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My week in wellness: A pregnant 33-year-old who's trying to strike a better work-life balance

An Irish expat in Dubai takes some work calls out of hours and battles with a secondhand stroller.

TheJournal.ie reader

WELCOME TO HOW I Live, a new wellness diary series on TheJournal.ie.

We’re asking readers to keep a record of their mental and physical routines every day for one week – what their stress levels are like, how much activity they fit in (or don’t fit in), and how much sleep they get.

Each wellness diary is submitted by readers just like you. When reading and commenting, bear in mind that this is simply an account of a week in someone’s shoes, and their situation may not be relatable for everyone.

If you’re interested in submitting your own How I Live diary, email wellness@thejournal.ie with your name, age, location and a few lines about your current health and wellness goals.

This week, we meet an Irish woman in Dubai, who is expecting her first baby next month, and is trying to improve her work-life balance.

Option 2A Final

Occupation: Primary and post-primary school area manager
Age: 33
Location: Originally from west of Ireland, living in Dubai
Who you live with: My husband

I am 32 weeks pregnant, with our baby due on Christmas Day. Both my husband and I are working from home right now, and by the end of the week we’re usually close to turning into Mary and John from Father Ted… With friends and family at home in Ireland in a second lockdown, we are grateful and lucky to have a sense of ‘normality’ here – although it includes masks, temperature checks, social distancing and hand sanitiser among other things.

Daily activity levels: I aim to do something active five days week – yoga, swimming or a 5km walk. Prior to my pregnancy this would have been six days.
Daily stress levels: These can vary depending on work. Sometimes my working hours extend later into the evening.
Eating/drinking habits: I tend to eat a very healthy diet, but once the evening creeps in, I often begin to wonder what chocolate treat is in the press or fridge! Post baby, I am looking forward to a crisp glass of Sauvignon Blanc.
Usual sleep quality: Bedtime is 9.30pm, but my sleep quality is not great right now. I constantly visit the toilet throughout the night and spend a lot of time trying to get comfortable in bed.
Self-care: I started using the Down Dog app during the summer months. I will light a candle, darken the room and totally switch off during my yoga class. Other outlets include reading, lying by the pool or beach trips.

Tuesday

Morning: Alarm goes off at 7am. It is another night of in and out to the toilet, while tossing and turning with the many pillows in our bed. I quickly get dressed and freshen up in the bathroom. Take a bowl of Weetabix and banana on the balcony, pop on an Irish radio station and catch up on our family WhatsApp group. As our working week here is Sunday to Thursday, this is my hump day. I get ready and get set up at the kitchen table. The morning whizzes by between lesson observations, meetings with head of departments and school principals

Mid morning: My husband puts some scones that he had prepared and frozen last week into the oven. He has proven himself to be the better baker! Work is non-stop today, so I miss our usual mid-morning break and end up having my scone alone while finishing emails later – not ideal.

Afternoon: Once work finishes up for both of us, we go out and sort some life admin. We find a Starbucks and I order a Pumpkin Spice Latte. During our coffee my manager calls with a work question, so once I get home I’m back on the laptop to send the requested information. Dinner is prepared and almost cooked – on the menu tonight is roast pumpkin, roasted veg with couscous, and salad.

Evening: We grab our masks and head out for a 5km walk. The area we live in is very well serviced with outdoor amenities: a walking track, cycling track, tennis and basketball court. The sun is setting which is lovely. Back to our apartment and I decide I want to do a quick 20-minute yoga class. After a shower, dinner is served. My husband tidies up and we enjoy some chocolates we picked up earlier in our favourite chocolate shop.

Bedtime: I am already yawning on the sofa at 9.30pm and decide to get ready for bed. I grab my book, read for a while and by 10.30pm I’m done.

Wednesday

Morning: Sleep last night was the normal routine for me but this is a shorter week, as tomorrow is a public holiday here. We don’t have a midterm break (something that I really miss about teaching in Ireland) so tomorrow’s day off is very much needed. I make an iced coffee and toast with some peanut butter and a sliced banana on top, eaten while sitting on the balcony and checking in on the news headlines – both from home and here. My morning begins with a flurry of meetings and follow up meetings, all the while replying to emails and taking calls.

