Section: Features

Notes from abroad: Tokyo, Japan

Notes from abroad: Tokyo, Japan

by Mia Barnett

Being a housewife is something to which I have never given much thought. Not for lack of caring about this type of work, but because it never really came onto my radar.
Growing up, my mom worked and most of my friends’ moms worked, and I thought that was pretty cool. I thought being a housewife was cool too, although not something that I personally would ever want to do. All of the women in my life loved their jobs, and I knew I wanted to grow up and have a rewarding, exciting career.
To me, being a housewife was difficult, worthy and necessary work, but it was not a “real profession.” Since I assumed everyone wanted a “real profession,” I could never picture anyone being truly happy as a housewife.
This semester, I am living with a host family in Tokyo. My host mom is a housewife. She does all of the cooking, most of the cleaning, the laundry, the scheduling and the taking the two kids where they need to be. She even does my laundry.
I haven’t been catered to this degree since I got my tonsils removed in ninth grade and my mom paid my little brother to prepare meals for me. My host mom insists that she doesn’t want or need help from me, but every once in a while I’ll sneak in and fold a load of laundry. Living in this house is like living in luxury, and I honestly have no idea how my host mom does it all.
My host father is a civil engineer who is out of town four or five days per week. He is an incredibly kind man, and it is clear his kids love him. They jump on him and talk to him and spend weekends with him.
But the kids have a different bond with their mother. They talk to her and spend time with her too. The real difference is that they go to her for everything. If they need help with homework, if they want to go to a friend’s house, if they need medication, they go to mom. If I have a question about something interesting I saw, or if I need to tell someone I won’t be home for dinner, I go to my host mom.
While my host father supports the family monetarily through his job, my host mother has many jobs as well. She’s the cook, the cleaner, the doctor, the teacher and the counselor. And it is easy to tell she really loves all of her jobs.
In retrospect, my observations seem obvious. When one parent works and one does not, they are going to have different roles in the house and different relationships with the children. The thing I did not realize, though, was that being a housewife could be rewarding. My host mom did not get stuck with the job she has, she got the job she wanted. Sure, being a housewife is not for me, but my host mom loves what she does. And one day, in my own career, I can only hope to have similar job satisfaction.

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