Parlor Spider...Step In, Little Fly

Insightful thoughts and/or rants from atop the soapbox from one who wishes to share the "right" opinion with everyone.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Full Contact Hokatsu

One would think the intensity of labor involved in simply being pregnant and giving birth would be more than enough strain on a woman. I've watched this process up close and personal a couple of times, and, believe me, I would not be thrilled to undergo it. Living near parents or in a small town with a plethora of daycare options made even part-time work a possibility. It's a good thing we didn't live in Japan, however. There, the competition to get a child into daycare is so intense that it even has its own name: hokatsu!
It seems that due to a variety of factors, finding daycare in Japan is only slightly less difficult than getting national security clearance at the highest level. Take the case of Ayaka Okumura whose story was featured today in The New York Times. Since Japan has begun loosening restrictions on women in the workplace, things have changed dramatically. Of course, for thousands of years in Japan, women did not work except to keep the household running and provide sex when husbands wanted it. Following WW II, though, women were urged to work at something other than being "office ladies," a position designed to serve tea and greet guests at places of business. Some of the old traditions remain, though, and that was one of Okumura's problems: if she wanted to find childcare, she would have to do it alone since men did not consider that worthy of them. So she began.
She spent the entire pregnancy going from daycare to daycare, filling out applications and being put on waiting lists...some as long as 200 names. Her parents are live too far away to take care of an infant so she had to find either a government-sponsored place where workers are required to have two years of specialized training, or find a private service: nannies being unheard of since the Japanese are hesitant to invite foreigners into their homes.
Anyway, she visited 44 sites in 9 months, the last being scheduled on the day she gave birth. In many cases, she was asked why she would be so selfish as to put her child in someone else's care...the stereotype of the "June Cleaver" mother still being culturally accepted as a norm.
Okumura even bemoaned her lack of timing: If she have had her baby closer to April, the beginning of the daycare "school year," she would have been much higher on the list for government sponsored childcare. Of course, since both she and her husband had jobs, and no relatives lived nearby, she was still ranked relatively high on the list.
When she was finally granted a spot in one of the government daycares, she was relieved but still felt the guilt of leaving a child in the care of strangers.
Motherhood can be a real pain.
In Japan, it is apparent that it is difficult to "have it all."


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