Can`t think of a title...

This morning while I was in the shower I was thinking about everything that has been going on over the past couple of months and whether or not I am suffering from reverse culture shock yet. When I moved back to London for a few months after I finished my JET contract and before D and I got married, I was completely miserable, missed Japan terribly and hated every second of being in the UK. There were obviously many factors involved in those emotions but I have been surprised at how different I feel this time around. The fact that I haven’t started to feel “homesick” for Japan at all is a big indication to me that maybe I really was “done” with living there. Don’t get me wrong, Japan isn’t a bad place and I didn’t hate living there, in fact I still think that there are many great things about life in Japan but I guess there comes a certain time when you have had enough of being somewhere and I think I was on the verge of that time. Again, there were many factors in that and I am sure I will analyze them endlessly and talk about them more over the coming months but for now, I am happy that I have yet to be hit with any great yearning to go back. I think working with Japanese people and using my Japanese makes a big difference and it helps that on my way home from work; I can take a detour to the Japan centre and hit the supermarket there to buy bits and pieces that I might be craving. There is even a little shop down the road from my office that has yummy take-away sushi so a couple of times a week, my colleague and I pick up lunch there. Last night I went to the Japan Centre and stocked up on instant miso soup and bought the ingredients to make some from scratch as my Mum loves it. My next mission is going to be attempting to make some sushi at home. I bought the packets that you can use to make chirashizushi and my parents loved that so at some point in the next few weeks I might try and make temaki sushi at home as most of the ingredients are easy enough to come by. It is weird having to learn how to “cook” all over again though because most of the things I have been cooking over the years are Japanese ingredient based and the supermarkets here don’t sell the same cuts of meat as the ones in Japan. Obviously, if I had any kind of natural flair for cooking I could adapt all the things I can cook to English cuts of meat but I am sad to say that unless I can follow recipes exactly, I am a hopeless cook!!! I have noticed that I haven’t taken many pictures lately, and I guess that is something I am going to have to remedy. People keep asking to see pictures of what we have been up to so I shall have to start taking my camera everywhere with me again. We have a fun weekend planned as my boss has invited us over to his place for a BBQ on Saturday (although the weather is going to be nasty apparently, which means the kids won’t be able to play in the Garden.) Then, on Sunday I am going to meet a friend of mine who lives in Kumamoto normally but is back in the UK visiting for the summer. We were supposed to be meeting up last Sunday but as I had the killer sore throat from hell and Joey wasn’t very well either, we postponed it to this weekend. I am hoping the weather is nice but lately the weather has been completely atrocious so I won’t get my hopes up too much. Joey seems to be settling better at daycare. Every day he brings home the coolest pictures that he has been drawing and they are slowly starting to take shape into real objects rather than scribbles. I am hopeless at drawing so I am hoping that he has inherited his namesake’s talent because my Granddad was amazing and could draw anything beautifully. I know Mums tend to have a lot of dreams for their kids and suffice to say, I have stacks for Joey but if he ends up being able to draw things properly, then I will be a happy Mummy. But I digress, back to daycare. Yesterday morning we had a breakthrough as I didn’t have to physically carry him into his room. He walked in holding my hand and then went over to one of the teachers. He then started to blow me a kiss and THAT was when he burst into tears!!! I am sure it didn’t last long though. This morning he was fake-crying as we went into the nursery but once he was in his room with the other kids, he seemed to settle and was fine. I am sure that in another week or so, he will quite happily run in to see everyone. I am really hoping that day comes sooner rather than later as it kills me when he cries for me as I leave. I guess working Mums everywhere feel the same way though. Having said all that, I do feel that the current arrangement is making me a better mother. When I was staying at home with Joey, I found the whole experience very testing and a lot of hard work. I have always loved children and wanted to be a Mum but found the reality of being 100% responsible for another human being who was 100% reliant on me to be a huge challenge and most days I found myself being so overwhelmed with getting through the day entertaining him and doing all the cooking cleaning etc.. I know this is going to sound terrible but doing the same thing day in and day out took the joy out of the whole experience for me and much as I adored being with him and appreciated being able to watch him grown and change, I was slowly starting to resent the fact that I was “stuck” in the same place all the time. I hated myself for feeling that way but once I started working part-time and saw Joey flourish at daycare, I kind of knew that while I have a lot of respect and admiration for SAHMs, it wasn’t the path for me. In just the past couple of weeks since I started working that has been confirmed to me. People ask me if I am tired but the reality is that a day at work seems to wear me a lot less than being with Joey full-time. I come home from work full of energy and ready to play with him and the time that we have together is full of fun rather than me feeling like our time together is endless and something I “have” to do. I have always felt bad for feeling that way and I was surprised that I did but I am very glad that I live in a time when women have choices and are able to live the life they want to live without being judged as bad mothers/ selfish. When I was at school, I used to take part in a lot of Public Speaking/ Debating competitions and one of my pet topics was Women`s Rights. At the time I always concluded that the most important thing about equal rights was that women could have the choice to lead the life they wanted and although at the time, it was the opinion of a 16 year old with little knowledge of the real world, I still genuinely believe what I used to say all those years ago. I feel blessed that the options are available to me and that I am able to explore both my career path and my life as a mother at the same time. In Japan I often found that the general way of thinking was that once you became a mother, that was basically all you could do for the rest of your life. Companies make it very difficult for mothers to go back to work and it is almost impossible to start a career after you have kids. There is a lot of pressure from “above” (the grandparents for example) to stay at home with your kids because that is “better” for them. I remember my MIL frowning a lot and saying “how sad” Joey would be when I started putting him in daycare but she soon changed her tune when she saw how much his Japanese progressed after time in daycare. I have a friend who would love to go back to work but is worried about “inconveniencing” the company if she then decides to take a break to have her second child. That pretty much sums up the way of thinking in Japan. When I first thought about coming back to London, I was fresh out of a bad interview experience with a Japanese school where they asked me a lot of personal questions about my potential childcare arrangements, what I would do if my son got sick etc.. I was concerned that the same questions would present themselves at an interview here and that the answers would stand against me when they were considering my as a candidate. After talking to a friend of mine who works in HR, I discovered that while these questions are the norm in Japan, in the UK they are actually against the law these days as HR people are not allowed to ask a woman any questions they wouldn`t ask a man and therefore children/ family planning/ childcare arrangements seem to be taboo subjects, which is completely different to Japan. Equal opportunities laws, coupled with anti-age discrimination legislation have meant that looking for a job here was a much more comfortable experience than I was expecting, and I am very happy about that. But enough babbling, I managed to go off on a serious tangent there didn`t I?!? Having Joey settled in a bit better has enabled me to throw myself into my job. I am really enjoying it and I am learning so much every day. Every day is different as well which has always been a very important job requirement for me as I have a very short attention span!! We have been out and about at meetings and there are times when I feel like I am seriously in over my head and in need of a crash course in mobile phone related Japanese but there are other times when I hit my stride and feel at home with what I am doing. It is a steep learning curve but I am sure I will get there in the end! On a sad note, Daisuke`s grandmother isn`t doing very well at the moment and last weekend he was called over to Kanoya to go and see her as she was on her "last legs". This has happened quite a few times over the past few months but she is still hanging in there, despite being quite weak. She really is a fabulous woman of great character and thinking of her wasting away in a hospital bed makes me very sad. Joey doesn`t talk about D or my MIL very much but he often chats about "Baa-chan" and her dogs to my Mum so despite only spending a little bit of time with her, D`s gran seems to have had a very lasting impression on him and I hope that stays with him even if he doesn`t get to see her again.


