Wednesday, 10 June 2015


At the swimming pool the other day a woman approached us and asked if we remembered her. We meet so many people, I put on my fake "ohh, you..." smile and was racking my brains for what school I may have worked with her when a little girl poked her head around the woman's legs and I realised who they were. The girl was just a baby last time we saw her, one of the residents of a baby orphanage we volunteered at. Her mother visited her every weekend, usually while we were there, so we met her often. There were a few parents like that, ones who visited regularly and planned to take the kids home when they could. I didn't really understand it at the time, but having tried to figure out childcare arrangements in Japan it now makes complete, miserable sense to me. If you are a single parent you have to work. There aren't enough childcare places, even fewer will accept infants, and the cost of out of hours care makes it prohibitive for parents who may work odd hours like night shifts or split shifts. Even if you have a "9 to 5" job, the working culture here usually requires more like "8 to 8", with the overtime unpaid, of course. The orphanage, on the other hand, may cost nothing (depending on the circumstances) and allows visits that may be almost as much time as a working parent would be spending with their child anyway.
We can pause for a moment here to shudder at how deeply wrong everything about what I just said is.
It was so lovely to see that in this case, this time, it had worked out. She'd been able to maintain a bond with her daughter and bring her home. Sometimes there really are happy endings.
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