- UAE parents feel guilty that they don't have enough time
- Educators say parental involvement is essential, schools have various programs to involve parents
- Psychologists and experts discuss the impact of less time
Dubai: As a parent, do you feel guilty about not spending enough time with your child? You are not alone.
Gulf News spoke to some UAE parents and found out that it is not uncommon for parents to feel that they were not giving their child enough time.
Millennial parents in the UAE are too busy
Simimol Raijo is a working parent and has two children. She told Gulf News: “We face many distractions in our daily lives and are too often caught up with our work and at home with household chores, friends, the internet, social media, the list just goes on.”
We feel like we are being pulled in a million different directions. Our to-do list is never-ending.
Her husband who works as an engineering manager in Dubai doesn’t have fixed office timings. She adds: “When both parents are occupied with their job for eight or more hours per day, there are obvious effects on the family. We feel like we are being pulled in a million different directions. Our to-do list is never-ending.
“When both parents work, the family may have an increased income and then fewer financial stresses. However, the guilt of insufficient time given to children seems to increase.”
Filipino expat Rome Bernardo added: “Most expats come to the UAE to earn and save. Both my wife and I are working parents and long work hours mean reduced time with family. I feel guilty sometimes. When my son asks me why I am away so long I explain to him that I am doing it for him. I feel sad when I return home, and he is already asleep.”
...long work hours mean reduced time with family. I feel guilty sometimes.
If I had time
Like many other parents, 38-year-old Bernardo finds himself wishing he had more time. He added: “Whenever I have time after work, I spend it all with my son, I even help him with homework. I enjoy giving him rewards when he comes home with a star stamp on his wrist from school. I talk to him about school and friends. If I had two days off, I would probably take him to the beach every Saturday or watch movies with him.”
Not just working parents
However, the feeling is not limited to working parents. For stay-at-home mum Farwa Hussain, household chores take a lot of time. She said: “I have often heard working mothers say that stay-at-home-mums are lucky to have more time with their children. It’s true, we do have more time with children, but very often, we don’t have maids or nannies and most of the time goes in household chores.”
It’s true, we do have more time with children, but very often, we don’t have maids or nannies and most of the time goes in household chores.”
Indian expat Renu Sujith Shenoy left her job four years ago to be able to give her children more time. However, she recently started studying. As part of her PhD (Doctor of Philosophy) studies, she has university duties. Shenoy told Gulf News: “I wasn’t working for a long time and have recently started going to the university. Studying at this age isn’t easy, additionally university duties make me mentally exhausted by the time I reach home. I find it difficult to spend time with my children. My friend babysits my son till I return, and I have enrolled my daughter for after school clubs so that I reach home before she does. But she keeps telling that she doesn’t want to go to them as she returns home late. All this adds to my guilt.”
It’s about quality
Even though Shenoy feels she doesn’t have enough time, she ensures one thing. She added: “No matter how tired I am, I make sure that I keep aside some time to listen and talk to them.”
No matter how tired I am, I make sure that I keep aside some time for them to listen and talk to them.
Indian expat Salman Khan shares the responsibility with his wife. He said: “She manages the home front while I’m out for work. She spends a sufficient amount of time with the children till I’m back from work. Then I usually play with them at home till it’s time for them to sleep. In our house, I do feel I get adequate time to spend with them beyond work commitments.”
I usually play with them at home till it’s time for them to sleep. In our house, I do feel I get adequate time to spend with them beyond work commitments.
Khan makes it a point to ask his daughter about her day in school. He also said: “Most of the time, her teacher sends reading exercises, which we often do together.”
Pakistani expat Farwa Hussain, 32, added: “It actually varies from parent to parent. I know mothers who are homemakers but are addicted to social media and hand their child phones or tablets to keep them busy. Some send their children for extra tuitions to help with studies. Some dads return from work but continue to be busy with office calls or social media. Children grow up fast and before we know they will ignore us for social media too. After all, they are seeing us do it.”
Hussain feels it’s important to engage with children, especially about their studies. She said: “I don’t agree with helicopter parenting but it is very important to talk to children. It helps to know what subject they may be struggling with or if they are facing issues like bullying. It helps you understand how you can help them as a parent. I also think it is very important to know who their friends are. That they have reliable people outside home, to talk to.”
Chitra Bhatia, 37 added: “We are working parents, but we ensure we have our meals together and connect with our son on a daily basis about school and friends. We read books, we watch TV shows together, listen to music, enjoy walks and most importantly try to keep tech gadgets away.”
We read books, we watch TV shows together, listen to music... most importantly try to keep tech gadgets away.
