So, now my life revolves around her and keeping the house clean.
A typical day goes something like this:
7.30am: Get dragged out of bed by my husband, usually involving a cup of tea as a bribe! He has to leave for work, so he will go downstairs and let the dog out of the kitchen, where she sleeps overnight, and I will follow behind and go and sit with her. She normally climbs onto the sofa and goes back to sleep, and so do I! Neither of us are morning people……
8.30am: Dog starts to wake up. I make her and myself breakfast.
8.30am – 9.30am: Dog has a mad hour. Her morning energy needs an outlet, so I do a mixture of short bouts of training and playing with her, mixed with periods when I encourage her to entertain and settle herself with a chew toy. After about an hour, she burns out and goes back to sleep.
9.30am onwards: I might take her for a quick morning walk around the block, if I need to leave her alone later in the day (it helps if she is as tired as possible before leaving her on her own, so I have to plan in advance if I need to leave the house at all). The morning period is my window to either go to the supermarket, get some cleaning done, or spend time on the internet. Most of the time, it’s cleaning – I try and do at least one thing a day (bathrooms, kitchen, upstairs hoovering, bed-changing or downstairs floors). Some mornings are spent preparing a fortnight’s worth of raw food for the dog, or training treats – both involve a couple of hours of prep. If I have done ALL of my chores, I can relax enough to do some writing for my novel, but I very rarely allow myself time for this, which is ridiculous I know.
Lunchtime: I try to grab some lunch, but normally I forget! It’s often 2pm by the time I think about eating and by that time, I have to start thinking about organising our trip to the beach. I struggle to know what to eat for lunch as I spent the last 15 years living off ready-packed lunches bought from canteens, motorway service stations or Boots!
2.30pm: Get everything ready for the afternoon walk including making up bottles of drinks for both me and the dog and prepare a bag of treats for training her. Most of the time, we go to the beach because it’s the only place she can have a good off-lead run without me having to worry about people hassling us. It’s also a relatively distraction-free environment to work on training.
3pm: Load the car up with training treats, poo bags, water, towels and the dog and head for the beach or mangroves (25km and 40km away, respectively).
3.45pm: Arrive at the beach. Sometimes we meet up with other dog walkers, but if not I play some training games and hunt for crabs with her, and generally try and make myself as interesting as possible to keep the dog focussed on me (she is a saluki mix, and therefore prone to being quite ‘independent’ – I have to constantly work on her focus). This can be quite challenging, and often involves me running around a lot with my arms in the air and wooping. Thankfully, it’s a quiet beach….
5.15pm: Dry myself and the dog off, give her some water and leave the beach.
6pm: Arrive home, and hose the car and dog down to remove saltwater.
6.30pm: Dry the dog, feed the dog.
7pm: Jump in shower while hubby supervises the dog and cooks the dinner.
8pm: Relax with the hubby. Dog is normally asleep by now.
10.30pm: Quick walk around the block with the dog for a final wee and poo.
11pm: BED! This is quite late for Qatar as most people here seem to get up at 5am or even earlier, but my husband has an unusually late start-time at work of 8am.
About the cleaning.
People warned me about all the cleaning before I came. I didn’t believe them. It’s the dust – it gets EVERYWHERE. And in such quantities! I was used to rarely picking up a duster back in England, in fact it would be unusual for me to do it more than once a month. Over here, it’s at LEAST a twice weekly job. I know this sounds unbelievable; I didn’t believe it myself until we moved here.
Of course, it’s not just all over your bookcases and bedside tables, it’s all over the floor as well. Having vast expanses of shiny floors means that you soon notice it accumulating. We get through approximately four times as many hoover bags over here as we did in England (thankfully they can be ordered online as not many brands are available in the shops here).
As an experiment, I went a whole FOUR days without dusting cleaning the downstairs floors this week. (The following photos were taken on Wednesday and the last time I had done any cleaning was on the previous Friday.)
Dining room floor:
The office floor:
As you can see, most of it is dust and sand, although the dog is responsible for a lot of it with her thieving of random tissues/destruction of toys! She is also shedding fur at the moment, which is contributing to it.
So, the moral of this story is, if you’re thinking of moving to Qatar, DON’T get a dog, but DO get a maid! And if you have the former, definitely consider getting the latter!