A day in the life of a “working-at-home” mum in Japan

Hello! Today’s post is for a couple of reasons: the first being that I would like to document this for myself because I’m hoping to go back to school next spring so life will change again in a few months, and it would be nice to have this account to look back on in the future. The second is because Kay did a post about her life as an employed toddler parent and I thought my own version would give a moderately-interesting comparison (interesting to whom?! That remains to be seen). I worry about making this post seem too much like a blow-by-blow account of my day which will surely be boring, so please let me know if that is the case! (lol)

Oh, AND. I went with “working at home” instead of “stay at home” because while I am not currently in paid employment, as you can see plenty of work goes on here! (I recommend reading this excellent article by Katherine Goldstein and Jo Piazza for more on my rejection of “working mom” as a label.)

Let’s see, how do we start.

Before Baby o’Clock

My alarm goes off at six but we don’t manage to get out of bed until 6:30am. In the summer months it’s an hour earlier because we need to get the dog walked before the heat gets unbearable, but it’s autumn now so we can have a bit of a lie-in. For reasons still unknown, my husband never sets his own alarm, and relies on either his own internal body clock, or me waking with a start, realising we’ve overslept, and rolling over to wake him up in a panic(!) but this morning things go pretty smoothly. How he can automatically wake up just like that! while I struggle to wake up even after three alarms is exceedingly unfair, honestly.

6:30-7am: My husband takes the dog out for his morning walk. I used to do this part too until we realised that it was too much for me to manage everything, so this part he helps with. While they’re out, I put away the laundry from yesterday and the dishes that were drying on the dish rack, put the kettle on to boil, and start the first round of laundry – today is going to be sunny so I’m washing all the bedsheets which means there is a lot to do.

We use a grocery delivery service now that we don’t have a car (we sold it two months ago!), and yesterday they brought us some plants. During nap time yesterday I prepared the soil, so this morning I put the plants where I think they should go and leave them there for my husband to see when he gets back from walking the dog, to get his opinion.

Next is putting food and water down for the dog, checking on the rabbit, making cups of tea, organising breakfast for the baby and taking her lunch out of the freezer to defrost, and simultaneously making oatmeal for my husband, which (thanks to me tracking his location with Apple’s Find My app) I can have ready for exactly when he comes home from walking the dog. He agrees on the positioning of the plants. 

meiko_KODAKA/Shutterstock.com – hopefully our little plants will grow big and strong like this one!

7:30-8am: While my husband eats his breakfast, I cut out paper leaves for a craft project I’ve been working on (but have yet to finish… will I ever finish it…). I want to make something using an autumn leaf design but think it’ll probably be the New Year before I’m done! We talk about things that happened yesterday, and about how he might have to work on Saturday. “I’m going to be working late tonight so I won’t be able to help with the baby again,” he says. This happens a lot, but he likes this job much so more than the one he had five years ago, so it could be worse.

My husband goes to work at 8 and I quickly plant and water the new plants before the baby wakes up. The first round of laundry is finished so I put the second load in. 

The Baby Awakes!

8:15am and the baby finally wakes up, so the morning rush to get things done subsides. She usually wakes up not long after my husband has gone to work so on weekdays he never gets to see her in the morning. 

My daughter chooses what colour bedsheets she wants this week – we have blue, yellow and pink. This time she chooses yellow! She has her oatmeal for breakfast and then I run about trying to hang the laundry out and get the third and fourth loads underway. She helps me vacuum the house downstairs and also gives me a hand hanging the laundry out (I use “help” in its loosest definition here!)  If she isn’t helping me she is usually in the living room playing with whatever toys happen to be out, or doing some colouring. I have a personal rule that if she brings me a storybook I’ll stop and read it to her, and this morning’s story books were the Hello, World Weather book, followed by the Ocean Life book from the same series (these are not affiliate links). 

I also offer her a few items of clothing to choose from and she selects her outfit!

Once all the laundry is finally done and hung out to dry, this is usually when we Do Something. A couple of times a week we go grocery shopping, less frequently a trip to the sea (we live fairly near the coast), or on rainy days I generally organise some painting or craft activity at home. Today I prepare drinks and snacks, and then we go out in the pushchair and head towards the big park. 

The Great Outdoors

10:30am-ish: Down in the big park today there is a group of children and their mothers, and another group of adults sitting on benches taking a break. A couple of the adults on the bench know us and while my daughter is eating her snack, they come over to say hello. It turns out that they have been doing some weeding in the park as volunteers, and they tell me about the various different volunteer operations that happen locally.

They also tell me about the other group, with the small children and mothers, and apparently it’s part of a monthly event organised by one of the local daycares and some of the staff talk to me and give me more information and some leaflets in case we want to apply to join in the future. One of the men working in the park as a volunteer gives me a freshly-baked satoimo harvested from the park and my daughter and I peel the skin off and eat it right there. She gets a bit overwhelmed by all the people and wants to be carried though, so we end up moving away to a part of the park with fewer people. By chance we come across a little white shiba inu who is only a few months older than my daughter, and whom I first met when I was still pregnant. My daughter is far more enthusiastic about greeting dogs than people, and immediately wants to get down and go and say hello to him! I chat with the dog’s owner for a bit, and then we go off on our own to play for a bit before going home – a little later than I’d intended, but it’s all good.

