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Number 1 Shimbun

Mood Swings

A FATHER LEARNS TO BALANCE
HOME AND WORK COMMITMENTS

 

03-1

 

ANDY SHARP

 

On the evening of February 28, Shinzo Abe delivered the news that most working parents in Japan had been dreading.

I was heading to my karate dojo in Shibuya when an NHK alert informed me the prime minister had asked all schools in the country to close their doors. I greeted my sensei (also a father of young children) and the resigned look in his eyes revealed he'd also heard the announcement.

Many of the fathers practicing that night were not as focused as usual during sparring. I went home to a scene that aptly describes the swings in emotions over the next six months.


Domestic dilemma

My wife was despondent. "What are we going to do?" she asked. But our three boys (aged three, seven and nine) were jumping for joy on the marital bed.

I had no answers. As a commissioning editor at the Nikkei Asian Review dealing with reporters stretched across a vast region, I was busier than ever handling copy on the rapidly changing social, political and economic situations in a host of countries. My employer, thankfully, encouraged staff to work from home.

Like most working mothers, for whom I have very quickly gained a deeper respect, I also had to be constantly switching hats. One moment, I would be discussing a pitch with a reporter, the next changing a diaper. A quick switch back to polish a story, before attacking the inevitable pile of dishes.

My kids star in online morning conference calls about the day ahead. I sneak out after the meetings to don a mask to kick a ball about with soccer-mad Leo. The demands for my phone so the kids can play Fortnite online with their friends are relentless. I've probably missed a bunch of important calls. But my colleagues and bosses make sure I don't miss anything, meaning I have to contend with endless Slack messages.

The kids started to return to school in baby steps in May, but classes only went into full swing in June, barely a month before the summer holidays.

The time together with my wife and children has been both a blessing and a curse. At times, the temperature at home is as hot as this summer's blistering sun, or as frigid as the air conditioning we are blasting 24/7. And while the home environment has stretched my working day from dawn 'till long after dusk, it's given us time for family meals filled with random conversations and many moments of mirth.

 

 

“Like most working mothers, for whom I have very quickly gained a deeper respect, I also had to be constantly switching hats. One moment, I would be discussing a pitch with a reporter, the next changing a diaper. A quick switch back to polish a story, before attacking the inevitable pile of dishes.”

 


Easing the rules

When my employer started relaxing the rules on attending the office, I was torn. I'd grown used to the five-second commute from bed to desk and small joys such as making the lunchtime soup between assignments. But like many journalists, I craved cynical conversations about the news with colleagues.

I still have the option to work at home or in the office, and intend to take advantage of the more relaxed working arrangement. But as I finish this piece, my three-year-old just came into my room for tickles. It's going to be hard to give that up.


● Andy Sharp is Deputy Politics and Economics Editor at the Nikkei Asian Review

Published in: September 2020

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