Please tell us about your current workplace and the kind of work you do.
I joined the company in 2005 and work in the Diversity Promotion Office of the General Administration Department and in the Industrial Health Office of the Human Resources Department. As part of the Diversity Promotion Office’s efforts to create a corporate culture in which employees can maximize their individual potential, we conduct female employee training as well as training and seminars to support employees who are working while also providing childcare or nursing care, run a consultation service, and so on. Recently, we invited a lecturer from outside and held childcare support training on the theme of communication to promote independence in children.
Father of one / Period of childcare leave: October to December 2017 (about 1.5 months)
I joined Victor Entertainment (now JVCKENWOOD Victor Entertainment) in 2001. At present, I belong to the Corporate Planning Division’s Information Systems Group, where I have worked on improving operations through the introduction of internal information systems such as an electronic approval system and a new email system, and operating and improving existing information systems such as our music distribution system and our income and expenditure management system.
Father of three / Period of childcare leave: November 2015 to April 2016 (about 6 months)
I joined the company in 2009, and have worked on designing digital circuits and developing elements for FPGAs*1 installed in professional video cameras, designing digital circuits for FPGAs and designing drive circuits for LCOS*2 devices installed in home theater projectors, and so on.
Father of one / Period of childcare leave: February to March 2017 (about 2 months)
What made you decide to take childcare leave?Sugaya
My parents both worked, so I have always thought that housework and childcare are things that a married couple should share, regardless of gender. But the specific thing that made me decide to take childcare leave was my wife’s suggestion that the three of us live together in our own home, rather than go back to her parents house to have our child. Later, when looked into how I should support my wife after childbirth, I found out that the six-week postpartum period is vital for physical recuperation. My wife was also due to return to work later so I felt I had to do the housework and childcare to enable her to fully recover physically, which is why I decided to take childcare leave.Himukashi
It was my wife’s wish, too. Our parents live far away and we cannot easily ask for their help, so my wife said she wanted us to take care of our baby together. I had always intended to take childcare leave anyway, so I agreed immediately and without hesitation.
Another reason was that I had lived in the US for nearly three years. There, it’s perfectly normal for a couple to raise their young children together. A man taking his young child to the office and taking care of him or her while working is an everyday occurrence, and you often hear men say they are just going out to take their child to the hospital. Being in such an environment may have removed any remaining reluctance I may have had toward taking childcare leave.
In my case, I had thought even earlier on, soon after joining the company, in fact, that I might take childcare leave if I ever had children one day. And when I read our Rules of Employment, I could see nothing in them about gender, which led me to believe that men themselves could take childcare leave, too. But I still wasn’t married at the time.
Then I got married, and at first I took about two weeks of leave when our first and second children were born, although we also had support from my wife’s parents so I felt unsatisfied about only being able to do a little myself. So when my next child was due, I told my wife I wanted to take a longer period of leave. After our third child was actually born, my wife said she wanted to return to work early, and so I made my final decision.
How did your boss and your colleagues react to you taking leave?
I put in my request soon after returning from the US, so at first people were surprised, but my boss willingly accepted my request. Perhaps it was good timing because hardly any time had passed since my return to Japan and so it was easy to adjust my work. In the six months before actually taking leave, my boss also arranged my work volume so that I could prepare for my leave. As for my colleagues, many of my superiors were also fathers and gave me all sorts of advice. The most common thing they told me was that the period immediately after giving birth is very difficult for a wife, and that if her husband does not get fully involved in taking care of their baby, she will remind him forever of what a tough time she had! (laugh)
Neither my boss nor my colleagues reacted particularly to me taking childcare leave. However, six months is a long time, so my absence must have caused problems. But if we hesitated because of that, we would never be able to obtain leave. I thought about what the most effective way would be, and made every effort so that not only I but also those around me could start to make preparations as soon as possible. The birth of a baby is, in the first place, absolutely wonderful and so there is no reason to delay telling others about it. I waited until my wife had entered the stable period of her pregnancy before telling my boss of my desire to take leave, and I informed others inside and outside the company as soon as possible.
Subsequently, organizing my work reminded me once again of the disadvantages of my way of working which meant that I was the only one who could do certain procedures and that things would not go well without me. For me, this was a good opportunity to reveal the tasks I had been engaged in.
My boss in the Diversity Promotion Office whom I told first reassured me by saying I should definitely take time off. My section is unusual within our company in that it has many female employees, which may have made it easier for me to take childcare leave than if I had been in a predominantly male workplace. My boss in the other section where I work also understood my wishes and immediately responded positively.
How did you spend your time while on leave?
I have three children, so every day is chaotic. My mornings began with making breakfast for the whole family, then after taking my eldest daughter to nursery school, I would hang out the laundry with my younger daughter on my back. During the daytime I would be changing her diapers or making her take a nap, and in the evening I would help my son with his homework and give all the children a bath. My life was always very busy.
Actually, during this period, my eldest daughter entered her terrible twos, and even if I just opened a packet of fermented milk drink, which are sold in packs of five, she would burst into tears and say, “I wanted to open it myself!” (laugh) Then when I comforted her, my younger daughter would cry because she was hungry … Anyway, it was tough.
The difficulty I had was bathing my baby. I had to support her head firmly because she couldn’t hold it up herself, and I had to wash her although I didn’t know how much warm water to pour over her, so my hands used to tremble as I did it. Anyway, it was my first experience, so for a long time I did it nervously.
I know what you mean. I was pretty confident when using a doll to practice at the hospital, but when it came to the real thing I couldn’t do it at all. I didn’t know how much to do it, so it took some time to get used to. At first I was clumsy at changing diapers too, but I had to do it more than ten times a day, so eventually mastered it, and these days, I can even read the signs that it’s time to change diapers. The reason I can notice such subtle signs now is because I watched over my baby throughout my period of childcare leave. Perhaps because I feel this way about raising children, I can’t help noticing there are more and more fathers walking around our neighborhood wearing a front baby sling.
I feel just the same. Whenever I see fathers with their children going to play at a department store or somewhere, I also really take notice.
Has taking leave changed your feelings toward your family or the way you work?Himukashi
I appreciate my wife more now, and have become able to thank her properly for everything. Although my childcare leave has come to an end, I take advantage of flextime so that I can share some of the housework and childcare to make things a little easier for her.
As for my work, I am always wondering whether I can develop products for children utilizing video technology. For instance, I keep my ears to the ground every day for new technologies that could be used to create something like a camera that quickly detects if a child has had an accident and informs the parents.
During my period of leave, I prepared meals almost every day, so I am no longer reluctant to cook. This is because I’ve become more skillful with a kitchen knife and gained a sense of how much food I need for a certain number of people. I have also experienced how a husband really can do everything involved in childcare except breastfeeding.
As for my work, I have started to look at creating a system for carrying out our business so that more male employees can take childcare leave in future. A condition of leave is that employees must first be able to take time off work. What I can do to help achieve this is improve our workplace so that tasks done by human effort can be left to the system.
I realized how hard it is to do housework and take care of a baby at the same time, and adapted my behavior so that I could return home as early as possible. At work, my childcare leave increased the opportunities to talk about children, which made communication easier. Colleagues understand when I suddenly need time off because my baby is sick, for example, and when I’m working at the company after regular hours, they often tell me I should go home because my wife and child are waiting.