What UAE schools are doing about this?
We asked some educational institutions what they thought about parental engagement? The schools said they promote parents' involvement in children's school life through various activities. Not only are parents asked to read with children at home, they are also encouraged to become class parents, join parents associations and volunteer for activities like parent-reading day.
Simimol Raijo also works as a teacher in Dubai, she said: “As a teacher, I have noticed that there are behavioural differences among students who get attention from home and those who don’t.”
According to Timothy Craig Roberts, principal of Raffles World Academy: “In my experience, the more involved a parent is in the education of their child the better the child does at school. This presents a particular problem for expatriates in the UAE as they have limited or no family support networks in the country. It is often the case that both parents are working and as a consequence have less time for their children. Additionally, in the modern consumerist society, parents often substitute material gifts in lieu of love and affection. Deep down, although they may not readily demonstrate it, teenagers, be they girls or boys, would prefer their father to show some interest in their lives rather than acquiring the latest iPhone or Fitbit.”
It is often the case that both parents are working and as a consequence have less time for their children. Additionally, in the modern consumerist society, parents often substitute material gifts in lieu of love and affection.
James Lynch, principal of Dubai International Academy told Gulf News: “Schools that prioritise teachers, parents, and students working collaboratively together on a regular basis facilitate an environment where students flourish, are happy and achieve their full potential. I firmly believe that UAE parents are encouraged by the majority of schools and with the support of the KHDA to actively and effectively be involved in their children’s educational journey. Parental involvement in a school is regularly evaluated through inspection and the vision and values of school principals are shared with regards to best practice in order to engage parents on a very frequent basis.”
UAE parents are encouraged by the majority of schools and with the support of the KHDA to actively and effectively be involved in their children’s educational journey.
Do working parents make it to school activities?
Chitra Bhatia, an administration executive, loves being involved in school activities: “It is a great idea to have parent-student activities, we get to meet our children’s classmates, teachers and understand what they are doing in school. It also helps connect with other parents.”
Rome Bernardo added: “I think the idea is good and children feel proud when they see their parents in school. But the conflict is for those who have both working parents. What my wife and I do, is alternate... we can’t go together unless we are both off on that day.”
He feels schools should not do such activities constantly as children whose parents cannot come may feel neglected. He added: “It’s not necessary that every parent will have an understanding boss. Some may not allow a parent flexible time to go for a school activity. But children may not understand and feel ignored when they see other parents come.”
Renu Sujith Shenoy endorses school activities, but, she said: “Due to my work, I was never able to be part of such initiatives. I am however, a member of the parent focus group, we meet the Principal once in two months to discuss about the school activities. When my daughter asks, ‘Amma, next time can you please come to read a story or play with us?’, and my guilt returns.”
If you feel you don’t have enough time to spend with your children, don’t worry. Experts agree it’s not about how many hours you give them, it’s about what you value you add to their lives in whatever little time you can manage to spend with your child.
Mehwish Adnan, a counsellor in a Sharjah-based school added: “When a student is brought to me with a problem, I first try to understand their relationship with their parents. Children understand when parents are busy with work. The problem arises when after work, a parent still ignores their questions or shuts them out. They slowly stop going to the parent, many even turn to social media for answers. I have noticed that many children who seem to need help are those who are unable to talk to their parents. I would say, even if you get a few minutes, make it count. Talk to them. Ask them if they need help.”
The problem arises when after work, a parent still ignores their questions or shuts them out. They slowly stop going to the parent, many even turn to social media for answers.
Urmimala Sinha, Dubai-based clinical psychologist told Gulf News: “The role of parents in their children’s development is immense. Parents have direct and longstanding influence on their children’s social, emotional, cognitive and physical well-being.
However, in nuclear families without support systems, long working and commuting hours does challenge young parents to balance all the demands of life. But, it’s important to realise that parental involvement bridges two key factors in children’s early years - the home and the school - and numerous studies signify positive associations between parental involvement and better academic achievement, social skills and fewer problem behaviours.”
Numerous studies signify positive associations between parental involvement and better academic achievement, social skills and fewer problem behaviours.
Sudha Kathuria, principal of a Dubai-based nursery told Gulf News: “Significance of quality time has now shifted to merely being around. What we fail to understand is that if we do not provide that bond to children of spending time together, helping each other and spending some happy moments together, the essence of family and it’s bonding with become extinct soon."
Children yearn for parents to spend time with them and play with them.
She added: "Children yearn for parents to spend time with them and play with them. Costly toys and games have little meaning to them when they are compared with the happy moments together with parents.”