Sunday, October 15, 2006


Aisatsu - Greetings

There are certain phrases in Japanese that have no appropriate translation in the English language. The words that the station master uttered to me as I passed through the ticket gates fall into this category. There are several awkward translations, but to me, they fail to capture the feeling behind the words. He said to me, as I returned from escorting my daughter to school, “Otsukare-sama.” It is something you say to someone who has finished their work, as they leave the office, or complete a task. I have heard it directly translated as “you are the tired one,” but I don’t think anyone one would ever say that in English and if they did the person they were talking to would look at them like they were nuts. Anyway, I smiled to myself as he said it to me for several reasons. First of all, I love that we live near a station small enough that the station master is aware of the comings and goings of his regulars and that he is kind enough, that we live enough on the outskirts of the city, to freely acknowledge this. Second of all, I appreciate the fact that he recognizes my taking my daughter to school everyday as work. Women may not enjoy as much respect as they deserve in the workplace in Japan, however traditional “women’s work,” which is often invisible in the USA, is considered work here and a respectable, valid occupation of one’s time.
There are several books and articles in publication now about working moms facing off against stay-at-home moms. This is a tragedy. As if women need to be criticizing each others choices. I am thankful we have choices. Both women who focus their energy on their children and mothers who successfully maintain careers are deserving of commendation. In a collection of essays titled Because I Said So, Beth Kephart wrote about “the mother who gave her child both all she had and not enough.” I think that is all of us, it just looks different the way we each manage to individually accomplish it. Now I am waiting for my copy of Confessions of a Slacker Mom to arrive from so I can get into some reading I can really identify with.

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