DUBAI // Drop-in nannies specialising in babies are increasingly being used by new mothers who want to climb back on to the career ladder weeks after giving birth.
One Dubai company has offered qualified nurses to more than 1,000 families since starting up in 2013, a trend largely driven by the scant maternity leave on offer for women wishing to return to work.
Although government workers can now expect to receive three months of paid maternity leave, many mothers in the private sector have only the mandatory 45 days.
With many returning to work to cover the costs of expat life, a gap has opened in the market for maternity nurses who visit homes to help with care.
It can cost up to Dh18,000 a month, but those hiring an extra pair of hands claim it is invaluable to help continue their careers, or support the self-employed.
Briton Shona Sibbald is a H R director and mother of four who returned to work in DIFC with the help of a maternity nurse for her five-month-old son.
“I opted to take shortened maternity leave,” she said. “The biggest help was getting the baby into a routine and having that peace of mind he is being looked after when I’m at work. I had always planned to get back to my career.”
The maternity nurse comes in at 7.30am as Mrs Sibbald goes to work. She is home by 12.45pm and the nurse stays until 1.30pm to help with the handover, from Sunday to Thursday.
“It is very difficult to leave babies when they are so small, particularly when breastfeeding, so a lot of mums choose not to work,” said Ms Sibbald.
“That can have an effect on careers if they want to spend more time with their children.”
Lebanese paediatrician Dr Rania Hawayek said the support she had after giving birth to her third child, now seven months old, helped her return to her patients in the right frame of mind.
“I felt I could get back to being who I was far quicker because of the maternity nurse,” Dr Hawayek said.
“I had regular patients who needed me, and another colleague who was about to go off on maternity leave. I’ve always worked but felt more productive this time as I could catch up on sleep and get into a routine.”
A maternity nurse can offer new mothers vital support that is often absent in the UAE as friends and family live in other countries.
“If maternity leave was longer here, I don’t think it would be such an issue,” Dr Hawayek said.
At Dh60 an hour, with nurses on hand at least a few hours a day, the service is not cheap.
Louise Karim, managing director of Mum’s at Work, a company offering support to women looking to return to the workplace, said it was a booming industry.
“I know at least three companies offering this service here,” she said. “Short maternity is playing a part but the village mentality is also important.
“Mothers don’t have that support here from family and friends they may have at home.
“Once you give birth here, you pay the bill and then you’re on your own and that can be tough.
“I can understand why people use these companies, particularly if they are going back to work.”
Maternity nurses can help with getting babies into a regular routine of feeding and sleeping, so when mothers return to work disruption to family life is kept to a minimum.
Since 2013, Malaak has been one of those companies providing what has become an invaluable service for some.
“I was a working mum and as soon as I gave birth I realised I needed help as my maternity leave was short and I needed to get my son into a routine,” said Malaak’s Jordanian founder, Lily Kandalaft, who lives in Umm Suqeim and has two boys, Ryan, 4, and Zayden, 1.
“It was then I came up with the idea of a business to help mothers with that transition.”