I am delighted to share this interview with my mama friend Sayume!
Sayume is a working mother with 2 young children aged 7 and 3 years.
Our kids have been playing together for years and last year she went back to work after 2 years leave with her 2nd baby. I am very interested how Japanese mums manage everything with looking after kids as well as working, so I am so excited Sayume agreed to the interview! Thank you Sayume!
Interview with Sayume
Mother of 2 children aged 7 and 3 years old
What kind of work do you do?
I work at the Japan Post Office as a delivery postman (or postwoman haha :)). I ride a motorbike and deliver the post!
I have been working as a postman since 2001. When I was a university student, I loved riding my bicycle. So when I was thinking about what kind of career I wanted after graduating from university, I thought it would be fun to be a postman, then I could ride a motorbike outside for work.
When did you return to work after your baby was born?
With my first baby, I had maternity leave for only a short time because he was born in November, so he started nursery school in April. So I only had 6 months maternity leave.
However, with my second baby, I took 2 years maternity leave. The reason was because I wanted to wait for my son to enter elementary school and then put my daughter in a nursery school that is closer to his school.
In Japan, once your baby enters the nursery school, it is difficult to move to a different nursery school in the same zone. So I wanted to make sure she could enter a nursery school closer to the primary school.
Also, it meant that I could still be in maternity leave in April when my son started elementary school, as this was a big transition period.
What kinds of challenges do you find as a working mother?
Some days at the post office, we receive alot of letters and parcels, so we are really busy to deliver everything on the same day. I work 8:30am to 6pm at the latest, so I can’t work in the evening to deliver the mail. So on the days when we have alot of mail, I have to ask my colleagues to deliver the mail for me.
I feel guilty about this, because it creates more work for my colleagues. The majority (about 80-90%) of delivery postman are men, but some of them are fathers themselves and they understand my situation. So they support me.
Another challenge is when my kids get sick. If the nursery school or elementary school calls me at work to say my child has a fever, I have to leave work. So in this situation I also have to ask my colleagues to take over my workload. Or sometimes I ask my husband to pick up the kids when they are sick.
Of course, preparing everything in the morning and cooking meals at night is also a challenge, so I try to make quick simple meals such as Beef Bowl (Gyudon).
How do you prepare the meals for the week?
I do all my grocery shopping on Sunday for the week. I don’t do batch cooking, but I do separate the meat packs into daily portions and freeze them in the freezer so it’s easier to cook.
In terms of vegetables, I don’t cut or prepare them in advance. I just throw them in the fridge and take out what’s necessary for cooking each night.
What advice would you give to a new working mother?
Take care of yourself! Simplify everything and don’t try to do the impossible. For example, don’t worry so much about cleaning your house or cooking elaborate meals.
Also, buy a bicycle! I used to take my kids to nursery school by stroller, but I switched to a bicycle and it really helped save time and energy.
Dual washer/dryer is also important. I bought a washing machine that also has a dryer function, so this has helped alot so I don’t have to hang out the clothes. Particularly on rainy days, this is really helpful.
One more tip – if your child gets sick, make sure you take him to the hospital immediately! Even if it’s just a little cough or runny nose….if you treat it quickly when it’s a light symptom before it gets worse, you can prevent the cold from getting worse and then you’re less likely to get a call from nursery school while you are at work.
Thank you so much Sayume for sharing your life with us as a working mother!