Here
and
Now

kuchikomi

Friction between working moms, working non-moms can get complicated

34 Comments

Japan has some problems that only workers can solve. It has other problems that only mothers and children can solve. Can both sets of problems be solved simultaneously? Or must one solution be at the expense of the other?

Any workplace, beneath the thin veneer of company unity, is a simmering stew of clashing ideas, clashing ambitions, clashing personalities. You’d think there’d be little new to say on the subject, but Shukan Gendai (March 19) unearths a new and sharpening conflict – that between working mothers and working non-mothers.

Twenty years ago – even 10 – motherhood was not, generally speaking, an office problem. More or less as a matter of course, working women quit when they got pregnant. They became fulltime housewives and mothers, and everyone was happy. Except that everyone wasn’t. Educated women wanted careers and felt entitled to them. The government, in recent years, has cheered them on under the slogan “womenomics” – part of its drive to revive the long-stalled national economy. Maternity leave was expanded, and childcare leave initiated, with a view toward allowing women to be both workers and mothers. Other countries had done the same. Japan, innately conservative, had more resistance to buck and progressed more slowly. Inevitably, eventually, the idea took hold: an advanced economy involves full participation by women. Otherwise it’s not an advanced economy.

You never solve one problem without causing others. Shukan Gendai shows working women at each other’s throats – mothers versus non-mothers. The fact is, a mother cannot take leave without her work falling on someone else. On who? On non-mothers, of course.

“I work on a six-women team,” says Emi. She’s 33, married, childless, a management-level employee of a manufacturing company. When a more senior colleague took maternity leave, Emi found her increased workload overwhelming. “I thought, I’ll have to put off having a child myself for a while.” Then a junior team member became pregnant. “She comes into the office and she’s like, ‘However did this happen!’” She, too, took leave. With one off, it had been bad. With two off, it was worse. “Soon,” says Emi, “I’ll be past childbearing age.” What can she do? “Is it my fault I have a strong sense of responsibility?”

Misato, 35 and single, is a program director at a radio station in a small city. When a coworker took maternity leave, she found herself having to cover all the local weekend events – not her favorite part of the job at the best of times. She complained to her boss: “Why don’t you do some of them?” There’s always a reason: “My child has a fever! My child has the flu!”

Can Misato be blamed for feeling resentful? “I have a cat,” she says. “My cat is more important to me than her child, or their children. And yet when my cat gets sick, can I take leave?”

Womenomics or not – the answer is no.

© Japan Today

©2019 GPlusMedia Inc.

34 Comments
Login to comment

Then a junior team member became pregnant. “She comes into the office and she’s like, ‘However did this happen!’” She, too, took leave. With one off, it had been bad. With two off, it was worse. “Soon,” says Emi, “I’ll be past childbearing age.” What can she do? “Is it my fault I have a strong sense of responsibility?”

If you have to ask how did this happen maybe you have some problems at home that you need help with. Your sense of responsibility...is seriously misplaced. Your company should be the one's supporting ALL of you, you choice to have children or not should not be determined by your misguided loyalties to a company that will probably toss you out the door when times get tough.

Family comes before work.

16 ( +19 / -3 )

This reminds of a commercial I saw on TV the other day.

A mother waking up in the morning preparing breakfast and bento for her kids, then proceed to take them to school, go to work, come back in the evening to pick her kids, make dinner and have the meal with her kids. She's always genki mori mori. Absolutely NO husband in the picture except for a few shots of a blurry version of him "existing" in the background.

My point is in Japan, men aren't expected to do anything, while women are expected to be a super mother who are able to do everything on her own.

15 ( +17 / -2 )

“Soon,” says Emi, “I’ll be past childbearing age.”

Just get pregnant, Emi, and spare us the passive aggressive BS.

And yet when my cat gets sick, can I take leave?”

If it's a future tax payer, why not?

14 ( +18 / -4 )

why should women get special treatment just because they have children?

Because having children is an integral part of society, and only women can do it. Society collapses without children. So companies need to take care of women who are supporting society by having children.

in my company women can take an extra day off every due to menstruation. if we're getting paid the same, is that fair?

