What was meant to be a much-needed pat on the back for mothers has done more harm than good. In Hulu’s original children’s program “Dai! Dai! Daisuke Onisan!!,” hosted by ex-NHK talent Daisuke Yokoyama, Daisuke Onisan performed a new song titled “Atashi Okasan Dakara” (“Because I’m a Mom”). Written by popular children’s book author Nobumi, the lyrics go like this:
“I was living alone before I became a mom/ I wore heels, I painted my nails/ I tried to act strong and tried to prove I could work.
Today I cut my nails to play with my kids/ I wear clothes I can run in so I can go to my part-time job/ Because I’m a mom/ Because I’m a mom.
I wake up at 5 a.m. feeling sleepy/ Because I’m a mom/ I let you eat my favorite food/ Because I’m a mom/ I memorize names of trains/ Because I’m a mom.
It’s always about you, not me. Because I’m a mom/ Because I’m a mom.
I used to be thin before I was a mom/ I did what I liked and I bought what I liked/ All I thought about was myself. …
If I could go back to before I was a mom, I would go out at night/ I would go to a concert and buy clothes for myself/ But I’ve quit all of that and now I’m a mom/ I’d rather be a mom over all of that.
According to the writer, the song is meant to support mothers across Japan and the lyrics were based on stories he heard from real mothers. The song is not about what mothers have to sacrifice for their children, but what they are able to experience because of them, he says.
Despite his best intentions, the song went viral across the internet — not for its uplifting message, but instead for placing a “curse” on mothers.
“About the ‘Because I’m a Mom’ lyrics that everyone is talking about — if a mother sees this after giving birth, they probably would feel depressed,” Twitter user @ke315 says. “It reminded me of how I developed postpartum depression when I had my firstborn because I tried too hard. … Everyone is saying the song feels like a curse, but it really is true.”
The repetitive phrase “Because I’m a Mom” implies that mothers face a burden, furthering the idea that women are expected to give up their lives in order to raise their children.
This mentality isn’t just harmful for mothers, it also affects their children, @iroiro_niji says.
“As a kid, the most painful thing to hear from your mother is stuff such as ‘I gave up things in my life because I’m a mom, because I have kids, because I care so much about you,’” @iroiro_niji says. “You start thinking, ‘Well, I should never have been born.’”
To dispel the belief that mothers are all self-sacrificing saints, Twitter users began using the hashtag “#あたしお母さんだけど,” or “But I’m a Mom” in order to illustrate how women don’t need to give up who they are when they become mothers.
“I’m a mom but I sleep in until 9 a.m., I paint my nails, I wear what I like, I want to lose weight and I love to eat spicy food,” says @mrc_0826.
Twitter user @moet_csf suggests going a step further.
“It warms my heart that the ‘But I’m a Mom’ hashtag happened so quickly as a rebuttal to ‘Because I’m a Mom.’ Still, we shouldn’t even need to include the ‘But.’ Being a mom and enjoying your life are never at odds.”
The “Because I’m a Mom” incident recalls the recent backlash diaper brand Moony received for their commercial portraying a mother struggling to raise her child without much help from her husband. It’s becoming increasingly clear that what Japanese mothers need isn’t praise for the pain they go through but removing the burden placed on them.
While creating more day care centers would arguably be a better way of achieving this, it helps when the message presented by the media is “Mothers can take a break as well” instead of “You’re a mother, so it’s your job to endure.”