Service helps new moms juggle kids and careers

by Junji Yamaguchi

Kyodo

After seeing many of her friends and colleagues abandon promising careers for motherhood, Keiko Koda was inspired to find a way to help professionals stay on the corporate path after having children.

In 2009, she founded AsMama Inc. to lend a hand to these women.

Since last year, the Yokohama-based company has been coordinating a service whereby working parents share the burden of child care, for example, by picking them up from or dropping them off at school.

Parents can become members of the service, but must first belong to or create a group or community with their friends, neighbors or other parents whose children go to the same school or kindergarten.

AsMama’s service essentially enables team child care. For instance, when one member is unable to pick up his or her child from the day care center or school because of work, he or she can ask for help from other members in the group through its website.

If no one in the group is available, AsMama will dispatch one of its certified “mama supporters.”

Either way, a member pays a minimum of ¥500 per hour to use the service. Should the child get involved in an accident, up to ¥50 million in liability insurance will be paid to the parent.

The service has attracted more than 4,200 members in the six months since its launch in April, according to AsMama.

“What’s most important is to build a system in which both parents and children can recognize each other’s faces and can depend on one another in a casual and flexible way,” said Koda, the 38-year-old president of the company.

Koda herself continued to work at a major information technology firm after giving birth to a daughter. But she said many of her acquaintances eventually gave up on their careers after giving birth even though they wanted to continue working.

Koda is looking to expand her service with financial assistance from companies active in dealing with products and services related to child care.

Koda said her dream is to establish a “society in which parents can live in a lively way while children will aim to grow up to be like their own parents.”