Year 2: Colleague Reactions

Just over 5 months ago, my year-long child care leave ended and I went back to work. Since then, I haven’t posted on this blog for a very good reason: I was insanely busy.

Of course, not too busy to continue to take care of my daughter. I hope that goes without saying now.

I intended to stop writing on this blog, but found myself wanting to add more information. More about reactions of friends and colleagues. More about the transition between home care and day care. More about entering the nursery school (an adventure…).

I also found myself wanting to gather all the posts already on this blog, wanting to edit them into a more coherence framework, with the purpose of self-publishing a book about my paternity leave. Would anybody be interested in buying it, even for a dollar or two? Or even if free? Frankly, monetary concerns don’t bother me so much as the possibility that others…particularly fathers…might not be interested in reading about child care.

Hopefully, this post will mark the return of my dedication to writing about child care. I haven’t shied away from the topic in person, or from posting about random articles on my Facebook page.

(On the other hand, I did curtail my Twitter usage, basically due to my lack of understanding the whole point of texting minute details of my life to the world at large in pithy inanities that are far too short to contain much meaning other than “hey, look at me, I can tweet.”)

The immediate impetus was colleague reactions. Or in many cases, lack thereof.

When I decided to take the child care leave, there was a resulting odd, tense atmosphere but I only got one direct negative reaction, from a teaching colleague..let’s call him Professor Y…who begged me not to take the year off because it would increase the departmental work load. This turned out largely not to be the case, since I am unable to help with much of the administrative work in Japanese, and my classes were covered by two part-time teachers.

When I returned to work, Professor Y greeted me with a smile. And spoke in Japanese. In fact, he has steadfastly refused to speak English with me since my return, despite his above-average ability (far above my Japanese ability).

At least he speaks to me, I suppose. A previous full-time teacher who retired and became a part-timer during my first year…let’s call him Professor M…used to talk to me all the time in near flawless English. After my child care leave, he wouldn’t even look at me, let alone say simple greetings such as “good morning.” Total cold shoulder.

I never got to gauge the reaction of the head teacher, Professor H. I spoke with him for over an hour about the English curriculum about a month before my leave. At that time, Professor H referred to the child care leave as “you know, that thing” (な、アレだろう). He wouldn’t even call it “leave of absence.” Unfortunately, he had to retire in March, just before I returned, and now there is a new head teacher (who has openly admitted to me that he hates English, but that’s neither here nor there, and besides which is really quite common at colleges in Japan).

Other colleagues have mixed reactions, mostly unreadable. My being away for a year has probably just made it difficult for them to suddenly start talking to me as if nothing had ever happened. One colleague did react very openly to my comment that I might have to leave a meeting early to go pick up my daughter at the nursery school.

“Man, I hated having to do that,” he said, laughing. “Nursery school was such a pain. My kid would always kick his heels and scream when it was time to home. I was so glad when he got to elementary school.”

Evidently not the kind of father to take a child care leave.

But more about the nursery school in a future post. Soon.

About MThomas

Long ago, I gave up my high school dreams of becoming the next Carl Sagan and instead wound up working (in order) at McDonald's, a '60s-themed restaurant, a video rental store, a used bookstore, a computer seller, Kinko's, a Jewish newspaper company, and an HR firm. I eventually became a teacher of intercultural communication in Kyoto, where I vainly attempt to apply quantum mechanics to language teaching, practice martial arts and Zen Buddhism, and always keep one eye on the sky. And yes, I know my profile photo's backward. I just think it looks better this way.
This entry was posted in colleague reactions, gender roles, Japan, parenting, Paternity leave and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Year 2: Colleague Reactions

  1. Pingback: Paternity Leave: A few thoughts after the fact | Taking Leave

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