The learning curve
Mom to Fatima (24), Afreen (20), Haifa (16)
As a mother of three girls, the transition from strict parent to friend-in-need was not easy for Jaseera Rahees, a homemaker. She came to Dubai in 1998 and her girls were nurtured under her protective wings. Even though she took a B.Ed degree in 2006, she did not pursue a career instead devoting herself to home making,
The first time Jaseera faced separation from a child was in 2015 when Fatima went to Bangalore to pursue a course in journalism. ‘I was distraught,’ she recollects. ‘I spent the whole day crying. I visited a friend to take my mind off things and later went for a long walk with my husband.’ The feeling of emptiness persisted for a long time. But slowly she adapted herself to the situation.
In 2018, it was time for the second daughter, Afreen, to leave the nest to prepare for her Medical entrance exams back in Kerala.
‘I remember having silly thoughts like why these girls had to be so studious that they have to leave the nest and make me feel lonely,’ she says, with a laugh.
Coming from a traditional background, Jaseera was confident that she had instilled strong morals in her children. So, she knew they would not misuse their newly found freedom.
As time passed, Jaseera was pleasantly surprised to know that Fatima had become independent enough to take care of herself and manage her financial affairs efficiently. She had also made a few good friends who were with her through thick and thin.
As for Afreen she too was doing extremely well in her new surroundings.
‘I think the process of letting the girls go has been more of a learning curve for me than them. I came to realise that they are not my little girls who have to be protected but strong independent women who can take sensible life decisions.’
Last year, when Fatima decided to pursue her masters in UK and Afreen went to study medicine in Bangladesh, Jaseera took it upon herself to do all the research and make the arrangements for their journey. She even spent a week in Dhaka with Afreen to settle her in her new place.
Thanks to videocalls, the girls are constantly in touch with their mom to tell them about their day or get an opinion about their attire or a new recipe they tried. ‘If they complain about any course or teacher, I keep telling them to find the positive side of things. I also ensure that I have time for their little emergencies irrespective of my schedule or the time differences,’ she says.
Her youngest daughter Haifa was very upset when both her sisters left but now she is enjoying the attention... and the space. ‘I know she is lonely so I try to be her friend and involve her in everything I do. What I realized is that I am not too strict with her as I was with the older girls.’
Jaseera spends most of her free time in social service and cultivating new friends. She also loves to travel.
Even though she was initially sceptic about letting her kids venture out alone in the world, she is now confident that they are growing mentally, spiritually and holistically.
‘I want them to get the best education and have a career which will be useful to them and the society at large,’ she says.
Mom to Evgeniya (23)
Russian expat Anna Boytsova, an administration manager, first came to Dubai in 1993 as a tourist with her father. Falling instantly in love with the city, she returned to get a job here after earning a degree in International Relations.
She got married in 1999 and her daughter Evgeniya (Eve) born a year later. When Eve was seven years old, Anna and her husband separated, but she decided to continue living in Dubai as a single parent.
‘Since I had to do the dual act of a father and mother, I was a conservative and strict parent, but always supported Eve’s curious nature’ she says, with a smile.
Being a single parent in a foreign country taught Anna to take life’s trials slowly... day by day, one step at a time. ‘People told me to think with my head but I always took emotions into account especially Eve’s. Because at the end of the day as much as people claim that being emotional is a weakness, I think above all it is a strength. I was not willing to give up no matter how difficult the circumstances became,’ she says.
In 2016, when Eve went to college in Bristol for her A-levels followed by University in Budapest, Anna was distraught. ‘It was one of the hardest decisions I’ve ever had to make, because normally your child would leave for university at the age of 18. So, it made me feel like I was losing my last two years with her,’ says Anna, adding it was a stressful period for her as she had lost her mother barely three months before Eve flew the nest.
‘It would have been selfish on my part not to let her go even though she was the only one I had at that point of time to lean on. On hindsight, I don’t think she would’ve gotten as far as she did in life if I had insisted that she remain in Dubai.’
Eve is currently in her fifth year of studying Veterinary medicine and is due to graduate in March 2024.
