Monday, March 17, 2008

The Empty Nest

School bag and shoesOkay, I admit the title is a bit dramatic. My nest will not be empty, thank God, for many years to come. I actually would like my children to remain living with me for a long time, even when they grow up. But I know this is wishful thinking. One day I will have to cut the apron strings and let them move on, to pursue their goals and dreams, and have lives and families of their own. But, eventually I would like all of us to live close by, so we can see each other at least a few times a week.

I have enrolled my youngest child in preschool. Now before I go any farther I want to bring up the subject of schooling here. Enrolling children in good schools has become increasingly difficult. The choices one has for good English schools are limited. A great number of families are moving to Doha, thus causing the demand to spiral upwards at an astounding rate. Some companies, namely the in the oil and gas industry, go the distance of reserving seats in good schools for their employees children prior to their arrival.

Waiting lists in schools are excessively long, some have exceeded their capacity. I have heard of a few families who have received employment offers, who ultimately have decided not to come, since their children were not accepted in the schools of their choice. Due to limited space availability, our two elder children go to two different schools, which is not uncommon here. The waiting list for both schools, especially the better school is extremely long, even for siblings. We have begun to give up the hope that they will eventually attend the same school.

Schools have also become increasingly expensive. Tuition, like everything else, is on the rise. After only one year tuition has increased up to 50% in many schools. A few employers pay 100% of their employee’s children tuition, but the majority either pays partial, or none at all. Though Qatar has a public school system, which is free for all residents, they are mainly Arabic.

This applies for preschools & nurseries as well. There are several preschools, but only a handful which will be a good fit for each individual child. Most are also full with long waiting lists and are quite costly. Tuition can start from 1,200 riyals a month to up to 4,000 riyals. Now I am one who would rather pay more for a child’s well being then less, but QR 4,000 for macaroni art and finger paint? I would rather save that amount for their college tuition.

After touring a few nurseries, I did like one enough to sign him up. His number on the waiting list? 30. One of my friends who owns one of the nicer nurseries generously offered to make room for him. The only downside was that it was far from our home and would have taken me about 40-50 minutes round trip just to drop him there. Add 40-50 minutes more to pick him up. Plus I have to pick 2 other kids up from their respective schools as well. Schlepping around town with 3 kids in Doha traffic is not my idea of fun. So I politely, yet reluctantly declined.

But I did want him to go to a nursery; more for socialization then anything else. I then spotted some signs near my home for one that had recently opened. It was only 3 minutes away from my home, so I decided to check it out. It turned out to be an Arabic nursery, but the owner spoke English well. I toured the facilities; they were clean and well equipped. The children were happy, well taken care of, and most importantly loved. I spoke to the owner and she assured me that she will step in when needed. So, I took a chance and enrolled him. He now goes 3-4 days a week for about 3 hours and is adjusting well. On his first day a delightful 4 year old decided to take him under her wing. She speaks to him in Arabic, he replies in English. They get along fine.

Learning Arabic is a high priority for me while I am here, both for myself and my children. The 2 older children study it as a language in school, plus I have a tutor who comes to teach them (A refuses to sit with them). I will also start classes in September, since I was waiting for A to start school. He has already picked up a few words and he understands many more, mainly simple sentences. In a few months he will be teaching us inshaAllah.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I am a soon to be father (5 wks). I don’t know what it is like yet to have children for several years in your home, and then all of a sudden have an empty home. I can understand were all of a sudden there is a lot of extra time. I can also understand were it could end up being lonely. I wonder in these satiations why people don’t take a few minutes to become involved and share their experiences with new and soon to be parents? It seems like not only a great way to add something else to your life but to somebody else’s as well.

My wife and I are apart of a number of online communities which to some extent encourage this type of interaction. Our favorite right now is We just have a lot of questions about what to expect, and how to handle it. For us, with no experience, its great to have people to learn from. It also seems to me like a great way share, remember, and fill extra time.