Office for Promotion of Equality and DiversityWaseda University

Series: Tackling Work-Life Balance (12) Longing for my own work–life balance

Series: Challenging work–life balance!

Longing for my own work–life balance

Kyoko Ishida
Associate Professor, Faculty of Law

Even after childbirth, ‘I will not stop working’

While I was pregnant, it was not uncommon for me to stay in my office long past midnight. When I left and passed through the university gate with my big belly, the guards would often give me a startled look. That kind of lifestyle was no longer possible after I gave birth to my first son. At that time, I was an assistant professor and if I wanted, I could have taken maternity leave, but it never occurred to me. I had just started out as a junior researcher, my work was finally taking shape, and I was scared to stop, even for just a few months. While waiting for a spot to open up in daycare, I hired a babysitter, and although the time was much shorter than it used to be, I still worked on my research and lectures.

In 2013, my second son was born. Although I thought about it for a little while, once again I decided not to take maternity leave. Going straight back to work without taking leave meant that I would lose the opportunity to spend time with my sons, but if they needed to go to daycare soon, I thought the sooner the better to make the adjustment. In the end, I found a babysitter for my second son and went straight back to work.

One thing that I always bear in mind is to ‘never stop working.’ If family and work are both important to you, then you have to dedicate all your efforts to both. Always continue to work every day, even if it is for just a short time. However, give your kids all the love you have when you are with them. Occasionally, people around me say, “You can work any time, but child care is just for now”; however, research is the same. I also do not agree with people when they say, “Kids are at their most adorable now.” Children are adorable at any age. Indeed, early childhood might be a precious period when you can express affection without hesitation. Still, I cannot imagine that their loveliness would ever fade away, even with my first son, who is now slowly turning his feelings towards his friends rather than his mother. I try to remember to give my children all my attention during those limited times we have together.

My (often broken) rules and the results

Like many people who have children, I am overwhelmed by my lack of time. My research area, which is the judicial system, has been changing rapidly in recent years. While I want to conduct my research in a timely manner, I am always irritated by not having enough time. Daycare is available until 8:30pm, but children often become ill when they are out for a long period of time. It would be great if I could work after I put them to sleep, but when I try to leave their beds quietly, my younger son wakes up and cries furiously, looking for me. However, it is impossible for me not to work at night, and if I try to sleep or wake up with them, then housework or my professional work would both be impossible. So, I came up with a set of rules that focus on using as much help as possible from the people around me.(1)When scheduling work in the evening, ask the babysitter to clean up, make dinner, and bathe the children, but only make this once a week.(2)When I need to attend research seminars on the weekend, leave one day to spend time with family.(3)When it is necessary to stay late for work, make it just twice a week.

In truth, I have not actually kept to any of these rules. I thank my husband from the bottom of my heart for his battles with our children. I would often leave for work on the weekends when I was still breast-feeding, and since they were still too young to understand the different parental roles, my oldest son would complain to my husband because he did not have breasts to feed him.

Society accepting diverse work–life balance

Compared to the generation before mine, I am able to continue to work and raise children in a more supportive environment. In recent years, there has been a rapid increase in easily obtainable childcare services and various support systems for parents who work have dramatically improved. However, this does not mean that all the concerns and troubles have gone away. Should I go to work on the weekends? Should I leave sick kids with the babysitter and go to a research seminar in the evening? I always face these dilemmas. And yet, I am blessed because I have a choice.

I hope this supportive environment will continue to improve so that every individual can take their own work-life balance into consideration, so they can make their own choices and put them into practice.


B.A., College of Liberal Arts, International Christian University
M.A., Tokyo Institute of Technology
LL.M., LL.D., University of Washington
Associate Professor at the Institute of Comparative Law, Faculty of Law, Waseda University since 2012 (Professor’s Assistant from 2007–2009; Assistant Professor from 2009–2012)
Specialty Law (Legal Ethics, Sociology of Law, Gender and Law)
Family structure Husband and two sons (one and four years old)
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