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I just read an article in The Japan Times about the nation’s record-low birthrate. I am one of the angry people who have four children in this country — I am German and my husband is Japanese. If anybody would like to know why there are so few children, I would like to show them how hard it is to have any. Never mind the money; it’s the time and duties, year-round.

Many mothers leave their children at home unattended so they can go to school to some meeting. Some of us are lucky and have a grandmother who can help out, but not me. My family is in Germany, and my in-laws are in Tokyo. When my mother-in-law was younger, she worked, and in her spare time, she needed to attend to her husband who was always very demanding.

My father-in-law is now dead, and my mother-in-law is over 80, while my children are between 5 and 12. This is what happens when two generations start their family at age 35. When my father-in-law was in hospital for three years, my husband, as a dutiful son, went to visit him every weekend. If he didn’t want to go, his mother made him go. Meanwhile, I was raising my children alone, and it didn’t matter if I was ill.

I might be just unlucky, or silly, to have so many children in the first place, but I would like to say it takes a village to raise even just one child. Unfortunately, I don’t have that village. I never regret having these children, but in February and March, when all the children had the measles and three were seriously ill, I worked 24 hours a day for 25 days. My husband helped when he was home. Sometimes we both sat spoon-feeding a child and missed our own dinner.

I don’t expect to have an elegant, easy life; I just hope that my energy will last, and that I don’t have to look after my mother-in-law as well if she becomes ill.

In my own country, I would be entitled to go to a holiday resort especially for mothers for free — German health care provides for it. Here, nobody appreciates all the work and care and sleepless nights that are involved in mothering. But I know for sure that children won’t turn out well without caring and nursing.

sylvia vig-yanagida

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