May in Japan is the perfect month for mothers. Wreathed in the fertile blooms of spring, bolstered by days of absolute perfection, May is also a month of muddy contradiction, stoically endured discomforts and perennial uncertainty. Masked sufferers stumble through three days cold, four days hot, and the only promises are the rainy tears of tsuyu and a long, hot summer of discontent. A single month epitomized by joyous pain — what a perfect month for motherhood.

A single day of honoring seems woefully inadequate, but we mothers take what we can, and here in Japan we bow and smile in delighted gratitude while plotting our next step toward subversive power. To honor mothers on both sides of the Pacific, here are the five most important differences in raising children, East vs. West, from one American mother in Japan.

1. Choose your battlefield: In Japan, choose food.