Gender equality has been in the news quite a bit in Japan recently, sort of, and some things have happened closer to home that have me thinking.
It started when a (female) Tokyo assembly member was heckled in a sexist way. Then Prime Minister Abe introduced some new policies to let women “shine.” (He needs to get them doing something for the economy.) He even appointed several women to cabinet posts, for about five minutes, until they were slapped back down into their places over minor scandals.
In Japan, people are talking more about issues women face but no one seems to be doing much about them.
(Lest I forget: strangely enough, the declining birth rate is treated as a “women’s issue.” I seem to remember my husband being involved, too.)
I never considered myself a feminist growing up. Some members of the evangelical, conservative community I grew up in doubtless felt “feminist” was a new version of the “F-word.”
OK, so I went to a high school with more sports options for boys than girls. And yes, girls were encouraged to take chorus and home economics instead of woodworking or mechanics. So maybe I heard men from my community refer to grown women as “broads” or “gals.” There also were some restrictions at church regarding women’s and men’s roles. But I never felt that possessing certain types of baby-making parts limited my potential.
Then I moved to Japan, where gender roles are more firmly entrenched and my way of thinking slowly changed.
As I get older, and because I am a mother, I find that I am limited in ways that I couldn’t have foreseen as a young girl.
Some people may find life here in Japan freeing. If you aspire to be a homemaker a la Martha Stewart, then your life’s work would be very much respected and appreciated here. My husband wouldn’t bat an eyelid if he came home to a messy house because I’d spent the day at a preschool mothers’ lunch. He knows that is part of the job (on the other hand, it would never occur to him to pick up the mess himself.)
If, as a woman, you have other aspirations, Japanese culture seems designed to work against you. The glass ceiling is very much in tact. On the news here you do hear issues like lack of childcare and “maternity harassment” being addressed. But what gets talked about less often is that to many women, including myself, it feels as if there’s a glass door as well.
It’s my front door.
Before a woman can even think about what is facing her out in the world, she needs to address the forces that are keeping her at home. Some of these are practical, some are logistical, some are cultural and perhaps peculiar to Japan and it’s work culture.
For me, it starts with my husband: He leaves home at 7am every morning, but I have no idea what time he will be back. Sometimes it’s 7pm. Sometimes it’s midnight. He may be in the office that day, or he may suddenly be sent to another prefecture. He’s made international trips on 12 hours notice. I cannot depend on him being home at a designated time, by no fault of his own. The idea of him taking time off with a sick child is preposterous in the extreme.
I have been lucky enough to have two job offers recently, both of which would be more or less during school hours, but neither is nearby. If a child were to get sick and need picking up, or if god-forbid there was a natural disaster (which is always in the back of your mind if you are a mother in Japan,) then my husband would be closer. I mentioned that, and he completely shot me down. Not just the idea of him picking up the kids in case of an emergency, but the idea of a job anywhere outside of cycling distance from the school.
We live in a residential neighborhood. I patch together some part-time work here and there, but it’s not like there are loads of professional opportunities in a two kilometer radius.
I suddenly felt very limited, penned in, in a way I haven’t felt before. The glass door was slamming in my face.
I don’t think I’m alone in this conundrum. Go to almost any supermarket in a residential area during the day, and you will see women in their prime working years manning the register. Many of these women have university degrees. Many have licenses and qualifications to be doing other kinds of work, but they want to stay close to home. They also need salaries to stay under $10,000 year or face a peculiar Japanese tax code and insurance system that penalizes families where both partners have incomes over that amount.
Then there are my kids: Like 2/3 of Japanese women with children under 6, I stayed home when they were small. They now completely depend on me for everything. It seems to have never entered their minds that someone else could give them a bath or help them find their missing socks, mostly because no one else has ever done anything for them. Especially when they are sick, they want only me. It was very hard when my daughter was in the hospital, both children wanting to be with me and emphatic that no one else would do.
But now my youngest is in elementary school, and I would like to just be doing more of something….else, but for me to plunge into the workforce would be a huge adjustment for my children. Is it worth the stress? Can we survive what is sure to be a painful adjustment period?
Maybe if I had more family support, it would feel less impossible but as it is, it seems like everyone is against me.
Which brings me to the final characters in this comedy, my in-laws: They say they’ll watch the kids, then they change their minds. Or something better comes up. From their point of view, this house and these people are completely my responsibility. Anything they do is extra credit.
To be honest, we’re getting to the point where my in-laws need my help more than I need theirs.
They aren’t shy about letting me know my place.
