I’ve been promising myself to write a new entry for months now, but I just kept putting it off. It’s easy to find other things to do when you are a full-time working mom. Every action is budgeted down to the minute. Outside of work hours there isn’t always an opportunity to get simple errands done and I’ve found myself using my lunch breaks to put gas in the car, buy formula or diapers, and catch up on my banking. I order more things online, as it’s easier to have things delivered right to my front door, and I jog in the dark these days, either early in the morning before the little master wakes, or after he is down for the night. Life is certainly moving along at a higher pace, and I often find myself wishing that humans didn’t need to do things like sleep, eat or take a piss. These seem to be the 3 things I forfeit the most frequently in my attempt to keep up with our new schedule.
The other day a miracle happened in the shape of a work party. My husband, currently a stay-at-home dad, graciously agreed to baby-sit for an evening so I could have a rare and glorious moment of adult recreation. Sitting in the restaurant, sharing drinks with colleagues, laughing, it suddenly dawned on me. I’m still alive. Yes, and not only that, I also have a bit of personality left. It’s a shocking revelation, I know, but up until that moment, I felt like nothing was more important than understanding Noah’s sleep patterns and contemplating the consistency of his bowel movements. When your entire existence has suddenly been rewired to make sure the life you created stays healthy and living, it is easy to forget that you once enjoyed reading books before bed (no, not baby books, but the other kind), or studying Japanese, or talking politics. Truly, some things pale in importance when compared with the awesome task of teaching your kid to eat bananas. Still, there are simple joys, ones that don’t involve sippy cups and mashing carrots, that shouldn’t be let go of so easily, and I don’t think I need to feel guilty for reclaiming them.
Since the last time I wrote in September, quite a bit has happened, so I might as well recap. I took a short trip home with Noah on my own. Everyone thought I was nuts to fly with a baby by myself, but traveling with children in Japan is far easier than I expected. Every airport, from the small domestic ones to the goliath Narita, had great services for families with children. In the local domestic airport, there were strollers with place for my carry-on luggage, so the only time I needed to carry Noah was from the gate to my seat, and that’s all I carried. I was met in the waiting lounge by a stewardess who escorted me right into the plane, toting my bags the whole way, and then storing them in the overhead bins for me. There were also wonderful nursing rooms everywhere we went. They are just for moms, with changing tables and hot water for formula. At Narita, the room was huge, and I had it all to myself. It gave me a chance to refresh after a day of domestic travel, brush my teeth, change the baby, and organize my bags before braving the last leg of my international journey home. All these great services may be a subliminal attempt to encourage Japanese parents that having more kids isn’t so bad an idea, especially when taking a family vacation can be done with such ease.
The reverse culture shock this time around wasn’t so bad. People didn’t seem nearly as mean or fat as they did on my previous trip home, but I think it’s because I made a point to anticipate the differences in politeness and girth. Thankfully, this time I didn’t have any culturally driven meltdowns. I remember crying over a plate of fries and gravy last year, because I didn’t understand why we were eating poutine 2 days in a row. Yes, the high caloric North American diet did a bit of mental job on me, that and the fact that 1 out of every 2 women in my parent’s rural town seemed to be grossly overweight. In Japan, I only ever saw people of that size at sumo tournaments, so I actually felt disgusted with food after a short while.
This time around I was a bit more homesick, and having gone without pickles and beetroots and Thai Food for the better part of the year (and through my entire pregnancy no less) I threw caution to the wind and highly enjoyed every edible thing I could put in my mouth. I am particularly thankful to my sister, who made a killer dish of lasagna, one that had me waking up in the middle of the night to scrape the leftovers from the pan. I should also apologize to my brother-in-law whose pizza slice I scarffed down while he was at work. I’m sorry Rob, but it was delicious.
Yes, this second visit to Canadian soil was definitely easier, but I wasn’t completely spared. What got me this time was the customer service, or should I say, the lack thereof. There were line-ups everywhere and no one seemed to know what the hell was going on. It was as if every store I walked into had just hired all new staff and everyone was doing their job training at that very instant. No one knew return policies, or where things were in the store, barcodes didn’t work and I was nearly short changed on more than one occasion. Quality customer care was simply lacking, and no one else but me seemed to notice or care. Personally, if I’m going to spend money at a business, and on top of that pay 14% Ontario sales tax, then I think I deserve professional treatment, otherwise, I might as well just stick to shopping online.
Back in Japan, I’ve started running again. There is a 10km race happening in March, and I’ve signed up for it since the only way for me to stick to any sort of running routine is to enroll myself in races that I inevitably won’t win. So far the incentive is working. I had a bit of a rough start, but yesterday I ran just over 6km for the first time in my entire life, and it felt pretty good…at least yesterday it did. Today, all my joints below my hips are angry with me. My muscles also feel bitter. I’m giving them the day off, but I’m sending them back to work on Christmas day.
Finally, I will be turning 32 tomorrow. I don’t have any real deep birthday wisdom to impart except that aging sucks. I wish when I was 20 I knew then what I know now, such as how to apply eye shadow properly (I still struggle with this, but I’m marginally better), or that a degree in Art would later qualify me to be a protester in the Occupy Wall Street movement, but that’s about all. Hindsight, right?