Yes, because while they get an extra day off for cramps, you don't have to menstruate in the first place. It all balances out.

12 ( +15 / -3 )

fds: They don't get an extra day off. They get an option to take a day off if they are not able to work and that will be taken out of their vacation leave. I am sure you would be able to take a day off too if you were vomiting, fainting and needing the washroom at least once an hour.

The other option to letting women leave for child related issues, is to let men leave...still haven't seen that mentioned by anyone and would probably be laughed at by most men in charge.

12 ( +11 / -0 )

There is a terrible idea here that you are wedded to your job, that you owe it everything, and perhaps once in the past that was true, you did all you could for your employer but in turn they do everything they can to ensure a job for life, with pay increases to the point that you should be able to retire with a paid off house and some money in the bank.. that world doesn't exist anymore other than a rare case here and there.

Companies these days will lay off people without a second thought, and actually give high level employees, who already earn dozens if not hundreds time the average worker's salary, a bonus for reducing costs by laying people off...

It's disgusting.

Sure it can be a bit of a pain picking up a little more work here and there when working mothers have to take a day or afternoon off once in a while but this isn't the mothers fault its the lack decent childcare, and business trying to run staffing levels at the minimum at the time.

You should go on holidays, you should go to the doctor when you feel unwell, and so on.

Don't get me wrong I believe in hard work, and that should be rewarded but hard and good work doesn't always equal long, always present in the office.

11 ( +11 / -1 )

Is this true? If Person A takes any time off (half a day, one day or one week), A's work falls to B.

In a company I work part-time for, I asked a number of employees and their answer was, "No, I just have more to do when I get back. To catch up."

When a woman takes maternity leave the company does something remarkable: they hire a temp. Amazing thinking, eh?

9 ( +12 / -3 )

From a man's perspective, at my company when my third son was born I tried to take off 2 weeks (we get 5 days anyways), and was basically mocked for it.

This year, a woman in my 5 person group took maternal leave and we had various meetings how to allocate her work including the idea that we would hire a temp. Then they just ignored that temp idea and kept allocating her work to us. This can only lead to resentment.

8 ( +9 / -1 )

I asked a number of employees and their answer was, "No, I just have more to do when I get back. To catch up."

It does depend on the company, and the line of work, but to some extent this is true. I went back to work three days after an emergency appendectomy not because my boss insisted, but because I knew I would be facing a shed-load of work later if I didn't. (Of course this being Japan, I also had to spend extra time running around apologising to everyone for my selfish, inconsiderate appendix.)

8 ( +8 / -0 )

borscht: I was about to say the same thing! These situations are exactly the reason to hire temporary or part-time employees. This is what that kind of employement should be out there instead of being a way to keep people underpaid and worried about their future employment.

7 ( +7 / -0 )

“I have a cat,” she says. “My cat is more important to me than her child, or their children. And yet when my cat gets sick, can I take leave?”

I was starting feeling a bit of sympathy for her until that comment. Sympathy just vanished... like that.

7 ( +7 / -0 )

“I have a cat,” she says. “My cat is more important to me than her child, or their children. And yet when my cat gets sick, can I take leave?”

What a sad pathetic statement that is, reflective of an incredible self-absorption and also an emotional imbalance when it comes to her pet. Cats and humans are not the same thing, as much as many pet owners try to delude themselves into believing.

6 ( +13 / -8 )

One thing the article doesn`t mention is how falling wages and the trend towards turning all work into temporary, low wage work, is making this problem way worse.

The economics of having children today is way different than it was 20 or 30 years ago when one person (usually the husband) had a job with security and enough pay to support a family. The article paints it as some sort of selfish demand on womens part to have children and pursue a career, but the reality is that for many they need that income because they cant afford to raise their children without it. Young people today, both male and female (though there is a huge gender imabalance at work still) just don`t have anywhere near as many job opportunities as their parents did (at least not for jobs that would pay enough to support a family on a single income).

This isnt entirely the current governments fault, but with wages falling while prices rise under the burden of Abenomics, the situation is getting worse and worse.

