The term shōichi no kabe, “first-grade barrier,” captures the hurdle that parents face when their children enter elementary school in Japan — one that I have been experiencing firsthand.

I left my full-time job after taking parental leave because of a lack of day care options. And I am not alone: Polls suggest most working mothers reconsider their work styles when their children start school because of the heavier burden that this new chapter entails. And while the number of elementary school students who use after-school facilities is at a record high of 1.45 million, over 16,000 others are still on waiting lists — the longest of which is in Tokyo, where I live, totaling around 3,500 children.

Time management and communication with schools are the two major hurdles that first-graders’ parents face. Both could be alleviated by adopting digital tools and a more flexible approach, but such solutions are still largely lacking in Japanese public schools.