Outside is much more enjoyable with fewer people (apparently)!

Once we get back home, my daughter eats her lunch (today: a vegetable muffin, an oat pancake, some cheese and a yoghurt) and then goes upstairs for a nap. 

“Down”time

Nap time these days is from 1:30 or 2pm until 4pm at the latest. It changes day to day – some days she’ll only sleep for 40 minutes (on Saturday she didn’t nap AT ALL) but other days she’ll go a full 2.5 hours, so it’s not always easy to plan much during this window! During her nap time today though, I bring the laundry in, wash all the dishes, go outside into the garden and repot the remaining plants, water them and the hydrangea, and tidy up a bit outside before coming back in and defrosting some soup in the microwave for my own lunch. While I’m waiting for the soup to heat up I clean out the rabbit’s cage and change her water, and tidy up a bit downstairs too. I also usually do a bit more cleaning at this time, stuff that involves chemicals that I don’t want to use around the baby, like cleaning the toilet or bathroom or kitchen. I remember reading somewhere that it’s important for your child to see you cleaning so they appreciate how much work goes into looking after a house or something similar, but while that makes sense in principle it’s impractical when you’ve got a very small child. How are you supposed to wash the dishes when someone is screaming to be held but doesn’t want to go in their carrier? How are you supposed to dust when someone is clinging with all their might to your leg? Today I’m cleaning the kitchen, but fortunately there isn’t too much to do. While I’m eating lunch I have a look on a couple of job-hunting websites but there isn’t really anything that matches my negligible skill set. Depending on my luck with timing I also sometimes work out during this window but doing things in the garden meant I don’t have enough time today. It’s now almost 4 o’clock so I wash and start the rice for my husband’s dinner, before going upstairs to put the bedsheets on our bed and go in to the little one’s room to wake her up.

Off we go again!

4pm: Once she is awake it’s time for another quick snack if she’s hungry, get her dressed to go outside, and put the dog’s harness on to take him out for his afternoon walk. While we’re out, I talk to her about the things we can see or sing nursery rhymes – only recently, it’s dark by the time we start walking so there are a lot more nursery rhymes (and Christmas songs) lately! This walk usually takes about 40-50 minutes, and when we get back it’s just gone 5:30 or closer to 6pm, dependent on when snack time happens – sometimes she isn’t hungry for a snack as soon as she’s woken up, and will instead nibble on something while I’m cooking dinner.

6:30pm: Depending on how time consuming dinner is to prepare, once we get home I either start cooking straight away or read a story book, but in any event dinner usually happens around 6:30. For this meal she and I always eat the same thing – today it’s homemade mac and cheese with spinach – and it’s very common for her to steal food off my plate! Today she decided to (intentionally) dump most of the milk from her cup over herself and the floor. It’s hard not to react – I usually can’t help but gasp or go “nooo” no matter how many times I try to tell myself I won’t give the behaviour attention – but the second time it happens I just sigh. Enough milk for today. 

 I usually wash the dishes while she’s finishing off her yoghurt, and then the rest of the evening involves playing peekaboo under the kotatsu, more storybooks (We’re Going on a Bear Hunt!), some colouring or stickers, and then sometimes talking with my parents over FaceTime, or sometimes we wind down by watching some Teletubbies or sea turtle videos together on youtube. My daughter is obsessed with turtles – it was her first English word – and she gets so excited when she sees the little hatchlings making their mad dash for the ocean! I wonder if she’ll still like them when she grows up.

Nearly there!

8pm: At 8 o’clock, we get in the shower together, and she plays with some bath toys while I wash both her and myself. She really likes bubbles, and has worked out that she can smear her shampoo bubbles over the bathroom wall and thinks this is hilarious, so shower time is pretty fun. We eventually get out of the shower together, and it’s getting cold in the evenings now so she has finally learned (maybe?!) that getting out of the shower and getting dry quicker means you get less cold!

Trying to dry both of us quickly is a challenge, however, and I am mostly just damp and increasingly cold until after she’s got her pyjamas on and has run off somewhere. 😂 She generally comes back when it’s time to dry her hair, but as any toddler parent knows, you can’t keep an Adventure Baby in one place for long. By the time we’re both clean and dry it’s about 8:30pm, so we brush our teeth and start to head off up to bed! Tooth brushing goes about as smoothly as one might expect (read: not very smoothly) but she is recently far more tolerant of the whole teeth-cleaning thing if she is allowed to brush Mummy’s teeth at the same time. She goes to sleep pretty smoothly – as long as we make sure her soft toy turtle and the Vaporeon she claimed (it was mine…) are in bed with her then she’ll snuggle up under her duvet and settle down to sleep. Her Auntie S once gave her a lovely soft toy swan that plays music, and she likes me to pull the cord to make the music play as part of our bedtime routine. She’s usually asleep around 9pm, which is later now than it was six months ago but this appears to be the rhythm that best works for her so it’s all good for now.