Gina said...

What a great post. I'm very sorry to hear about Daisuke's grandmother.

I really think it was like you said. It was just your time to move back. I'm glad you are doing so well over there. And that you have a little Japan centre there as well. Being able to get goodies and things you miss from Japan are always a good thing, ha ha. If you ever need anything else, email me and I will always send it for you though. : )

About the pictures. I agree! I really miss you sharing pictures with us. I especially miss the Joey pics! Also, Joey will adjust to the daycare in due time. He sounds like he is doing wonderfully already though. We are still cheering him on, over here at my house! : )

chelle said...

So glad you are settling in so well. Joey will too!

Heidi said...

Hi Midori, glad to read that things are working out well. As a fellow working mum, I can totally relate to your feelings (just that I never got too guilty about leaving my crying kid at the daycare! Bad me!).

I enjoyed your post and thought it rather thought-provoking as regards the Japanese female position. Firstly, I believe that it is difficult for all mums who have young kids to get a job again (if they had already left their previous jobs prior to giving birth), almost everywhere in the world. If there was a another female interviewing for your job with the same set of skills as you, personality, charm etc and the only difference being that she does not have any kids, I am pretty sure she would have been offered the job. Loss of productive hours due to staying home with a young sick kid is something that all employers are wary about, whether or not it is expressed. Seemingly, it cannot be expressed in England. But I feel that in fairness to Japanese employers, the legendary difficulty of sacking employees is all very real (I assist my Japanese colleagues on advising on Japanese employment law). If a mum has to take numerous days off to tend to a sick kid resulting in detriment to the company's productivity, the company still cannot sack her. Working mums in countries such as UK, US, Singapore and Malaysia can be sacked and easily too.

As for grandparent's attitude, I think it first stems from pride. There is a strong belief that if a daughter-in-law has to work, it brings shame to the family as it means that the son cannot provide for the family. This, I believe, contributes to the attitude of looking down on kids brought up in daycares. (Also, I think some grannies secretly don't want to be asked to help look after a sick kid when the mum works). The daycares in Japan are across the board excellent and my Japanese female colleagues are very happy with their daycares too, but the older generation still has a very conservative approach.

Anyway, I should leave it here as this is getting too long.

All the best to you and your career!

PS. Just want to add that depending on what kind of career the woman wants, if she does not mind only a menial job, look around, there are lots of older woman working. My FIL too employs a lot of older women (usually searching for work after a divorce). So, it may be a little harder for the J woman with young kids, but it is not the end, esp after the kids have started school.