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On Equal Parenting, With Shu Matsuo Post
Dadditude Newsletter #10
Dadditude interviews dads from different backgrounds, professional fields and ethnicities to get their insights on what it means to be a dad in the current moment.
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Shu Matsuo Post is a new dad living in Japan. He recently published a book about his experience trying to take his wife’s name when they got married, in one of the most gender-rigid nations on the planet. The first line might strike a chord with some of our readers: “Dear men, since childhood, you’ve been told a lie.”
We spoke with him recently about being an involved dad in Japan, striving to become an equal partner and his battle to keep control of his schedule.
Tell us a little about yourself.
I’m a Japanese national who has spent time in Japan, the US and in Hong Kong. Currently, my wife, our son, and I live in Tokyo. I’m a senior director of project management at a company that provides coworking space around the world. I recently published a book called I Took Her Name. As the title indicates, I took my wife’s name when we got married. During the name-changing process in Japan, one of the most gender-rigid nations in the world, the opposition I encountered gave me an unexpected glimpse into a woman’s world. In short, this book is about feminism, vulnerability, emotional connection, and gender in Japan and around the world.
You can follow my on Instagram and Facebook.
Tell us about your kid.
Our son, Makoa, was born in September 2020 so as I write this, he is almost seven months old. He is the main source of my happiness and joy. He is a calm and kind boy who loves to smile. As feminist parents, we are commited to raising him as a feminist, who stands for equality and inclusion.
Can you give us a bit of background on the place of the father in the raising of a child in Japan and how that’s changing?
Japan ranks 120th in the 156-country Global Gender Gap Index in 2021, which makes it one of the most gender-rigid nations on the planet. Traditionally, mothers are expected to stay at home to care for their children while fathers play the primary breadwinner role. Because of this, only about 7% of Japanese fathers take paternity leave while over 80% of mothers do even though Japan has one of the most generous parental leave systems in the world - both mothers and fathers can take up to 12 months of paid government leave. While very few fathers take paternity leave in Japan (editor’s note: very strong stigma against it), I see more and more fathers spending time with their children and taking on a parental role in the family. I hope that men taking paternity leave in Japan is going to become the norm in the future as much as women accessing senior leadership positions.
How do you manage to mix work and family?
I took seven months off work for my paternity leave and very recently went back to work. I’ve noticed that I now focus more on being productive and collaborating with others so I can get important work done in a limited time. I’ve also gotten better at saying “no” to many requests. It’s now a top priority to protect my time with my son since he has his own schedule and I want to see him in the morning and before he goes to bed.
What do you think is your biggest strength as a parent?
My biggest strength as a parent is that I’m an all-rounder. As much as I love spending quality time with my son, I also enjoy doing housework, especially cooking and doing the dishes. Since our son biologically needs his mom more than me at this point of his life, I focus on taking more household duties so they can spend more time together. (This is changing quite a bit now that I’m back from my paternity leave.) I trust that he is going to want to spend more time with me in the future.
What stresses you out the most these days as a parent?
Not feeling like I’m in charge of my schedule all the time. If you are a parent, you already know this but childcare is hard work. Babies need attention 24/7. Every night I’m woken up multiple times to the sing-song cry of my sweet son, and all day he requires our constant care. Just because a person is not generating income doesn’t mean they are on vacation. I’ve heard many parents say, “Going to work actually feels more like a vacation.” Needless to say, I have so much respect for single parents and stay-at-homers. I’m not even doing half of the childcare duties since my wife is the real MVP (Most Valuable Parent) right now and I can’t even imagine doing this all alone.
What side of parenthood do you wish you had invested more time and energy in the past?
Since I’m a new parent and I’ve spent most of my parenthood so far on paternity leave, I’m eternally grateful to have invested this time to be with my wife and our son. I wouldn’t change a thing. Now that I’m back at work, the challenge is to create more time to be present with him during the work week.
Can you tell us about an especially favorite/special moment with your kids recently?
I’m a big endurance runner and running is an important part of my everyday life. Since the weather is warming up and my son can hold his head up, I’ve started running with him in one of those sporty strollers every morning. Usually, he likes playing with his toys in the stroller when we are just walking but he seems to really like the speed during our runs together. It’s been a great way to spend fun time with him and get my workout in at the same time.
Thank you Shu!
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