Where in the world do you live? And, are you from there?

I live in Abu Dhabi, in the United Arab Emirates. Abu Dhabi is the capital city of the UAE, but whenever anyone hears me say “Abu Dhabi,” the association is immediately Dubai, the “big city” to the north of us.  (Yes, Abu Dhabi is where the second “Sex in the City” movie was supposedly set…but it was filmed in Morocco!)

No, I’m not from here. I grew up in Illinois, went to college in Boston and lived there for a few years, and moved to Manhattan in 1988 to get my doctorate. I intended to live in New York only until I finished my degree…but I never left! So I think now I’m officially a “New Yorker” who moved to Abu Dhabi in 2011.  My husband and I teach at New York University’s Abu Dhabi campus, which is a four-year college that just started last fall (2010), so it’s a brand-new project and very exciting.

What language(s) do you speak?

I speak English. And faux-French (which is to say French with such a bad accent and such poor grammar that my French brother-in-law almost winces every time I open my mouth).  My kids are learning Arabic now, at school, and I’m envious of how fast their minds soak it up.

When did you first become a mother? 

My first son was born in 2000 although he was supposed to be born in 2001.  He was born two months early and weighed less than two pounds, so he spent two months in the NICU, which was a rather traumatic time for us. He’s fine and healthy as a horse, but still very small for his age (he’s 11).  My second son was born in 2004, perfectly healthy except that in the process of being born he broke my tailbone, which was also traumatic!

Are you a stay-at-home mom or do you work?

I am an English professor, as is my husband, so our teaching schedules allow us to (sort of) create the illusion of one stay-at-home parent.  It’s nice that our careers give us flexibility but, like many moms who work, I do the bulk of the household logistics/babysitters/doctors’ appointments/playdates/cooking…

Why do you blog/write?

I’ve always written, actually, and when I was little I wanted to grow up and be a writer. Maybe that’s because I started reading at a ridiculously young age (my cousins called me a freak of nature).  My academic or professional writing interests me, but increasingly I’m working in non-academic areas: I’ve written two screenplays, a novel (and am at work on another one), and I love writing essays.

I started writing the blog in 2008 as “writing practice,” just to keep my writing muscles working even though I didn’t have the time to be working on longer pieces.  Truth be told, the initial impetus was twofold: wanting writing practice but also wanting to comment on the 2008 election.

How would you say that you are different from other mothers?

That’s a hard question! We’re all different from another and we all make different choices, which is why I get so frustrated with people who want to say that “all stay-at-home moms are like this” or “all working moms are like that.”  It just doesn’t work that way.  I suppose one of things that is slightly unusual about me is that my work schedule lets me be both working and at home—I can be at home on my non-teaching days and get to the teacher conferences or the field trips, but then I also know what it’s like to juggle the demands of family and trying to advance professionally.  Or maybe I’m different from other moms because I’ve got ALL the answers. (Please hear serious sarcasm there!)

What do you view as the challenges of raising a child in today’s world?

Another hard question! I suppose one of the challenges is raising kids who know what to do with themselves without some kind of screen or digital apparatus in front of them.  Another blogger I read, Stasha @northwestmommy, posted this on her website:

“nothing is as stimulating for childhood creativity as a healthy dose of boredom.” It’s from a street artist who works under the name Loesje.

I think that comment seems really apropos to kids in first-world countries: we live in an age of such easy stimulus: TV, Gameboy, iPad, iPhone, computers…it’s sort of endless. So how do we cultivate children who are comfortable in their own heads and who can create interest for themselves without external input?  And that plugs into (whoops, sorry bad pun) the endless gear and gadgetry we’re all surrounded with—how do we all put down our gear and actually be together, playing a game or watching a movie (without also checking email, tweeting or etc—speaking to myself here) or going for a walk…those times are important.

It’s one of my hopes for living abroad and traveling together that we, as a family, can create the space to just be – to learn how to look out the window of a train and not be bored.  Other challenges? Well, teaching kids to be compassionate and aware of their own privilege; helping them understand that success is not measured by wealth (hard to do in an increasingly corporatized U.S.); and, because I have two boys and consider myself a feminist, how can I raise boys who understand that being “masculine” is not earned by treating women as second-class citizens.

How did you find World Moms Blog?

I was reading Lady Jennie, @ALadyinFrance, and she mentioned in a post that she was writing for World Moms Blog.  I’ve been looking for a way to connect with other expat writers and World Moms Blog seemed like just what I was looking for, so I’m glad to be here.

This is an original, first-time post for World Moms Blog by new writer, Deborah Quinn in the United Arab Emirates. You can find her on her personal blog, Mannahattamamma

Mannahattamamma (UAE)

After twenty-plus years in Manhattan, Deborah Quinn and her family moved to Abu Dhabi (in the United Arab Emirates), where she spends a great deal of time driving her sons back and forth to soccer practice. She writes about travel, politics, feminism, education, and the absurdities of living in a place where temperatures regularly go above 110F.
Deborah can also be found on her blog, Mannahattamamma.

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