As a single father of three during a time when cost of living in Dubai was going through the roof, Matthew Morgan-Jones realised that if he was not careful, he would have to start making significant cutbacks on housing, schooling and domestic help.
Once he looked at the ‘book', Morgan-Jones knew before adopting his fourth child that he would have to leave Dubai.
He eventually left Dubai in 2007, ending up in Tanzania, where he currently resides with his daughters, Mariama, 5 and Magda, 7 and sons, David and Dauda, both nine. Obviously, the decision to extend the family was the real reason for leaving Dubai.
"[But] I think most large families living in Dubai — even with two incomes — would find it hard," says 41-year-old Morgan-Jones, founder and director, Engage Group, an HR consultancy. "Being single really does make it impossible to go beyond the ‘two' kids scenario."
Anoop Moras, a single father after his wife passed away in May 2008, would be able to appreciate Morgan-Jones's sentiment.
He has two sons. Alaric and Alcuin, 17 and 12 years old respectively, who have been living in Mumbai since 2011. Moras will be joining them in April. Both he, who is currently assistant vice-president at the Abu Dhabi Commercial Bank's treasury and investment division, and his wife, who was a manager at a multinational company in the UAE, had been doing "decently well".
For Moras, it has been less about money and more about filling in the role of his wife as mother.
"The toughest part of being a single dad, for me, was making time," he said. "After work, going back home and looking after their studies, homework and projects, was tough. Just to chat and console them emotionally was the most demanding of all."
Moras has created saving funds for his boys, so that when the day comes, it would be marginally easier to pay for their higher studies.
As a full-time dad to four children, Morgan-Jones cannot overemphasise the need for good planning and budgeting.
"You have to be realistic in terms of the priorities and say ‘no' to kids' desire to have the latest this or that," he says. This was "very difficult in Dubai where so many have so much."
Over time, Morgan-Jones has become a savvy buyer, not embarrassed to pick up stuff on sale.
One can be creative, too. Morgan-Jones' family has "cinema nights" at home when the children invite friends for a movie. He borrows the work projector and speakers and makes loads of popcorn and prepares drinks at home.
For the last six months, this has been ‘cool' he says, and has saved him substantial dollars from taking a big group to the cinema.
And it is important to know what family benefits the employer provides. Morgan-Jones knows of separated fathers in the UAE who find it frustrating that companies refuse to pay school and family allowances because their children do not reside in the UAE. "Checking all these things out is important."
Sacrificing one's individual desires is part of life for a single dad.
Morgan-Jones treated himself to a pair of "designerish" sunglasses the other week, the first time in five years. "Pre-kids, it would be a new pair every year," he says.