Afternoon: Lunch is leftover salad served on a bread roll with some feta cheese, not very exciting but it is the end of the week and the end of the month. My husband starts a Zoom call to England where his brother-in-law is celebrating a milestone birthday. I feel wrecked and a nap does the trick. I end up sleeping for over an hour. Wake up, and with delight I put my laptop away and head down to the pool for a swim. I feel refreshed afterwards, and the week’s workload has eased away.

Evening: Back upstairs and dinner is leftovers from yesterday with some veggie burgers added in. After dinner, my husband calls his mother to check in with her. We didn’t travel home during our summer holidays, so now we call home more frequently. My husband is going to meet friends later this evening. As he cleans up, I quickly call my dad. Our conversation starts with a detailed account of the weather, the goings-on on the farm and the shenanigans of my nieces and nephew over the midterm break.

Evening: I decide to go for a walk as I haven’t really moved today. Back home again, I find Love Actually is on and I make some popcorn.

Bedtime: I’m still up when my husband comes home and it is almost midnight. The benefits of my nap earlier! We enjoy some more chocolates as the final scenes of Love Actually play out, and head to bed.

Thursday

Morning: Wake up shortly after 7.30am. Knowing that neither of us have to think about work today, we relax in bed for a while, chatting and listening to music. This morning we are going to the beach, so we get ready and head off, buying some croissants en route. I find the beach so relaxing and could stay there all day. While packing up I get a call from a colleague with a staff question – unfortunately work is never far away. My husband’s colleague, his wife and their son are coming to visit us this afternoon and we make it home just as they arrive.

Afternoon: A quick change and we head out to a new café that is within walking distance of our apartment. My husband and I share a pizza. It is nice to meet up with people. We spend the afternoon chatting and entertaining their son who is 19 months old, preparing us for the future.

Evening: Once home, we unpack our beach bag, tidy up and pop on some laundry. We decide to go out for some dinner later at a Lebanese restaurant. After dinner we take a walk around the area, and my husband suggests going for a drink, so we find a bar and sit outside. We don’t stay too long and grab some messages in a nearby supermarket for breakfast tomorrow.

Bedtime: Once in the door, we quickly put away the messages and I am straight into bed.

Friday

Morning: Another leisurely start to our day and weekend, I make us some fruit and yoghurt bowls and we sit outside on the balcony. My husband decides to make one final list of the baby items we still need to purchase. We order some items from Amazon and then try to put back together some baby equipment that we had earlier taken apart to wash and clean. Let just say, stress levels fluctuated greatly during this 40-minute window but finally we get it done.

Afternoon: It’s lunch time. My husband calls his brother at home in Ireland over Zoom and we chat away to his three nieces, who are excitedly drawing and telling us all about Halloween. I make some scrambled egg with spinach and fry off the sausages (a real treat). I receive a number of messages from my line manager, so I take my laptop out and reply to her mails.

Evening: We head out to buy an adapter for our buggy, find parking and stroll around. There are lots of lovely murals in this area and lots of family activities taking place for the weekend. We grab a milkshake and sit outside. We decide to meet a friend of ours from Ireland for a drink and some food.

Bedtime: It isn’t a late night and we are home before 11pm. Last night, I woke up with leg cramps, something that I only ever previously got following a hard-running session at football training with Dubai Celts (pre Covid). Standing up in the middle of the night doing calf raises is great fun!

Saturday

Morning: Manage another sleep in which is great. This morning we have a breakfast reservations (restaurant/cafe timeslots are another new Covid norm). Sitting outside looking out at the marina is lovely but the sun soon catches us out and it gets very warm, very quickly. There are no other tables available inside or in a more shaded area so we rearrange our seats a few times with the hope that the sun will move on. After a while, the couple behind us finish up and we gratefully take their table. This café allows you to order a minimum of six small items at a set price what equates to €15. The portions are just right and we both leave feeling very content.

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Afternoon: There is a baby bazaar taking place, so we drive over and shop around. We purchase a mirror for the back headrest and en route home we stop off and have the car registration done (similar to an NCT) and sort out our car insurance. We are home shortly afterwards. I feel tired, so I lie down but can’t sleep. After a while I get up and check in with my sister who is on night duty in Melbourne, the timing is perfect. We message away for a while.

