Would You Do It? Single Mother Of 3 Moves Her Family To The Middle East

December 15, 2015  |  

Tanai Benard and her children. Jason Ward, Vivid Images Production

When is the last time you heard about a newly divorced mother relocating to the Middle East for a new life? Most likely never, but that’s what Tanai Benard, 32, did two years ago, when she and her three children moved to Abu Dhabi. 

The move had been a dream that the Texas mother and her then-husband had — before he backed out. Benard filed for divorce shortly before boarding a plane for the United Arab Emirates.

So how does a single mother of 3 make it work in a new country? The Washington Post chatted with her over Skype recently. Read some of their conversation below.

What were the red flags in your marriage that made you want to move to the Middle East?

It was an abusive marriage with many financial struggles. Sometimes [my husband would] bring home money to help out, and other times he didn’t. The idea of moving to the UAE was to help our marriage get a “revamp.” But the final straw was me discovering his infidelity. I filed for divorced right before boarding the plane.

Why the UAE?

Before discussing it with my now ex-husband, it was never on my radar. Our home in Texas was being rented out, so at that point it was either leave, be homeless, or move in with family. We liked the living standards the UAE offered. When I realized he was making no effort to get a passport, I stepped out on faith on my own with the kids.

What type of work do you do there?

I have an engineering degree, but I’m also a certified teacher. I currently teach math for Emirati girls.

Since arriving in 2013, how do you feel the UAE has treated you as a single mom?

It’s not as conservative as people think. The people, particularly the men, are quite accepting of my marital status. If anything, sometimes I feel some of the men are intimidated by it: Like, how can she do it all by herself? People automatically assume you’re married if you’re woman here. But I’ve never had an issue with being open about being a single mom. My family has been embraced since day one.

Have you dated since being in the UAE? What is it like?

The dating scene here is tough. I kind of stay in the American social circles, and the pickings are slim. Oftentimes, the men — mostly military contractors and educators — are married with families back in the states. And trying to coordinate activities involving my children makes dating more difficult. But the few experiences I’ve had since being here were positive ones. I dated one guy for about a little over a year. So in all, it’s challenging but not impossible.

How did the kids react to you dating again?

The kids loved the guy I dated for a year, especially my boys. It was my first relationship [since] my divorce, and he was very supportive of me. Even after deciding to just be friends, there’s still a good friendship there.

Are you living comfortably in the UAE on a teacher’s budget and three kids?

Absolutely! I recently celebrated my 32nd birthday on a yacht. There’s no way I could have afforded that in the U.S. My salary is comparable to what I made in the U.S. However, my employer covers my housing and health insurance for my children and me. Remove those costs, and you have a greater deal of disposable income.

Do you feel safe in the UAE?

Of course. I practice awareness of my surroundings like I would anywhere else, but I never got the impression I was in danger. The Emirati government usually sends out a message whenever there could be conflict, but that’s few and far. On a day-to-day level, I feel much safer here than I did in the U.S.

Read the full interview here.

Read Tanai’s blog here.

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