Jun 27, 2019

The difficulties of being an expat work at home mom in Japan

Being a working mother isn't a new concept - many of us do it to support our families or simply because we like the challenges and connections that working outside the home presents us with. Since having children though, I've juggled being a stay at home parent with two part time jobs that involve me working from home. While it may sound great from the outset (theoretically I could work in my pajamas all day if I wanted to), there are also some tough downsides, particularly as an expat.

These are the main two struggles I've encountered as a work at home mother and expat here in Japan.

The difficulties of being an expat work at home mom in Japan photo

Pic credit here

Child care options are limited

Many people I know back home are working mothers too - and some of them even work from home - but the options afforded to them for childcare are greater than what I've encountered here in Japan. My eldest child goes to the local pre-school here since she's four, but my youngest is only two. For him to be able to go to any kind of pre-school or day care facility in our region I have to be working at least 80 hours a month. I'm only contracted for 65 hours a month across my two part time jobs, so that means I have to squeeze my hours into the times before my kids are awake, once they're asleep, or during nap time.

It's also not easy as an expat because generally speaking you're not going to have the same level of family support surrounding you as you would likely have back home. I am fortunate that my husband's parents live in Tokyo, but that's still a four hour drive away from us here in Niigata. Not really the same as having your folks or in-laws in the same suburb as you to watch the kids, like many of my friends back home are blessed with. 

It can be isolating

When you think about the friends you've made as an adult, I venture to say that many of us have met those people through our work - it was certainly the case for me before becoming a parent. You may have heard of the proximity principle which is the idea that we build social relationships with people who are close by, and given that concept it's not really a surprise that people we see and interact with daily become part of our inner circle.

When you're a stay at home parent and also work from home, this eliminates a big part of that proximity to others. Sure, I still liaise with my colleagues via email or video chat, but it's not really the same as being in an office environment together where you have the opportunity to connect more, or even go out for lunches or coffee!

How do you balance parenthood and work as an expat here in Japan? Have you ever worked from home? Was it a positive or a negative experience overall for you?



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!

1 Comment

  • edthethe

    on Jul 1

    Isolation is sometimes difficult for me! I try to make mamatomo, but I wish I had something that would force me to have people I associate with like a workplace sometimes.