One day not too long ago, my son was playing at the park with his friends. It was getting close to homework time, so I called him and told him to come home. He said he was playing with Jiji (which is an endearing term for grandfather used in our region of Japan,) and could he play for a bit longer? Since he was out with an adult, I said okay.
The next day, I got a verbal whipping from my father-in-law over the phone, accusing me of being irresponsible, a bad mother. It took me a few minutes to understand why he was saying this, but when I got to the bottom of it, I realized my son had lied to me. He was playing with his friends when Jiji walked by and told him to go home. My son told him I wasn’t at home and said he couldn’t come back until I did. (I must have called right at this point.) “How dare you not be home in the afternoon?” said Jiji.
Putting aside that none of this nonsense was true, so what if I wasn’t home in the afternoon? Of course I wouldn’t have left the kids to wander the neighborhood like stray dogs, but why was my not physically being inside my house such an issue to him? His assumption that it was my duty to be always available to everyone took me by surprise.
I could almost hear the glass door slamming again.
There are also other barriers for women in Japan—an over active PTA for one, and a myriad of community responsibilities attended to exclusively by women for another. I imagine most women in the world encounter both the “glass door” and the “glass ceiling” in some form or another, but in Japan only one of these factors is seems to be getting much attention. Building new daycare facilities isn’t enough; the government stating goals to increase women’s participation in the workforce isn’t enough. Until we do something about that glass door, nothing will change for one of the best educated, least utilized group of women in the world.
Do you feel you are fulfilling your potential, both at work and at home? What’s the situation like in your country?
This is an original post for World Moms Blog from our writer and mother of two in Japan, Melanie Oda.
Happy New Year! In this season of resolutions, many of us are looking for ways to live a happier life. As a mother, I believe increasing one’s happiness is a wonderful thing to do for oneself and for one’s family–an angry, bitter and unhappy woman can never make her family happy. But how do we find our way to a happier life?
Happiness is all about us, about our mindset, what we believe and how we feel. Our circumstances, our possessions, our job and our bank account are just temporary sources of happiness. Real happiness shines from the inside out, reflecting how we feel about ourselves and how satisfied we are with who we are and how we live. As a life coach, here are 10 practices I’ve found that enhance my daily happiness.
1- Improve your self image: For me, the first and most important source of happiness is how I feel about the image I see in the mirror. How proud do I feel about myself? What kind of relationship do I have with myself? Do I offer myself love, respect, acceptance and appreciation? Or is it guilt, shame, anger, and low self esteem? Being happy with who I am is my main source of happiness.
2- Don’t seek approval of others: Many women live in a way they don’t want just to please their partner, their family, or their friends. Though this may result in short-term approval and acceptance, living according to others’ expectations will not create lasting happiness.
3- Keep your word to yourself: Learn to say NO to what is not a priority in your life. If you set a ME time for yourself ,do not give it up easily. Keeping your word to yourself will greatly enhance your feeling of self worth and self respect.
4- Eat healthy food and exercise: Healthy food will positively impact your mood and give you more energy. Working out regularly has a great effect on physical and mental health. According to a psychiatrist friend of mine, walking one hour in open air equates the effect of an antidepressant pill. So when you feel down, try going for a walk outside.
5- Let go: Let’s face it. There are some aspects of our lives we cannot control. We certainly can’t control, or change, the past. Accepting the reality that we can do nothing brings a great relief and freedom.
6- Find your passion: Working on something you love brings real satisfaction. If you haven’t yet found your passion, play around with different hobbies like making or listening to music, drawing, or writing. Expressing your thoughts and feelings in any way will help you get clear about what your passion is.
7- Keep only fulfilling relationships: Continuing with unhealthy and non-fulfilling relationships is an energy drain. See no. 3.
8- Keep a gratitude journal: Make it a habit to jot down 5 things in your life for which you are grateful. If have something you complain about all the time, follow your complaint with any positive you can find in it. Eventually, you may find a blessing in what you were complaining about.
9- LOL: Find a reason every day to laugh, and spend time with your beloved ones having fun and laughing out loud.
10- Spend some time away from media and technology: Take a brief holiday from the TV, radio, internet, even your iPhone. Spend the time working out, meeting friends, reading books, playing with your kids and pets, or taking a walk. Observe how you feel. Just few days (or even an afternoon) without media and technology will make great difference in your life and your satisfaction.
These are my tips on how to live a happier life. What are some things you do to add happiness to your life? What is your definition of happiness and do you find it easy to live according to this definition? What challenges do you face to live a happier life?