Evening: It is an evening of sport; rugby, soccer and GAA matches. My husband is following lots of the games, so I decide to go for my usual 5k walk. Home again, quickly change and decide to go for a swim. Up home, shower and start preparing a dinner of noodles and vegetables.

Bedtime: Before bed I quickly call my dad, he has had a busy day and is just in home from farming. I return to my book and before long I am ready to knock off the lamp, but I can’t get comfortable and end up tossing and turning until almost 12.

Sunday

Morning: The start of my working week. I wake up late, feeling tired and disinterested. I quickly get dressed and start up my laptop, put two slices of bread in the toaster and eat them on the balcony. A coffee is out of the question, as I need to limit my caffeine at the moment. I follow up on emails that have come in over the weekend and once up to speed I stop to eat some cereal and join my husband who is sitting out on the balcony, as he has a class off. We start discussing buying a bassinet to go with the stroller we purchased earlier in the summer, do some research on it and make some calls. I start thinking about dinner (even though I haven’t had lunch yet) and prepare some vegetable for a curry.

Afternoon: Thankfully work finishes up for the day and I know that a nap is in order. Forty minutes later, I wake up feeling somewhat better. I had put in some enquiries about a second hand stroller equipped with a bassinet – the same brand as the one we had already bought, so we could return the original stroller – and receive a message from the seller saying the item is available. We head to pick it up.

Evening: Once home, I begin taking the smaller stroller covers off and put them in the wash, taking the larger parts to clean in the bath. I hear my husband struggling with the stroller. He has taken the clip off at the top to investigate why it is difficult to close up, only to realise that the handle is actually damaged. Just our luck. It is a true Dell Boy and Rodney moment trying to figure out how to fix it. I message the seller, but she has blocked my messages and the ad is no longer visible. What an evening?! I don’t know whether to laugh or cry and give both a try. I am all babied out and slightly fed up at this stage and hang the items out on the balcony to dry, heat up dinner and put a parotta (flatbread) on the pan.

My husband cleans up after dinner. I sit on the couch and with the benefit of hindsight, reflect that we were too eager buying without checking. I can always try to re-sell it, I suppose. There is more GAA on at home and we watch the RTE pundits getting soaked in the lashing rain. The scenes reflect my mood this evening.

Bedtime: After an eventful evening, I get ready for bed and decide I am too tired to read tonight. Lights out just after 10pm.

Monday

Morning: My husband is already up for his first class at 7.30am. I take my cereal onto the balcony while skimming through the news headlines at home, and message my sister. I feel a lot better this morning despite the events of yesterday evening, and the chats with my sister help. The morning of work whistles by and ranges from meetings with department heads and school principals to lesson observations.

Mid-morning: I snack on yoghurt and seeds in front of the laptop – again not ideal but today is another busy day. The remainder of the day is filled with following up on admin duties and replying to emails.

Afternoon: My husband finishes for the day, I make us a very quick salad sandwich before he pops out to see if he can get the stroller fixed. I still feel peckish and have another sandwich and an apple. I finish work for the day, change into my gym gear and do the usual household chores before heading to our closest shopping centre to return a mattress protector (too big). Back home again I head out for my usual 5km walk, come home, and do a 45 min yoga class.

Evening: Dinner is leftover cauliflower and vegetable masala curry with a parotta. I eat alone as my husband went out for a leisurely 83km cycle. The rest of my evening is spent relaxing on the sofa listening to some music and enjoying some treats.

What I’ve learned

  • As both of us are spending a large majority of our time at home together and in one anothers’ pockets, we really do need a break at some point throughout the week, especially with baby on the way.
  • Sometimes work spills into my evening or requires my attention at the weekend. This unfortunately is the nature of my role, but mentally it can be draining. I feel like work is never too far away from my train of thought.
  • I spend a lot of time sitting down daily. I need to get up from my laptop and move throughout the day. From reviewing my Fitbit at the end of this diary, I hit about 1,000 steps maximum within my working hours. I also need to set and stick to a break time routine at some point throughout my day, where I move away from my laptop and phone.

Last week’s diary: A 66-year-old nurse who loves to garden and is battling an old knee injury>

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