Today, there’s a RocketBaby in the RocketNews24 office.
It might be hard to believe, but somewhere between taking pole-dancing lessons, dressing up as a giant teddy bear, and getting in trouble with the law, our Japanese-language reporter P.K. Sanjun found the time to find the love of his life and get married. What’s more, P.K. and his wife have were recently blessed with the birth of Rei, their adorable baby girl.
But not everything is sunshine and roses in P.K.’s life. While Japan’s predicting senior care shortage gets a lot of international media coverage, there’s a separate problem on the opposite end of the age scale, in that child day care services are in short supply in many parts of the country.
Rei is now five months old, and P.K.’s wife would like to return to work. The couple started their daycare search by looking for facilities in their neighborhood which met the national or prefectural licensing criteria that allow parents to receive 30,000 yen (US$260) a month in government financial aid, which would cover about half of their total childcare costs. Unfortunately, every institution they found was already full, with no vacancies for new children.
So next they started considering daycare centers where they wouldn’t be eligible for financial aid, but once again, there were no openings for new kids. Finally, they expanded their search beyond the neighborhood they live in, looking at daycare centers along the commuting routes to their office, but even after looking at dozens of facilities, they couldn’t find one that met their needs and had space for Rei.
And that’s how one day this RocketNews24 writer showed up at the office with his RocketBaby.
P.K. wanted to test the feasibility of bringing his daughter to work with him, and so he decided to conduct a one-day experiment, during which he identified five challenges he needed to overcome.
Challenge 1 – Commuting
Like most people who work in Tokyo, P.K. takes the train every morning. At rush hour, it’s a struggle to find enough room to squeeze yourself onto the train, and things only get tougher if you’re wearing a baby-carrying harness or pushing a stroller.
P.K. is lucky in that his job allows him to start as late as 10 a.m. if he wants, and so he can avoid the most packed times on the train. Even then, though, the carriages were crowded, and he could tell by the look on some other commuters’ faces that they weren’t happy about having even less space due to P.K.’s bulky baby gear.
P.K. also found that his normal 30-minute commute grew to 45 minutes since he couldn’t take his stroller on escalators, and so had to walk roundabout routes through the stations in order to use their elevators instead.
Challenge 2 – Getting work done
Thankfully, Rei is a pretty relaxed kid, and she only got fussy once during her daddy’s workday. However, she’s still a baby, which means that she can get squirmy or talkative (if you can call the gurgles and coos that come out of babies’ mouths “talking”).
Loving parent that he is, P.K. can’t help but notice when his daughter is moving or making noises, and as such he had a harder time concentrating on his projects than usual. When Rei dozed off for 30-minute afternoon nap, P.K.’s brain went into overdrive, as he tried to t as much work done as he possibly could before she woke up.
▼ Rei gets a diaper change in the middle of RocketNews24 headquarters.
However, P.K. thinks that this being his first day working with Rei at his side made him particularly prone to distraction. “If I did this a lot, I think eventually I might be as productive as I normally am.”
Challenge 3 – Meetings
It just so happened that one the day P.K. brought Rei to the office, he also had to attend a staff meeting. Once again, Rei was on her best behavior, but P.K. couldn’t help but notice that the meeting wrapped up in far less time than the conferences usually take, which he chalked up to everyone being conscious of the baby at the table and not wanting to delve into time-consuming topics.
P.K. also couldn’t help but wonder how much more pronounced the effect would be if he were meeting not with his coworkers, but with a client or external partner. In such a situation, he’s a little worried that the conversation would naturally flow to taking about kids, and actual work-related discussions would end up as a poorly fleshed-out afterthought.
Challenge 4 – Understanding by your boss and coworkers
As you’re probably already aware, RocketNews24 has a pretty laid-back office environment.
▼ Some companies have casual Fridays. RocketNews24 occasionally has loincloth days.
So when P.K. asked our company president if he could bring his kid to work for the day, the boss responded with a cheerful “Sure! Sounds cool.” And even though P.K. had fully intended to take care of all Rei’s needs by himself, the rest of the team was happy to lend a hand when they could, which gave P.K. a few much-needed moments to go to the bathroom, make a phone call, or do other non-parenting related tasks.
Not everyone’s workplace is so accommodating, though, so P.K. was extremely grateful for his coworkers understanding.
Challenge 5 – Putting pressure on yourself
Actually, though, everyone being so nice can present a bit of a psychological challenge. Since everyone was going out of their way to accommodate him, P.K. wanted to be as little a burden as possible, and so if the conference room as empty, he’d often take Rei in there and work in private, so as not to run the risk of disturbing anyone else.
Still, as his shift wound down and he asked his coworkers if having Rei in the office had caused them any problems, they told him she was no trouble at all, leaving P.K. to think that if he’s going to bring his daughter to the office with him, he’s going to have to learn how to not overthink about not bothering the other employees.
So at the end of the day, how did P.K. feel? “Tired. Incredibly tired.” But at the same time, he told us that the experience showed him that bringing his baby to work isn’t entirely impossible.
However, he also said he doesn’t think he has the strength, physically or mentally, to do this every day. One a month? Sure. But Monday to Friday? Impossible.
He also came away with a greater appreciation for just how much work his wife has been doing taking care of Rei all day. And finally, P.K. says that he now feels closer to his daughter than ever before. “Usually, she’s asleep by the time I come home from work, so we only really spend about an hour a day together, before I go to the office in the morning. But today, we spent the whole day together, and as a father, that makes me really happy.”
All the same, P.K. really, really hopes he can find a good day care center soon.
[ Read in Japanese ]