Message from a Paternity Leave Taker

ICU graduate

【The article below is the same as the article that appears in the 11th issue of the CGS Newsletter.】

A man who wants to actively take part in child rearing.
A woman who wants to continue working after giving birth.
A company that wants to protect and secure

their human resources by facilitating childcare support.
Paternity leave can only succeed if these three factors come together. For example, in a family with a full-time housewife, a father cannot apply for a paternity leave of more than a month. And companies in which employees hardly use up their paid leave cannot afford to acknowledge long-term leave. The fact that the paternity-leave rate in Japan remains at the 0.5% mark may not simply be a problem of the lack of awareness among men. As for myself, I was extremely lucky that the above three factors successfully came together when my child was seven months old, granting me a paternity leave of roughly five months.
During my paternity leave I frequently faced difficulties with the unfamiliar lifestyle, and I could not have done it without the support and understanding of the people around me (especially my wife, my family and Jidokan, an children's welfare center). It was certainly an indescribable joy to be the first one to witness my child's many "firsts," like rolling over, sitting up, crawling, or standing up. At first, I worried about whether the change from breast milk to powdered milk, or the shift from mother to father would be stressful for my child, but there were no such problems and I could only be impressed by a child's natural-born ability to adapt.
After the end of childcare leave, we then faced the problem that all childcare-leave takers face ? securing a position for our child in day-care.
Firstly, with the popularity and high degree of competition for good, authorized day-cares, it is virtually impossible to enter a child in one of them in the middle of the year. You raise your chances for entry, even if only slightly, by applying for April entrance. (In Japan, the annual school year is from April to March of the following year.) However, if either of the parents is on childcare leave as of the first of May, entry from the first of April is not accepted. It is a dilemma of whether to take the childcare leave or the day-care. In my case, my application was luckily (?) rejected in the first year, but if my child's entrance to an authorized day-care had been confirmed, I would only have been able to take a leave of a month, during April.
In terms of returning to work, it is possible to extend childcare leave until your child is eighteen months old. Yet despite the decreasing birthrate, the number of facilities currently cannot keep up with demand, so a great many children are on waiting lists. It is rare event to find a position in day-care smoothly. Even if you can extend your leave for six months, it is extremely unsettling to take childcare leave without knowing when your return to work may be. I have often heard stories of mothers who take leave but are unable to find a position at day-care, and end up having to resign from their jobs. In my case, I managed to solve this problem by paying the registration fee in advance from April so that my child could enter a "prospectively approved" day-care (a facility that has more lenient requirements for entry) in September at the age of one. The registration fees used up most of the childcare leave benefit I received from my employment insurance, which amounted to roughly a third of my average monthly wage.
There are still many hidden issues behind the apparent advantages of "childcare leave." At a time when the encouragement of work-life balance is becoming ever more important, I earnestly hope for a better, flexible childcare support system which does not subject people to the convenience of the corporate structure or of public administration but accommodates the needs and circumstances of each family.