If your child has a better relationship with the robotic vacuum cleaner than with you, then you might have a problem.
We’ve seen before that the typical demands of the Japanese workplace and salaryman lifestyle don’t often allow for the best work-life balance. When parents are expected to be at work early in the morning, then don’t come home until their children are asleep, that leaves very little time for bonding.
And in Japan, where men are still expected to be the family breadwinner, that can mean fathers are little more than ghosts to their children—someone whose vague presence can be felt about the house and about whom stories are told, but rarely encountered in the flesh.
One tweet that has been making the rounds on Twitter in Japan sums up this sentiment perfectly. It’s a story from a Japanese fifth-grade girl who was attending a programming workshop using LEGO Mindstorm.
What should have been just a fun little session ended up being a disillusioning experience for her.
▼ Screenshot of the original text as published in the
Japanese tech magazine Pedagogi. (Translation below.)
“The order of who contributes the most at my house is: #1 my mom. #2 me. #3 the Roomba robot that cleans our house. And the very last one is my dad. One day, one of the Roomba’s wheels got stuck in the floor in our home’s entryway, and it couldn’t move. Ever since I saw that, I thought that the Roomba was the worst contributor to the house.
“But now, after taking this programming workshop today, I’ve learned that it wasn’t the Roomba that was bad, it’s the Roomba’s programming that wasn’t good. If the person who programmed it had just done it a little better, then it wouldn’t have fallen and become stuck. So now I know: the worst contributor to our house isn’t the Roomba, it’s my dad! My dad is less useful than our Roomba.”
Yikes! Sometimes the truth hurts the most, and those are definitely some painful words. That kid’s dad should schedule some quality father-daughter time, stat, or else risk losing the respect of their child forever.
Interestingly enough, the rest of the article in the magazine ignores the social commentary part of the fifth-grader’s story, and instead focuses on the fact that she was able to identify the problem in the Roomba’s programming after taking the workshop. If that’s not a sign of the larger problem at hand, then I don’t know what is!
But just how much less time do Japanese fathers spend with the family/children compared to those in other countries?
Here’s a graph showing the results of a study carried out by the Japanese government, with the “daily hours spent with children” in dark green, and “daily hours spent helping around the house” in light green.
▼ The countries (from top):
Japan, U.S., U.K., France, Germany, Sweden, and Norway.
With half as much time spent with children and about a third as much time spent around the house on average compared to dads in other countries, Japan doesn’t look so great when it comes to happy father-child relationships.
Of course, it should be pointed out that the fathers are most likely not avoiding their families and children on purpose: they’re working hard to take care of them, and to give them a good life, and Japanese society expects said salarymen to log long hours. Unfortunately, it just seems that while striving to support their children financially, they’re missing out on giving them the necessary emotional support as well.
Hopefully the fathers out there who want to make a change will realize what’s happening before it’s too late. Otherwise they risk becoming strangers in their own homes.