Although I had already talked with the jinjigakaricho about child care leave, I resisted approaching the head of the English department, Professor K, until the middle of November. One reason was that I felt that waiting until a less stressful time of the semester might make things easier. Another was that I wanted him to see how hard I was working for the department, particularly after spending an entire weekend being the MC for a speech contest.
When the time came, I simply had to visit his office…directly across the hallway from mine (yes, avoiding this talk for half a year may have reduced stress for Professor K, but may also have increased mine!).
As I raised the topic, I could sense his concern…
…and to my great relief, Prof K immediately expressed his understanding for the situation I found myself in. First, he started by saying that 9 months was too young to be in a day care all day long, five days a week. (Technically, my daughter will be 9 months old in February, which is when my wife has to go back to work.)
Then, unexpectedly, he added, “My wife and I used to live in your city, and at the time we had no choice but to leave our children at the day care center.”
He had had the same experience over two decades ago, and seemingly regretted it. And now he was supporting me. I couldn’t believe it. Here I was, stressing the whole time about broaching the topic of child care leave, and his initial reaction was to try to help me take leave.
Professor K’s reaction was considerably better than that of a number of teachers at my school, who have already expressed their attitude toward my taking leave by simply not saying anything to me. The atmosphere has become…a bit strange. Whenever I walk past certain teachers in the hallway, or walk into the teacher’s lounge or kitchen area, there is an odd tension in the air.
Considering that even workplaces in “Western” societies such as the U.S. and the U.K. are often openly hostile towards fathers who ask for time off for children, I may be getting off lucky.