An Anonymous Hiccup of Keeping Up with the Joneses

An Anonymous Hiccup of Keeping Up with the Joneses

In this continued article series, I talk with mamas about their ‘hiccup.’  My goal with these sit-down share sessions is to shed light on how each mommy’s hiccup echoes and resonates with many others who are struggling to find the magic or can take heart that the magic is often deeply imbedded in the dark and may need some neon glow bands to be revealed. Get in touch to share your ‘hiccup.’

Not every hiccup is medical. And not every Mama wants the limelight. This week’s hiccup is about “Anon” whose hiccup was facing an expat move where nothing added up to normal living, and who wanted to remain anonymous.

Anon is an entrepreneur; she’s warm yet focused with a demeanour that sweetly lets you know she’s got a long to-do list and you may be #1 right now but 19 other tasks wait in the wings. She’s dressed in completely uncontrived Toms with an efficient G-shock watch. Her sparkly somewhat feisty eyes warn me that there’s inner resilience to her. Like the mama cat from Aristocats who isn’t afraid to face the music when things get tough.

She has healthy kids and a loving husband. It all sounds perfect, yet her hiccup was that after a few years in Dubai their income plummeted and they faced the harsh reality of living hand to mouth.

“We were in a cycle of debt.” In Dubai it’s assumed everyone is pretty much on the same page with completely superficial complaints. Anon continues to tell me that really good friends of hers would complain about being unable to go on their fifth holiday. Her head shakes in complete disbelief, she continues, “I had no money to even buy nappies. I sold stuff, downsized the house and leased the car.” Slightly different on the stress spectrum.

“In hindsight maybe we should have gone back to our native country…” Her thought trails off as if to imply well, she didn’t and that was that. She affirms that the only way she got through it was because she and her husband are very much the clichéd yin and yang many of us will only read about in this life. Best friends in its truest form.

“I’d like to think that my kids are grounded because of what we went through. A complete stranger lent me my daughter’s nursery fees and I’ve experienced random acts of kindness at Spinney’s grocery store when my card was declined.” The kindness of strangers has clearly reigned supreme. Yet, Anon’s eyes darken. “It was so humiliating. The number of times I’ve had to put things back and feel that mortification. It takes so much out of you. We became resourceful… made things out of leftovers, budgeted heavily and scraped through it.”

Her sincerity rings so loudly despite the heavy-handed clamour of plates and words serving up dishes and conversations to whoever would take it in. “We don’t take things for granted. We just don’t.” Anon’s huge pothole didn’t see her lose sense of who she is or lose that sense of hard work and honesty. “Even when had no money we paid our maid… I never wanted her to feel the way that I felt – judged. Dubai has lost ability to empathise – we felt ostracized. We stopped getting invited to things. It’s like we were contagious.”

They fell off the social radar because they couldn’t afford to ‘keep up with the Joneses.’

“With that I felt so alone. In Europe and the US there’s much more diversity. I wouldn’t wish it… that instability on my worst enemy.” Here they don’t talk about it. Posh society in Dubai is, well, “poisonous” when friends’ long list of errands start with “doing up the home country pad.”

And now? “I tend to make a big deal out of nothing. Going out to choose a new pair of shoes becomes a treat. Showing my kids the magic in everyday stuff. And that these magical moments are not about buying things.”

This didn’t break her and she will not be leaving Dubai. “I want that simple life. I struggle to hang onto that dream of a simple life… you know with chickens!” For many, keeping chickens would be a nightmare, to her it is a dream highly regarded. I struggle to imagine the wonders of a “chicken-driven” life. But I trust her opinion on this one. It’s simple and most probably free of social media and perfectly manicured nails.

Anon’s advice – and her currency? Be honest and open because there are people who can help. Don’t pretend everything is okay. Cull your friends. Be around the people who make you feel good. If you don’t look forward to seeing them, and you don’t feel good in their company or feel worse after seeing them, then strike them off your list. Black and white. Crystal clear. She doesn’t want to live a life ofThe Great Gatsby and knows that it’s not about throwing lavish parties, but more about spending time and being true.


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