Alison Whatnall is somewhat of a superwoman! As a British mum of George, 2, Spencer, 1, and having a little girl due at the end of March 2018, she’s managing to juggle motherhood as well as launching her own business helping mums get back into work in Dubai.
Having spent most of her life in Aberdeen, she still considers it as her home town, although she admits that Dubai very much feels like home to her family. Alison says “Aberdeen is a great city that’s going through a hard time because of the slump in oil price over recent years. It’s on the coast, which I love, and you can be in the country side in just 20 minutes from the city centre. If you haven’t been, it’s one for your bucket list for sure!”
Alison, 36, lives in Jumeirah Park and has been in Dubai for almost six years. “I met my husband Ross here, had our two children here, adopted our rescue cat, Frank here… and our whole lives are here! As my husband and I build our businesses here respectively, we are confident that Dubai is our home for the foreseeable future.”
Alison says she feels really fortunate to be able to spend lots of time together as a family. “We love taking the boys to the beach; usually going early in the morning with a breakfast picnic. I hope that as the children get older, we can encourage them into water sports to take advantage of our amazing location.”
Alison, like most British mums, does miss her fixes of back home though! She was fortunate to have her mum and dad living in Dubai for some years until they recently returned to the UK. During her time as a new mum, she felt really lucky to have her parents close-by; especially when it came to baby-sitting! “I definitely miss the people from back home” she says. “We’ve just had 10 different groups of visitors in the last four months and I’d be lying if I said it hasn’t made me a little homesick.”
On the upside, she’s had her visitors bringing out those much-loved items that are hard to find here. “Being consistent with the reputation of a thrifty Scot, I literally pack my case with anything that’s significantly cheaper back home. I usually prioritise party supplies for the boys birthdays, greetings cards, homeopathic teething granules and if there’s still space for me, a bottle of Rock Rose Gin” she laughs.
Alison spent much of her time in Aberdeen working for an oil and gas company but it wasn’t an option for her to return to oil and gas after having George, because she worked predominantly in hostile environments. For the last six months, however, she’s been busy working on launching her own business called Skill Consortium, because so many ladies want to work around their children and consider freelancing, but are put off by the onerous costs and administrative hurdles to freelancing legally. What Alison aims to offer is a comprehensive solution for freelancers – providing a legal, cost effective and convenient solution for freelancers wanting to do business in the UAE. She admits it’s been “a steep but interesting learning curve for me. I’m excited for where this venture will lead.”
Working so hard has often led to much-loved holidays in the UAE and further afield though, and one of Alison’s favourite holidays with her family was in Zanzibar. “Although George was very small, there was so much to do and see and the people couldn’t have been more welcoming. When your children have grown up in Dubai, I often think “what will impress them?” and I think the answer is nature, so we will definitely head back to Zanzibar.”
And as for her favourite hidden gems in Dubai? “I like to grab a coffee from The Park House, and let the boys tire themselves out at Al Barsha Park, and for date night we love Barbary DXB as our friend is the head chef, and his food together with a great drinks menu makes for a good night out!” When it comes to eating out with the boys, “Not exactly a restaurant, but our boys love the wraps and smoothies from Toss’d, in the Galleria on The Palm, so we usually head there, and then let them scoot around Al Ittihad Park. But for something really special, Amal at Armani was our last date night before we had George, and though I was fit to pop and couldn’t indulge in their amazing cocktail menu, it was just perfect. We’ve been several times since for special occasions and it never disappoints.”
But those are the good things about Dubai, and there are some things that do wind Alison up about living here; “People clogging up the inadequate lifts in the malls, when they could easily take the escalator as well as the people who think it’s ok not to have their children in car seats/ belted in the car – even more so when they’re wearing a seatbelt themselves!” We can’t buy help agree.
To unwind, Alison’s ideal ‘me time’ is sleep! “Although I do love a good spa day too, and there are many good options in Dubai – my favourite is Sensasia at Emirates Golf Club. I also love an opportunity for some child-free shopping, maybe a nice afternoon tea, and then some Skype time with loved ones at home.”
As a busy mum to two Toddlers, Alison admits she’s not a big reader, “I’ve just finished Keys to the Kingdom which was enlightening” she says and “We are mid-way through watching Wisdom of the Crowd, and it’s a gripping must-watch!” And other advice for mums new to Dubai? “Bulk buy when you’re back in the UK, or order online in the UK and make the most of visitor season having your visitors mule your goodies out to Dubai. You won’t regret the savings you can make!”
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