It’s official- I’m focusing all of my energy (what remains after dealing with a baby all day) to jump-start my career as a freelance writer. How did I come to this decision?
When I found out my due date was in February, I was ecstatic. The timing was absolutely perfect.
- I’d avoid being heavily pregnant during Tokyo’s infamous hot, humid, and hellish summer.
- Maternity leave* started right after my school’s winter concert.
- Maternity leave officially ended the first week of April, right when the Japanese school year starts.
*In Japan, maternity leave officially starts 6 weeks before your due date and ends 8 weeks after giving birth.
I’m a kindergarten teacher, and my school also has day care facilities. Before going on maternity leave, I’d already discussed with my school manager and human resources officer about returning to work and putting my daughter into daycare.
In Japan, women with children under 3 can work 6 hour days and are entitled to nursing breaks, so in my mind, everything was coming along perfectly.
That is…until April came along.
Instead of rushing back to work, I’d go to the States and introduce baby to my mom. I met with my school officials and told them of my plan to return in May.
I forgot about vaccines.
Vaccines start when baby is 2 months old. I planned to start vaccines in Japan and finish in the US. I looked up info on the Center for Disease Control and South Carolina Health Department website, but after consulting with baby’ pediatrician, I opted to get her vaccines done before heading to the US.
Thus, our April departure became a June departure. And by June, it was difficult for me to get back to work. I looked for another teaching job, but there were few benefits.
Most teaching jobs don’t offer social insurance or health insurance, meaning teachers pay pension and insurance directly out of pocket. And because a majority of teachers don’t plan on staying in Japan long term, they don’t bother to pay pension.
I, as a lifer, don’t have much of an option, even though I’m pretty sure when I reach retirement age, that money won’t be available. Oh well. At least my now recently retired father-in-law can live comfortably with my contribution to the national pension scheme.
At this time, I casually searched for freelance writing opportunities, starting with websites based in Japan because that’s what I know the most. Again, freelance writing was just something to do to pass time and Instagram was a nice hobby to connect with other moms.
Becoming a Freelance Writer
The change in my mindset happened mid-August. A headhunter contacted me in regards to a stylist job opportunity. Now, I registered with them years ago, so long ago that I don’t recall registering with them. Nevertheless, I was interested in the job opportunity because I came here to work in fashion. I thought this opportunity would be a way to get back to my roots
With an 11:00 a.m. meeting time, I left home around 9:30, toward the tail end of rush hour. Ugh, a full train and August humidity! I must’ve have gone through 2 liters of water on the way to the meeting, no joke. Walking through the crowd of people at Shibuya station, how did I even do this 5, 6 days a week 10 years ago?
After talking with the headhunter about the stylist job and other fashion related positions (working in-store at a luxury watch shop, for example), I couldn’t see myself going back to working full time, being in an office, dealing with a commute, it’s not what I want to go back to. Not to mention that nearly all luxury retail or fashion jobs are in Shinjuku or Shibuya (the center of Tokyo).
If baby is at daycare and gets a fever or sick, I’ll have to go pick her up. Even though it’s perfectly legal, I am well aware that people complain when working moms take time off or leave work early.
And I remember very, very, very, vividly what it was like in Shibuya on March 11, 2011. If there should ever be an event like that, and I need to get back to my side of Tokyo, to get home to my family, it would be nearly impossible.
This is why I’m going to put my all into freelancing. And in the meantime, I’ll definitely looking into opening a weekend English school or English classes. My kindergarten won’t have space for me and baby until next April anyway, so it’s good that I got a head start on blogging, freelance writing, and exploring the world of social media.
A Blind Leap of Faith
All I have left of my grandmother is a pair of sneakers that she wore on her daily walks, some jewelry, and her Bible. Some of my fondest memories are of going to church together. I remember hearing the weekly Sunday church sermon on the radio. Waking up to see her watching the early morning Sunday sermon on TV.
It’s easy to wonder how can one be religious when there’s so much crazy stuff going on. There’s so much injustice and cruelty in this world. But, I think that’s the purpose of religion, to believe that there’s something better out there. Otherwise what is the point? She’d always say to leave it up to the Lord.
In Japanese, it’s really common to hear shou ga nai (it can’t be helped/that’s just the way it is) or nantoka naru (“whatever happens, happens”). Sometimes, it seems like a cop-out, but maybe faith is an extension of that thought. Acknowledging that things are definitely, 100% out of our control…and trusting that things will right themselves eventually.
In a way, taking a blind leap of faith into WAHM life is like taking a trip back in time. It reminds me of how things were ten years ago when I first arrived here. I had no idea what to expect but here I am now. I’ve spent about 5-6 months learning the ropes of blogging, social media, and writing. What do the next 6 months have in store for me?
Any WAHMs out there? Share how you made your decision!