Editor’s note: Students have been reading Anne Allison‘s Precarious Japan and are commenting how recent economic and social challenges in Japan are impacting their plans for their futures.
by Naho Onishi
My life plan is this: after graduation, I want to get a job that is related to traveling. I will work 2, 3 years and save money. Then I desire to get married by the time I am thirty and have a child. I will keep working after taking care of my baby.
In this plan, I worry about working when I have a child. Now, women are encouraged to take childcare leave. However, in fact, when they come back to the work place, they feel “ibashoganai“. They are often assigned to other work place and section after childcare leave. Moreover, they are not entrusted with important jobs. Even if they can return their work place, their child is very young. So, child care is very hard. If their child catch a disease, mother must absent from work, and care for child. They feel difficult to manage her work and family life.
Recently, I heard the word “paternity leave.” For mothers, the father’s help is very happy, and they can take care of their baby together. However, fathers worry about after child care leave too. Especially men, they work a lot more time than women. They think that “if I can not return to my work place, what can I do?” While they can receive child care leave, their payment is lower then their regular wage. And they think that “if I can not go to work, my co-workers will feel trouble because they must cover my work.” They are concerned about family finances and situation after they take child care leave, and they can not take leave willingly. So, the rate of men who take paternity leave is very low. If they feel “ibasho” after child care leave, this rate may become higher.
I want to feel “ibasho” in my office in the future. The time that I spend in jobs may be the longest in my life. It is about three times as long as school days. Of course, my home is my most important “ibasho“. But, work place is different from home in terms of roles. Work has responsibility as a member of society. It is important to feel this job is worth doing. And co-worker give us a good incentive to work harder. It is same with studying too. I think both family life and work are the key to a fulfilling life.
Both the company and the public should create more comfortable society and “ibasho“. Mutual cooperation is the key to stable and peace society.
There is no single formula for attaining a balanced life. It is a personal decision how one combines their career, spouse/significant other, children, friends and self into an integrated whole. The key is to develop creative solutions as you approach the challenges of balancing the responsibilities and joys of your multiple roles. Some of the same skills and strategies you use at work such as planning, organizing, communicating, setting limits and delegating can be used effectively on the home-front for achieving a satisfying, fulfilling and well-balanced life both personally and professionally.
1. Build a Support Network
Ask for help and allow yourself to be helped and contributed to. Get your children involved–work together as a team. Recruit friends, family, neighbors, bosses, work colleagues, etc. and ask for their support. Between work and family, surprises are inevitable. Be prepared by creating back-up and emergency plans; always have a contingency.
2. Let Go of Guilt
Guilt is one of the greatest wastes of emotional energy. It causes you to become immobilized in the present because you are dwelling on the past. Guilt can be very debilitating. By introducing logic to help counter-balance the guilt, you can avoid sabotaging your efforts toward work/family balance and stay better on course.
3. Establish Limits and Boundaries and Remember They are Necessary for Balancing Work and Family
Boundaries are an imaginary line of protection that you draw around yourself. They are about protecting you from other people’s actions. Determine for yourself what is acceptable and unacceptable behavior from other people. Boundaries and limits define how you take charge of your time and space and get in touch with your feelings. They express the extent of your responsibilities and power and show others what you are willing to do or accept. Without limits it’s difficult to say “no”. Remind yourself often that your boundaries are necessary for balancing work and family.
4. Determine Your Own Standards
Get rid of the notion of being a perfectionist. Wean yourself off it by making compromises–figure out where the best places to make the compromises are without short-changing yourself, your spouse, your children, your boss, etc. Live by your own standards rather than someone else’s. Standards are about YOU and refer to the behavior and actions you are willing to hold yourself to.
5. Create Time for Yourself
Being a good parent, partner and professional means being good to yourself first. Use your mind to make some affirmations for yourself. Find ways to relax, relieve tension and minimize stress. Taking some time off for yourself will not only benefit you, but it will benefit your work and family tremendously, as well!
6. Get Organized
Set priorities, work smarter not harder, delegate (and really let go!). Create lists and save them for re-use. Keep a main calendar centrally located to post everyone’s activities.
7. Balancing Work and Family Requires You to Be Flexible
Forgive yourself when things don’t get done. Understand that with children things change at a moment’s notice. Be ready and willing to assume responsibility for any of the tasks that need to get done at any time. Never get too comfortable, because as soon as you seem to get things under control, they change! Also, realize that in order to achieve success many women have had to give up their original goals and substitute new ones with different but equal challenges. Negotiate for what you need.
8. Enjoy Quality Family Time
Spend quality/focused time with your family. Give them your full attention. Develop rituals you can all look forward to. Create relationships with your spouse and children that are not incidental but rather instrumental to your success.
9. Find Reliable Child Care
Leave your kids in capable hands. Find someone you feel comfortable and confident in. If you’re feeling ambivalent about working or about leaving your child, etc. do not show it–your child (at any age) will pick right up on it. Feel proud when you’ve found someone who fits into your needs. Get involved with your child’s care providers by communicating frequently and observing interactions between caregiver and your child.
10. Achieve an Integrated Life
Keep things in perspective. Create harmony in your life–a mixture of work, family and friends. Remember, there is no single formula for balancing work and family. It is a personal decision how one combines spouse, children and career