6 ( +6 / -0 )

Clearly a great many companies in Japan are very poorly managed, and clearly many employees cant see the obvious.

Like I have been saying for umpteen years work balance is totally messed up here & in dire need of a total re-invent, but most locals cant even see the problems other than to snipe at each other......

5 ( +5 / -0 )

@kibousha

While I wouldn't say men aren't expected to everything (I mean, they are expected to give their all at work) I would have to agree with you. A friend of mine once was weighing the pros and cons of having a second child with me and one of her biggest concerns was the few days she would be in the hospital once she had the baby. I suggested that her older child would be fine with her father for a few days and she said like "No he's never changed her diaper, he doesn't know what she can eat or how to give her a bath". The family structure in Japan can be very fragmented. It's inconceivable to me how a father would have never given his own child a bath, fed her or changed her diaper, but (although evolving) this isn't uncommon in Japan. Unfortunately I doubt it will change even if women take a greater roll in the work force.

5 ( +5 / -0 )

The resentful working non-mums obviously have no idea how much work is involved staying at home and looking after a baby or toddler, both physical and mental work. I admit, it can be hard for people with no parenting experience to fathom just what is involved. When I was in my 20s, I did sometimes fall into the mindset that stay at home mums can lounge around watching TV, even though on reflection, I never saw my mum do that with my younger siblings.

5 ( +6 / -1 )

The fact is, a mother cannot take leave without her work falling on someone else. On who? On non-mothers, of course. thats certainly not the womans fault that companies faults for not employing enough stafff to compensate for women who take paternity leave. the idea that other staff should be made to take up the workload of women who take leave is wrong, and just a way of passing the blame away from the company itself.

5 ( +5 / -0 )

I do not think she would be a good mom with her bad attitude. Wait until she has a kid or two and really sees what it is like to be busy.

Hire a temp.

4 ( +10 / -7 )

I know having a child or having a family is not for everyone but yes when a child gets sick and the mother has to take pregnancy leave, technically she's not taking a break either. Sometimes when I'm at work I can sit and think more than when I'm at home. Unless you have uterus and experience labor from 12-36 hrs and bleeds every month you don't have a say in anything.

4 ( +7 / -3 )

My point is in Japan, men aren't expected to do anything, while women are expected to be a super mother who are able to do everything on her own.

Kibousha is 100% right. Don't want to start with the Western Men x Japanese Men discussion again but there is even a tv program about average people doing things the japanese abhor, power harassment, stupid customers and... LAZY HUSBANDS. Like, everytime I finish watching it I simply refuse to believe there are people, actually hordes of people like that out there. The hubby calling the wifey to tie his shoelaces (seriously???), just last weekend we went out with my girl's friends, couldn't believe my eyes, the pregnant woman carrying her purse + a big bag while the husband walks with his hands in his pockets.... no wonder the birthrate is so low and many women daydream about having a romance with a foreigner, they know from birth that as soon as they become the wife it will be HER life + husband life + child-rearing. Some japanese with inferiority-complex keep hating on foreigners instead trying to change themselves.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

Over the years I've had working moms English students and non working ones..I much prefer the working ones.They know how to multi-task and are too busy to complain.The ones not working gather in the park, and berate their husbands as if it's a sport.They just don't appreciate that they can stay at home,potter around the house,do some errands,hook up with friends and can claim financial perks of being a "homemaker."

2 ( +7 / -5 )

I work with 14 women. When I check what they're doing, it is nearly always some idiot project or some mindless piece of paperwork pushed on them by management to give them something to be assessed on so that their bonuses can be calculated etc. It's that or Excel sheets that don't need to be made, projects that will never earn a single yen, lengthy meetings that don't need to be set or attended, assessments that are never followed up with any training and so on and so forth. Not all, but some of these women complain bitterly if someone takes maternity leave because the tasks fall on them, but the reality is that Japanese offices are full of non-work. If the Japanese put some of the non-work to one side and got on with the work, there would be no problem covering those on maternity leave, off sick, on holiday and every other thing that is normal elsewhere. The offices here would be massively overstaffed if people just got on and did the work they need to do instead of all the staggering time-wasting that goes on. All that is needed is some proper management and some basic efficiency, but this is absolutely resisted at all times by the same kind of person who complains if anyone takes leave. And when anyone is off to take care of a sick child, they have to use paid leave days here, which Misato has the same entitlement to as anyone else. I hope she's made up. If not, she's a nut case.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Hiring a temp is not a solution unless it is a job which requires repetitive tasks which don't require job specific knowledge.

how many Temps do you know that can do project management in an IT environment or manage a group of mechanical engineers? Perhaps I can call manpower for a nurse? Or maybe we can pull a TV assistant director out of nowhere?

