was instantly drawn to Tomoko Otake’s Oct. 6 article, ” ‘Outsider’ shares unique take on life, prejudices in the ‘real’ Japan” — about Suzanne Kamada. I, too, am the blond-haired, blue-eyed wife of a Japanese man. We live in Michigan with our three kids, but visit family in Japan each summer. I lived in Aichi Prefecture 15 years ago, before having kids, but even then I could understand the pressure of being the perfect mom. The other moms in our company housing apartments were always very busy with child care and other “proper” activities.
As I fill my schedule nowadays with school and sports activities for my kids, I feel the same parenting pressures to avoid the guilt from not having done enough for my kids. Yet, here in southeast Michigan, where we have a sizable Japanese population, it seems that these social expectations can actually be helpful when families first move abroad. There is already a network of families that reach out to each other. Play dates are arranged; shopping and survival tips are shared. By having this cultural connection, some of the culture shock is muted.
Cultural expectations and mothering roles are powerful and tough to change. I think finding the balance is something we can all learn to live with. I applaud Suzanne Kamada as she works to make a more accepting and open society for her family, and mine.