A Day in the Life of a Working Mom in Tokyo

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From this month, I’ll be fleshing out the Motherhood in Japan category and sharing my experiences in Japan.

Today is a look at a day in the life of a working mom in Tokyo. I work as a kindergarten teacher in a kodomo en (こども園), a special facility that is both daycare and kindergarten.

READ: An Inside Look At Daycare in Japan

Background

Before I begin, I must be incredibly forthright and honest in that my company has been very transparent in the way they adhere to Japanese law.

I’ve had absolutely no trouble taking days off for appointments when I was pregnant. Nor did I have trouble taking maternity leave or, child care leave. I got my job back and I even got a mini “congratulations on giving birth” bonus!

Now that I’m working, I don’t have trouble when I have to leave early for my daughter’s check ups or when I have to call in sick when she has a fever*.

On top of everything else, my company even accepts fukugyou (副業) or part-time/side jobs.

This is how working mom life should be, as it is mandated under Japanese law.

*in case you’re wondering, I take days off instead of my husband because I’ve been working with my company longer (he just changed jobs in May). Under Japanese law, paid holidays don’t kick in until an employee has been working at least 6 months.  

READ: Oh Baby! Pregnancy, Maternity, and Child Care Leave in Japan

With that out of the way, onto a day in the life of a “working mom” in Tokyo!

6:30 The Battle Begins: Wake Up & Get Ready

 

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As soon as I wake up, I’m in fight mode. It’s a race against time and a battle with a toddler. Before I had a baby, I was sure that I would never “negotiate with terrorists.” Now, I just try to make sure the hostages (ME!) are safe.

If it’s a laundry day, the very first thing I do when I wake up is start the machine. This way I can hang the laundry out to try before leaving.

This is where those time saving products in my post, Make Your Mornings Easier With These Products From Japan, seriously come in hand. I stumble into the bathroom, put on a face mask, then pack my girl’s lunch bag and get her breakfast ready. She normally eats rice with furikake (dried seasonings). Recently she’s into cheese (only takes 2 or 3 bites) and granola.

I outsource writing in her communication book to my husband. My reasoning? I write in my students’ notebooks everyday. He’s never ever written in a communication notebook, so it’s all part of the “parenting experience.”

8:00 Bus and Train Ride

 

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No matter how early we wake up, how quickly we eat and get dressed, we are always late. I’d love to leave the house by 8 but most days that doesn’t happen.

What makes my hour long commute so bearable is that I live in east Tokyo Prefecture and work in Chiba Prefecture, meaning that we go in the opposite direction of the rush hour flow. I always get a seat on the bus and the train is so empty that I could have a picnic on the floor of the car if I wanted to.

Whatever mood swings we have calm down by the time we cross the Edo River. Watching the world pass by really is relaxing.

It also helps that the temperature has dropped, which has actually given me motivation to leave early. Park playtime before school calms both of us down. Thank you, fall!

9:30 Arrive at Kindergarten

 

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Once I drop off the monster at daycare, I clock in, head to the other side of school and unpack. Then I change into my “uniform” (school logo T-shirt and jeans). The kids have free play until 10  AM; then we have morning circle/greetings and lesson time from 10:30 to 12:00.

12:00 Lunch/Planning/Playtime

 

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I’m enrolled in the school lunch plan for only 2,000 yen, which works out to around 100 yen for a balanced, healthy lunch.

Today’s lunch: mushroom curry. Let me get this off my chest: I love fall, but I am not here for the mushrooms. Autumn would be my favorite season if it weren’t for Japan’s obsession with mushrooms.

As I eat my lunch, I try to monitor classroom noise levels while getting inspiration for the December Christmas and Talent Shows. My class is doing “The Nutcracker” and I have the ambitious idea to teach a bunch of 5 and 6 year olds how to waltz. Am I crazy or am I crazy?

14:00 Naptime/Planning

 

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The kids sleep from 2 pm. They bring blankets and sleep on school cots. Sometimes I take a nap after everyone is asleep. Most days, I sit in the corner and try to plan lessons or research/write some articles for clients.

15:30 Snack Time

 

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Take one look at my Twitter feed, and you’ll know I love snacks. One of my favorite parts of Japanese culture is the “3 pm snack” AKA san ji no oyatsu (3時のおやつ).

15:45 Cleaning Duty

In Japanese kindergartens, teachers clean the school (and from grade school, kids are responsible for cleaning their school). Today is my cleaning day, and it doesn’t take me long to clean the students’ bathroom.

16:00 Time To Go Home!

 

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After changing my clothes and sending my kids off to for the afternoon activity, it’s time to collect the monster and go home. She rushes past my outstretched arms to grab her socks and shoes. Mom life, I tell you…

We make our way to the train station, nursing along the way.

17:30 Home… But Not For Long

 

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These next two hours are probably the most stressful part of my day. Before getting the monster ready for bed, the dog needs to be walked, dinner needs to be cooked, we need to eat, and to take a bath. Dishes need to be washed, laundry folded and put away.

This is the source of all my stress, and our tears and yelling. Dropping food on the floor. Throwing toys. The fight to apply her eczema medicine and brush her teeth. These two hours make me question everything leading up to having a child.

My husband’s work schedule is unpredictable, so having him home during this period can be a big help or a curse…

20:00 Kira Kira Pajama Time

 

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Kira Kira Pajama is the block of bedtime entertainment on Disney Junior. Since my daughter goes to Japanese daycare, we try to maintain an English only atmosphere at home. So, we watch lots of Disney Junior.

When the Kira Kira Pajama music plays, she knows it’s bedtime. Some days she’ll even let me know when she’s sleepy, and she’ll go to bed before 8!

She still nurses to sleep, and It’s actually a way to calm down. I end up feeling terrible and guilty about losing my cool, that she’d be better off with another mom. Why was I so angry with her? She’s still just a baby, even though she thinks she can do everything. Tomorrow is a better day.

22:00 Me Time

 

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I nearly always fall asleep when putting her to bed. After I wake up, it’s shower/face care time. Then, I check my scheduled social media posts and catch up with my social media feeds.

I also use this time to write blogs and do writing work. I also try to enjoy a TV show or movie on Netflix or Amazon Prime.

My husband always goes to sleep early, so I usually to chill by myself with ice cream or milk tea until it’s time to go to bed. Honestly being around people all day, I enjoy the alone time and the quiet calm of the night.

25:00 Bedtime

 

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Once my girl wakes up to nurse, I know it’s time to go to bed. I put on a MegRythm eye mask and drift to sleep. Another day gone by…

How do you manage #momlife?

A Day in the Life of a Working Mom in Tokyo

READ:  Life In Japan: The Dos and Don'ts Of Obon
Teni
Tokyo-based beautyholic and content creator. Mom to a monster and a furbaby. Driven by intense wanderlust and powered by limited edition snacks and drinks from Japan.

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