Maybe when people are left to make choices which make sense to them instead of being bullied by this "put women in every position, but nevermind the drawbacks" stuff, we will all be a happier species.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Simple logic. Get pregnant and go on leave. The boss will somehow get someone to stand in for you on part time basis.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Of course this being Japan, I also had to spend extra time running around apologising to everyone for my selfish, inconsiderate appendix.

LOL! So true!

But in terms of the article, if Emiko wants to get pregnant, she should just go ahead and do it. I get the feeling she actually doesnt want to, and this is just another of many excuses. Nothing wrong with that, but don't put your sh1t on someone else. Strong sense of responsibility? I would call it martyrdom myself.

And as for Misato - I think never in all my time on the internet to date, have I wanted so badly to reach through my computer screen and b--h slap someone so much!

1 ( +2 / -1 )

The fact is, a mother cannot take leave without her work falling on someone else. On who? On non-mothers, of course.

The. Fact. Is. Not. When there's a shortage of staff, for whatever reason - illness, increased orders, maternity leave, just hire temp staff already. Like they do on Planet Earth.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Temp agency. Worked for one for years in the states. It was fun. Worked at places for 2,3 even six months. Also, got hired full time by one of the companies. It was Geat. But enjoyed moving around different companies. Get with the program Japan.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

All I wish for is better paid maternity/paternity leaves to become available to all countries, for everyone. I wish to have a good one soon. We're still trying for baby # 2, waiting for a another positive PT with the help of pregnancytips pills. 

0 ( +0 / -0 )

@DarkKnghtZMAR. 18, 2016 - 03:32PM JST

Hiring a temp is not a solution unless it is a job which requires repetitive tasks which don't require job specific knowledge.

I won't say this works every time, but try this. Advance the best qualified of the regulars into the missing post and shuffle those below her accordingly. At the bottom there must be grunt work and hire a temp for that.

For all that, you are a very brave person to be putting out the opposite, and IMO, a much needed viewpoint in this day and age.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

@DarkKnightZ

There are temp staff which have specific skill specialties in Japan. Also, there are ads for senior positions for a year in many other countries with a note saying "maternity leave replacement" . There is no issue of not getting your job back because everyone understands the law.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

I imagine there would be some friction given the jealousy that seems to be par for the course in Japan. The other issue though is that of the socially awkward. People like Misato are pathetic. Get out there, meet a man and make babies.

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

Strange, according to women problems arise from men.

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

Maternity leave was expanded, and childcare leave initiated, with a view toward allowing women to be both workers and mothers. Other countries had done the same. Japan, innately conservative, had more resistance to buck and progressed more slowly. Inevitably, eventually, the idea took hold: an advanced economy involves full participation by women. Otherwise it’s not an advanced economy.

Guess this means the US is not an advanced economy. The US has no national system of childcare nor does it have Japanese (and European) style maternity leave with pay and the provision for maternity leave without pay is very limited.

To the extent that labor force participation rate is a proxy for the economic participation of women, Japan is now ahead of the US and the Japanese rate is increasing while that of the US is decreasing.

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

why should women get special treatment just because they have children? in my company women can take an extra day off every due to menstruation. if we're getting paid the same, is that fair?

-20 ( +1 / -21 )

Login to leave a comment

Facebook users

Use your Facebook account to login or register with JapanToday. By doing so, you will also receive an email inviting you to receive our news alerts.

Facebook Connect

Login with your JapanToday account

User registration

Articles, Offers & Useful Resources

A mix of what's trending on our other sites