This is an original post for World Moms Blog by Nihad from Alexandria, Egypt. Nihad blogs at Aurora Beams Life Coaching.
Image courtesy of “Pretty Girl In A Hat At Sunset” by Stuart Miles, FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Season’s Greetings Readers!
As the end of December approaches, so does the end 2014. We would like to thank YOU, for joining us and coming along for the ride over this past year. You…sharing our posts, posting comments, and interacting with us on social media…THAT is what keeps us going!
This past year has been another amazing one for World Moms Blog (WMB). As we touch on some highlights from 2014, you will see that these world moms get around!
After all that, we are getting ready to take a blogcation break to spend time with family, friends, and re-energize for 2015. We hope that you will get the chance to do the same. And if you find yourself looking for something to read, come on by and catch up on posts you may have missed in 2014!
Wishing you all a joyful end of the year. Come back on Monday, January 5th to help us kick off 2015.
World Moms Blog
They sit there.
A mixed pile of emotions, long lost puzzle pieces of my youth that have surfaced with a surreal reminder of joy and heartache. A collection of recollections of the beauty and naivete of my tormented, confused yet vibrant teen years.
Pieces of papers and assorted mementos, all too precious for me to have thrown away, yet not important enough for me to taken them when I started my married life and moved away.
Yet here they are. Twenty-five years later they have made the journey overseas and have arrived in my home. When my parents cleaned out my childhood home before moving away, I once again couldn’t bear for these pieces of my youth to be thrown out without a second glance. Who knows what treasures might be hidden in their midst.
Now I’m overwhelmed. By the amount and variety of written correspondence I saved. There are letters from my first love at the age of 14, so beautiful, sincere and full of promise. There are tender letters from my husband back in the years before email and text messages. There are stacks of heartfelt letters from people whom I don’t remember, people I’m sure I thought I would never forget. There are letters from people whom I remember but am surprised to find out how close I used to be with them. There are blasts from the past like my old college roommate who by chance recently friended me on Facebook. There are cards and yearbooks full of short wishes and goodbyes.
Some comments make my heart go thump, while others like “ Don’t beat up too many boys.”, remind me of parts of my personality that I wish I could forget. There are words of friendship, caring, support and encouragement that warm the cockles of my heart. And I wonder yet again why certain people stayed in my life and others drifted away.
That’s the hard part of nostalgia, trying to make sense of things, trying to understand how you gently got rerouted to a path so wonderful yet so different than the one you had envisioned.
The empty seductive promises of the past are dangerous, for they’re not real in the present moment in time. They were real in a different reality when you were a different person. Yet even so, it’s hard to read your youth without wondering about alternate endings to your life story. The past is an enticing illusion, a strong magnet drawing you in and distorting the present.
Do you think there is any way to embrace the joy and wonder of what was without leaving both the past and the present a little less whole?
I was channel surfing on the TV yesterday afternoon and I was dumb-struck by the news of the attack on the army school in Peshawar. The latest reports say that almost 150 people were killed, the majority being children.
A mother was lamenting, “This morning my son was in a uniform, now he is in a coffin.”
A student was crying out that his mother, who was a teacher there, was dead.
On another website, I read that children reported how, when they ran out of their classrooms, they could see their friends’ bodies strewn around the school compound. One child reported that two bodies fell on him and then he realized they were his dead friends. Forget violent video games. Somewhere in the world, children were watching and being part of a very violent game, a game they had been caught in unawares, unwittingly, forcefully and in a confused illogical way.
‘Glory be to God,’ a terrorist screamed and gunned down the children who were hiding beneath the benches.
God? I have no words… Did he say “God???”
I generally do not venture into writing controversial topics in Journalism or in the blogging world. I just shy away from anything which would cause any discomfort for another party. But this one really broke my heart… It hits so close to home. I am a mother first. And I feel for all those mothers …
Yesterday night when I was discussing this incident with a friend on the phone, my son overheard it and started asking me a few questions. I changed the topic because I was not prepared to talk about it.
I was not even prepared to talk to my friend about it. Imagine, a mother going through it, living it … It just broke my heart. Was she prepared to not see her child anymore when she was bidding him goodbye in the morning?
This morning, when my son was ready for school, my heart was stuck in my throat. As he got into the car and waved back at me, I imagined what was going on in the hearts of all those mothers who had lost their kids. I imagined all those families who had lost their mothers (who worked as teachers) and I was lost for words or feelings.