Even though they are miles apart Anna is still involved in pretty much all of Eve’s major life decisions with regard to her career and future. ‘I don’t tend to micro manage her daily affairs and I mostly hear about the funny/interesting stuff she does after she has done them. We tend to laugh about them as you never know what to expect sometimes with her,’ she says.
Through their long distant relationship, the mother and daughter have become best friends. ‘She calls Dubai her home and always wants to be back for Christmas, we travel together, are on the phone daily and are extremely attached to each other. I doubt that will ever change.
‘We are both so grateful to have this relationship with each other. We have both helped each other grow so much. Although we both think so differently, yet we always seem to find common ground. She’s just as proud of me as I am of her,’ she says.
Mom to Max Podolsky(20)
Gina Dillon, an entrepreneur, is an American expat living in Abu Dhabi since 2011. Her son Max was born in Missouri in 2004. Right from his formative years, Max was an independent child who didn’t require much assistance in reaching his milestones. ‘I wouldn’t say we are free range parents but Max was really an easy kid to raise.,’ she says.
‘There was a year or so when he was being lazy with his effort towards his studies, but he grew out of it before he reached an age where grades really mattered for college admittance. Max has always made good decisions he’s a very pragmatic and sensible guy,’ says Gina.
The family arrived in UAE in 2011, when Max was in second grade and Gina asserts that Max has been honed by UAE’s multicultural diaspora, ‘He is far more globally aware and internationally savvy than (an average) American college student. He is accepting of other cultures, has a great sense of geography from our many travels, and he has a comfort level with new and different experiences that he owes to his UAE upbringing.’
A strong believer in sustainability and recycling, Gina founded the Freecycle Facebook group in 2014, where people could donate their used items for free to others in need.
In 2022, when Max left for Boston to study Economics, Gina admits feeling shattered. ‘I had officially become an empty nester as all of my mom duties came to an abrupt end. I had been a football mom since he was four years old. Standing on the sidelines cheering for 15 years, dropping him to golf twice a week, school carpool ... all of that just stopped!’ she says.
Gina says she feels a bit cut off as Max has become very self-sufficient and makes all decisions by himself ‘He isn’t the best of communicators. He actually went to New York with his Abu Dhabi buddies for the weekend and didn’t even tell us he was leaving,’ she says.
But she is also extremely proud that he has become independent enough to take care of his life decisions and course work without troubling her.
‘We can never go back to our old relationship as both of us have evolved into different entities. I look at him and still see my little boy, but I am very confident that he will find his way on his own terms.
Aided with a Masters degree in Critical and Creative Thinking, she is passionate about innovation, entrepreneurship and social enterprise.
After she found herself with a lot of time on her hands since Max’s departure, she revived a passion project she had visualized when she was pregnant with him.
Called Cruzi, her pet project is a stylish personal lifestyle strollers which people can take with them while shopping. ‘It’s taken 20 years, but this week I launch Cruzi (gocruzi.com), which is also my baby. Now I intend to spend my time developing and innovating it,’ she says.
Counting your blessings
Mom to Mark (22), Khen (20)
Fondly known as Janet, Arjenita has been working as a nanny for a loving family in Dubai for the past four years. Being very good in studies, she enrolled in law school keen to pursue a career in law back in Philippines. But she was forced to drop out after one year due to a financial crisis.
She left Philipines in 2019 to help her children further their careers. Her elder son Mark is currently studying criminology, while her younger, Khen, is studying to be a marine engineer.
‘We – my boys and I – have a very good relationship,’ she says. ‘I make sure I communicate with them every day. I keep in touch with them in morning as soon as I wake up and during my free time and just before bedtime.
‘Due to time differences, sometimes, it is not that easy to get both of them, but we try to make the most of it.’
Does she feel sad that they are not close to her?
‘No,’ she says. ‘I don’t feel sad being far away from my kids, because video calls make it feel like they are always with me.’
Janet believes that every trial she goes through in life is worth it since it is helping her children secure a better position in life ‘So I give it my 100 per cent,’ she states simply. .
She feels her relationship with her children has not changed a bit as they are constantly in touch with each other.
‘I have good faith in God, and the positive minded people like my employer. So I am content with life and don’t have any complaints,’ she says.