The bedtime team! (Safe-sleeping warriors, fret not: she is not asleep in this picture, and this is not where she sleeps either.)

Aaaaaand relax.

By this point, I too am tired! I separate the rice into single-serving portions and wrap them in cling film to go in the freezer so they can be reheated any time, wash the rice cooker, wash and refill my husband’s jug of barley tea that lives in the fridge, tidy up downstairs (peeling stickers off random pieces of furniture is the main thing recently) then brush my own teeth properly, and get ready for bed. Depending on his work, my husband can generally get home at any point between the end of dinnertime and the end of bath time, but today is one of those days where he had to stay extra late so he sadly didn’t get to see our daughter at all. As a result it still means that she wants to be with Mummy the most (since I am the person she knows the best) and I’m still not sure how much Japanese she understands (although she said her first word in Japanese recently!) but I’m sure things will improve on that front with time.

So there you have it!

I’ve been an at-home parent like this for 19 months now, and I can feel myself getting a bit worn out. It was only chance that I didn’t have a full-time job to return to after she was born, and the pandemic (plus my extreme postpartum anxiety) made me feel as though deliberately choosing to look for work/put her into daycare when we didn’t need to-need to was dangerously irresponsible – better to let the places go to the kids of essential workers and people who really needed it. Being an at-home parent wasn’t something I “always dreamt of being” by any means, but I am also aware that having the financial ability not to work and to be there as my daughter grows is an extreme privilege. It puts me in a uncomfortable position, I guess – I feel as though I shouldn’t complain when I feel worn out from going (checks) 585 days inside the same four walls with essentially no opportunity to exist as myself, but on the other hand 585 days is a long time to go without even an afternoon off (why are grandparents overseas when you need them)! At the very least, my daughter is getting bigger and better able to express what she wants/needs, which is a big help. We’ve applied for a daycare position for next April to see if it will allow me time to go to language school, but won’t find out if she’ll get a place until next year.

Now that she’s getting older and the pandemic seems to be getting less scary (despite mutations) as various vaccines and treatments are becoming more widely available, surely more fun things await…!

10 Thoughts

  1. Yay you finished it!

    Oh man, N wakes up almost 3 hours later than A! Although I feel like I’d just sleep in until she woke up, especially since it’s so cold lately.

    My days are resembling yours a bit more now but having Husband WFH makes a world of difference. It’s really exhausting to have to take care of everything on your own and for so long!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Finally! Took me long enough, haha. Thank you for your post as inspiration, too! Recently I’ve been sleeping in until N wakes up on Saturdays (so any time between 7:30-8:15) and god it is HEAVEN. Hopefully A will start sleeping longer at some point…………

      I can’t imagine what it must be like having someone else working in the house while you’re also there! It must be an interesting dynamic 😅 It’ll be interesting to see how our life rhythms change in the future as our kids get older, too!

      Like

  2. I was exhausted by the time you got to 10:30am! I am quite positive that even when I was doing this, I didn’t accomplish as much as you do in a day. You should be very proud of yourself. You are allowed to be exhausted, to miss adult company, to not feel you are thriving at every moment. That doesn’t make you any less accomplished or successful as a parent and partner! You are a human bean with a range of needs and desires and feelings. Own them! xxxooo

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m not entirely sure I could pinpoint exactly why, but getting “permission to feel tired” from a more experienced mum/someone I look up to makes a huge difference and your comment feels like a massive hug. Thank you so much! It means a lot, and such a lovely comment in general too. ❤️❤️❤️!

      Like

  3. This was such a good read, really slice-of-lifey and cute but also a lot, makes sense it took all month to write it.

    I think I missed you sold the car, was it because of the pandemic & not going to many places, or?

    First Japanese word is so exciting! The way bilingual kids learn to speak is super interesting! I’m sure there will be *SO* many more if she gets the daycare spot 😂

    Also “my negligible skill set” don’t even start 😤🔪

    I had at least one more thing I wanted to say but I can’t think of it now, I can always add a new comment I guess

    (Awh @ swan ;;)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. About the car, no! It’s something we were considering for a long time, and as it happens the pandemic actually made no real difference on how much we use it. I hate driving and hate cars for environmental reasons, and that plus their ridiculous cost per year (even if you don’t drive it! tax and maintenance add up) mean that without it we save so much more money/would be able to do so much more, so Hide actually went off and sold it on the afternoon of his birthday 😂

      Liked by 1 person

  4. You’ve done a great job for all these months and you need an afternoon off. I wish there wasn’t a pandemic and you could get someone to babysit because you definitely deserve some time off. I enjoyed reading about a day in your life and I might just be inspired to blog the same as well. By the way, when did you find the time to blog this, after she goes to sleep at night?

    Like

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