Series: Tackling the Work-Life Balance (13)
Starting Over as an “Old Rookie”
Full-time Administrative Staff Member in the Faculty of Commerce
“In the course of your life, it is up to you to look out for yourself.” That was my perspective when I started looking for a job, and that was my perspective when I chose to join the administrative staff of Waseda University. Although I saw myself as a strong, independently-minded Waseda woman, I believed that I would need to be independent before I could help and be of service to others. However, maintaining your independence (and maintaining your job) is an incredibly precious and difficult thing. I have gained a renewed appreciation for the environment and systems which Waseda has cultivated and which allow me to maintain my independence.
After joining Waseda, I worked in the School of Science and Engineering for around three years handling entrance examinations, at which point I met and married my husband, who was posted to Hokkaido. The resolve which I mentioned at the outset of this story faded, as I felt strongly that I was meant to start my married life there, in my hometown of Sapporo. I therefore chose to leave my job at Waseda. For a while thereafter I did not work, but I continually felt a void inside myself that I could not fill. Although I had time on my hands, my lack of confidence kept me from seeking out new people to meet, and I eventually lost interest in everything, even my passions of music, books, and shopping. I felt a sense of shame that I had not done anything with my life. I personally came to understand how fundamental work was to my happiness because it allowed me to help others, even if only in some small way. My job was an indispensable part of who I am.
A few years later I returned to Tokyo, and soon after I arrived my former boss told me, despite the headache that my prior resignation had caused, that Waseda University was starting a reemployment system. I swallowed my pride, contacted the Personnel Section and was told that I would need to satisfy certain requirements, such as with regard to the reasons for my previous departure and the number of years since I left. I would be hired as a full-time contract administrator and, after passing a promotion examination, would be on my way to becoming full-time permanent administrator.
I submitted my application in eager anticipation of the launch of the reemployment system. The university hired me as full-time contract administrator. I was assigned to handle administrative duties within the Faculty of Commerce. Relative to my age, I was a complete and utter novice – an “old rookie.” In terms of my knowledge and judgment, I was green; however, the one overwhelming difference was that, unlike the first time I worked at Waseda, I felt joy at having a place to work and gratitude to the university and people who provided me with it.
I took child-care leave after the birth of my son and, following my return to the office in April 2015, have also been allowed special child-care work hours. For eight years since we were married, my husband and I have often lived ‘solo’ lifestyles with one another; however, the birth of a child has finally changed us from individuals into a family. Despite his own busy schedule, my husband spends a great deal of time with our son. The only thing he lacks are breasts, and sometimes I think that if he had breast milk, I would not be able to compete with him as a parent.
My return to work has resulted in a revised division of labor in our household. I used to do all the housework, including a lot of trivial things that I would do without my husband even being aware that they needed to be done. However, these things add up and become burdensome. I decided that the prudent course of action was to get my husband involved in this housework as early as possible. We worked out all of the routine housework and childcare items and assigned points for each. Tasks received one point for every five minutes they took, three points for every 15 minutes and five points for every thirty minutes. Then we multiplied this by the task’s weekly frequency (for example, filling out the nursery school communication logbook: 1P x 5 times/week = 5P). Afterwards, we decided how many points of total tasks to assign to one another. I think our current arrangement strikes the right stress-free balance of housework and childcare tasks between us to keep our home running smoothly.
And then there is the vital matter of my job… Although I like to think I am at a point now where I avoid making critical mistakes and causing delays, I cannot hide my trepidation in the lead-up to busy periods. I see this as a time when you have to hold on and fight that little extra bit harder. I am sometimes critical of how I throw myself completely into whatever task is in front of me without ever questioning or stepping back to reflect more generally on what it is I am doing; however, my desire is to build up trust among the professors and others around me so that they see me as someone they can rely upon. Also, since I have returned to work, the impact and inspiration of my fellow colleagues who are also raising children has been of irreplaceable importance. We say “lunchtime is like our after-school break,” when I can speak easily with everyone and receive advice which is a tremendous help to me.
Waseda University has provided me with a reemployment system, child-care leave, and special child-care work hours. I have taken full advantage of these offerings to help achieve balance in my work and life. This environment was built by those who have come before me, and whether the next generation will be able to enjoy it depends upon me. I will endeavor to do my job to the best of my ability as I carry in my heart the joy and gratitude of an “old rookie.”
Nagase was hired by Waseda University in 2003 after graduating from the School of Commerce. She worked in the New Operations, Public Relations, and Admissions Section in the School of Science and Engineering until her resignation in 2006. After just under five years out of the workforce, she applied in 2011 for reemployment under the “Reemployment System Aimed at Strengthening Support for Work-Life Balance” and was hired as full-time contract administrator in April 2011. She was assigned to handle administrative duties within the Faculty of Commerce. Nagase subsequently applied and took a promotion test to become a full-time administrator, and she assumed this position in October 2012.
Nagase’s three-person family is made up of her husband, her (two years and one month old) son and herself.
（SANKAKU NEWS No.15）