I almost wanted to stop him and say, “Do not go to school.” But I waved back enthusiastically reminding him to eat the biscuits because he had not had his breakfast and chastised him for not having completed his glass of milk and let go of my heart out of my body.
And I know I am going to talk to him about it when he comes back home in the evening. I am going to tell him what happened in Peshawar, in our neighboring country.
I wouldn’t even say Pakistan is another country because just a few decades ago, India and Pakistan were the same country. I am going to tell my son that his brothers and sisters living just a few miles away were victims of violence and hatred and vengeance.
I am going to tell him that it is very necessary to be filled with love, to be able to spread love, peace and kindness.
To be filled with happiness, joy and life.
I am going to sow fresh seeds of love into his heart. I am going to teach him again that he has to nurture those seeds of love and allow them to grow into huge trees of love, spreading shade all over humanity.
I am going to tell my son again, how unconditional love is the only solution, and that alone breeds more love.
I am going to tell him he should not hate those perpetrators of crime either, who gunned down his brothers and sisters, but pray they change over too.
Yes, it is a tall order. But I think it is possible. If it is possible to think it, it is possible to do it, it is possible that somewhere in the future this reality manifests.
I feel it in my heart. If all of us World Moms can do this tiny bit to our children today, teach them that love is the only solution for hatred and violence, then the children would believe it too and there might be hope for the next generation.
So, dear mothers, this evening, when your children come home from school, give them all an extra big, tight hug and talk to them about this, and ask them to pledge their solidarity in spreading love and peace.
Today, World Moms, representing all the countries we write from, stand in solidarity and support of all those victims, the families and friends, and share their grief and express their prayers and love.
I conclude with this short nursery rhyme… and might I remind you, as a dear friend reminded me yesterday: there is a wealth of wisdom in Nursery Rhymes, even for adults.
This little light of mine,
I am going to let it shine.
Let it shine, let it shine, let it shine.
Everywhere I go,
I am going to let it shine.
Let it shine, let it shine, let it shine.
Deep within my heart,
I am going to let it shine.
Let it shine, let it shine, let it shine.
All around my friends,
I am going to let it shine.
Let it shine, let it shine, let it shine.
Let it shine, let it shine, let it shine.
This is an original post from our World Mom and Senior Editor in India, Purnima Ramakrishnan on the occasion of the “#DayOfTheGirl Child.”
Her contributions to the World Moms Blog can be found here. She also rambles at The Alchemist’s Blog.
Photo credit to the author’s friend, Mahalakshmi.
As World Moms, the school massacre in Peshawar, Pakistan is not just “their” issue, it’s our issue too.
We are shaken to the core. December is supposed to be a month filled with hope, joy, peace and love. It is a month of holidays, coming together and sharing our gifts. Yet in 2012 we were faced with the horror of 36 killed at Sandy Hook Elementary, a tragedy we hoped would not repeat in our lifetimes. In April, the kidnapping of 276 school girls in Chibok, Nigeria. And just yesterday, 145, mostly school children, killed in the #PeshawarAttack.
In this special report, we bring you the voices of moms from around the world as they weigh in on this very personal issue:
World Moms Blog Founder, Jennifer Burden (USA): What are we going to do about this? What is it going to take? Where are the girls from Chibok? Where are the children who died in Peshawar? How can anybody join an ideology that is violent to children? The good in the world far outweighs the bad in the world. I keep telling myself that. And I believe that. How do we unbrainwash those who are using religion for bad? Why is religion in the wrong hands so dangerous? Yet, in the right hands can be so positive? I have a lot of unanswered questions after reading the sad news from Peshawar.
Senior Editor, Purnima Ramakrisnan (INDIA): I was channel surfing on the TV yesterday afternoon and was dumb-struck by the news of the attack on the army school in Peshawar. The latest reportssay that almost 150 people were killed, the majority being children. One news channel says that a teacher was burnt aliveand the students were made to watch it. A few of them were beheaded and the rest watched the horror. Forget worrying about your child watching PG or Adult Rated Content on the TV. Some child across the world is watching it live, unable to grasp the tangible reality of hatred and violence.
Managing Editor, Kyla P’an (USA): I am heartsick over this tragedy. As a journalist, I typically share current events with my kids (8 & 5) and have real-world conversations with them about what’s happening globally. I simply cannot let them know about one more school tragedy. School should be a safe place. A place to be around their peers, adults who care and nurture them and a thriving environment to learn. This tragedy is beyond my maternal processing capabilities. A little piece of every mom is chipped away every time an atrocity happens to anyone’s child.
