(This is a post I wrote when we lived in Japan--Looking at it now makes me feel less guilty about all the ways I goof up on a daily basis!)
I once saw an article in Time magazine (online) that said there are 2.6 million stay-at-home moms (versus 159,000 SAH dads) in the US. I am sure the numbers of SAHMs are much higher in Japan. In fact, I guess I am one of the very few "working" moms at Sky's preschool. I have heard horror stories about the pressure put on moms once their kids start school here, so we approached our son's preschool experience with a relaxed attitude (reason #1 I am a bad mom). Before he started we got a guide for preparing for preschool entrance. Fifteen pages long, it outlined all that we needed to know (= needed to do) before he started. Being a Catholic school, it started with a list of useful prayers that we could teach him. Then it reminded us to make sure our child always responds cheerfully when his name is called and gave us advice on how to prepare him (mentally) for starting school. All of this information was helpful enough.
(kids in their summer smocks enjoying story time with their teacher)
Then, about page 6, guide started to outline what we would need to make/buy for him before he started, clearly separating items into what we should buy and what we should make. The list of things to make included: a picture book bag (29 cm X 38 cm), a bag for his gym clothes (20 cm X 30 cm), bags for his tea cup, his plate, his luchbox, and his shoes, a placemat (20 cm X 27 cm),elastic bands for his crayon box and his lunch box, and an emergency cushion cover. These are to be made of double-layered quilted material (usually with a different design for front and back). We bought or borrowed all of these things, using the valid excuse that our sewing machine was in America(reasons #2-11 that I am a bad mom). Then came the list of things into which we are supposed to sew his name (not write it, sew it--in Japanese of course). We paid to have the most necessary one done, but for everything else, we used a permanent marker--oh the nerve of us! (reason #12 I am a bad mom). Lest I not feel adequately guilty about all this, one day when we took the kids to the doctor, we ran into another little boy from school. On his way out of the doctor's office, he held up his picture book bag and proudly said, "My MOMMY made this!"
Then there are the lunches. Sky's school only requires the kids to bring lunch twice a week. Forget the fact we had to spend about $30 on the separate lunch boxes for summer and winter (the winter one is aluminum so they can put it in the lunchbox heater). Some moms have been known to go overboard (check out this link, if you don't believe me!), and there is no shortage of books (or websites) telling you how to make the perfect boxed lunch. I think I do okay on this front. My son's lunches are healthy and full of variety and he seems to be pretty excited about them. I haven't seen many of the other kids' lunches (since I haven't been for an observation yet, reason #13), so I can't be sure how guilty I should feel.
(Here's one I made.)
Of course, nothing makes up for reason #14 (well, really, reason #1) that I am a bad mom. I don't stay home. Of course, we all know that every mom working inside the house or out loves her kids, but it is an interesting experience to be in a country where handmaking a kid's book bag is meant to be an expression of love that will make him feel proud and independent! I think I've incurred enough guilt for a lifetime!
(Here's a post I wrote about finally figuring out Japanese preschool, kinda...)