May 23, 2018
I'm very fortunate that my husband enjoys being a hands on dad. He changes diapers, he takes the kids out solo, he makes them snacks and meals - and as tiring as raising kids can be, he knows that it's not just my job to care for them because I birthed them.
What does that mean in Japan, though? Honestly, it seems like some people think it's an anomaly that he is as hands on as he is.
Here's a good example for you. Several years ago, we'd just had our first child, and we were a few weeks into that newborn fog. As sleep deprived as we were, we decided to get out of the house and go to Kawagoe for a couple of hours. They've got a great Edo-period styled shopping street, and I felt much more normal being able to enjoy some of the sights, sounds and activities that were going on. Plus, I needed a coffee (or several).
Some shops on the street aren't exactly stroller friendly though, so a couple of times when I saw things in a window that caught my eye, ever-dutiful hubby would wait outside with our little one in her buggy so that I could explore. An older couple stopped him at one point to ooh and aah at the baby (as people tend to do), and while I was inside, they asked him if the baby didn't have a mother. Yes, it was more likely to an older couple that I was dead than possibly looking inside a store while dad walked around a bit to keep bub happy. This was also probably one of the times where I'd wished that my husband hadn't told me what someone had said in Japanese - sometimes my lack of language capability can be put down to simply enjoying blissful ignorance.
It's not just that though - he can't take the kids anywhere without people thinking he's going to mess something up. He's super capable, more-so than me to be honest - he has strength on his side as well when it comes to wrangling two young kids that I simply can't match. But if he's out alone with the two of them, he invariably gets comments like "Oh - poor dad! Out with the kids alone!"
This is frustrating to both of us for a number of reasons. Just because he's male doesn't mean that he's incapable of being a nurturer or surviving without my help when it comes to the kids, and just because I'm female doesn't mean I need to be on the clock every second of every day for the next 18 years until my little ones are big ones! Every time I see something as simple here as a dad dropping their child to school, or being out at the supermarket with without mom in tow, I hold out hope that maybe the tide will turn - but it might take a while if tradition dictates that mom is meant to do it all and that dads don't know where to start.
After spending the last several years in the beating heart of Tokyo, I will be spending the next three in the countryside of Japan. I adore this country and all it has to offer - and I'm always learning more and more about life here as I go along!