World Voice Editor, Elizabeth Atalay (USA): The attack in Peshawar yesterday was a horrific act of barbaric cowardice. As a mother it sickens me to the core, and I know that today mothers around the world are in mourning for those innocent lives lost. My heart cries for the families of the lives taken yesterday in this senseless act of violence against children. Innocent children at school. I just can’t even fully express the despair the thought of it brings.
Contributor, Maureen H. (INDONESIA): It is so difficult to process such a horrible news. I cried and as a mom I cannot imagine the kind of grief and pain these parents have to go through. How do they move forward? How do they find peace? Is that even possible? It is every parent’s worst nightmare to lose a child but to have them taken away with such cruelty? I am in tears writing this.
Copy Editor, Elizabeth M. (USA): Devastating. Memories of Sandy Hook. I went to the Facebook page of my friend who had lived and worked in Pakistan for many years and saw pictures of families gathering in the parks in protest… candles… calls for solidarity. But I also feel incredibly helpless. So much intake of such bad news lately. I have a very concrete need to DO something or else I will have to tune out completely. And I suppose it’s the mundane work of peace building in my home and community, but it feels incredibly insignificant.
Contributor, Martine de Luna (PHILIPPINES): This is all very difficult to hear. I just found out a couple of hours ago, and being pregnant right now, I am rather emotional about it. Angry, mostly; hurting and crying for the mothers and fathers of the children. There is absolutely NO justification, no cause that warrants the murder of innocent children!!! It enrages me to think such evil exists in this world. We are used to hearing about war and strife, but every time innocent children are brutalized like this, it’s like I am paralyzed by grief and anger, the kind of anger only a mother would understand, the kind that stems from something unjustly stolen from you and there was nothing you could do about it.
Contributor, Karyn Vanderzwet (NEW ZEALAND): I don’t watch much “news”….. haven’t for a long time. Yet, still I heard.
I’m over hearing that children have been killed in cold blood.
I’m over feeling like my heart’s been ripped out… that, there but the Grace of God go I.
I’m over having my mother love stomped on, as if it means nothing.
Every death is painful.
Every child lost breaks my heart.
How can those mothers stand it?
How did mothers, at any time, stand it?
Contributor, Sophia J. (USA): Having just given birth the doctor asks me if I have any feelings of depression, presumably because of the birth. Well I am not depressed, but I am so saddened by what is going on in the world. I try not to be depressed by it. When you specifically start thinking about what injustices and torturous things children go through, then it becomes even harder to stay positive and happy; even if you do believe in God. Because even with a belief in a creator, you wonder why is it the children have to go through such experiences as kidnappings at school, beatings when still infants, torture by the nanny, raped by teachers and priests, and death by extremists who abhor freedom in education. Why? It’s a lot to take from a distance, I cannot begin to imagine what people in these areas are feeling! Let alone the parents….and the children….who are supposed to assume school is a safe place to be. I don’t exactly know what to say, but I feel this is a problem that comes from people’s take on religion, as well as behaviors that are accepted by the majority.
Contributor, Aisha Yesufu (NIGERIA): As an advocate and activist for #BringBackOurGirls in Chibok, Nigeria, Aisha says she is devastated by this news.
Contributor, Nadege Nicoll (USA): I am horrified for so many reasons. Firstly, by how anyone with half an ounce of human cell in them could bring themselves to commit such a senseless, heinous crime. Secondly, by the sheer injustice in this world. In the name of what can this ever be just? Finally, by the disappointment I am afraid will follow: because, as much as I want to believe that this is going to change something for the better, I don’t think it will. In the US, kids in an elementary school got shot at point blank, but following the outrage and shcok, NOTHING has changed. And that is a chilling fact. Finally, I am crying for the innocent kids who lost their lives. As a mother, nothing could be more horrifying. I am crying for the survivors who lived this attack and will have to try and make sense of something that does not. I am crying for the parents and families, the world is crying with them.
Contributor, Meredith S. (USA): This takes me back to Dec.14, 2012…. When the classroom of first graders were murdered here in the U.S. My son was in first grade at the time and it really hit home for me. Just when I think there couldn’t be anything worse than a classroom of murdered first graders, yesterday I find out an entire school of innocent defenseless children are murdered. My mind cannot comprehend the evil and I will never be able to imagine the loss, heart break, and anger the mothers, Fathers, and families of the victims must be feeling. My heart is broken. If people cannot respect the lives of children then I do not know what the future holds….