One of the interesting (but sad) things I've learned about Japanese women is the amount of stress and societal pressure they face.
They face it as little girls, where peer groups form based on the haves and have-nots, the pretty and the not so pretty.
They go through the same thing again when they become mums, and when their kids go to school.
There is an unspoken need for them to constantly keep up, to stay in the "in" group. Even if they don't compare themselves with fellow mums, their kids would.
Kids ask their mums why they are not as pretty / skinny / well-dressed / young as their friends' mums.
Daughters, especially, are the harshest critics. They seem to make the worst comments, often very directly to their mums, about their look and dress sense and whatnots.
Sons do compare too, but they usually can't tell the difference beyond pretty or not, skinny or fat. 😂
The moms I've met in Japan often talk about how they want to be become mothers that their daughters would be proud of.
They speak about their wish for their daughters to be stronger and not conform to peer or societal pressure.
Yet one of them also talked about how she sends her 13 year old daughter for regular salon treatments and on shopping trips to buy new clothes.
All because "I don't want her to be left out in school".
I felt especially sad listening to her, because it seemed that the irony was lost on her, and it just looked like a hopeless vicious cycle for her, her daughter and her daughter's daughter.
My non-Japanese colleagues all got really riled up by the stories about Japanese daughters' harsh comments on their mums.
"If my daughter ever says I'm ugly, I'm going to slap her," one of them joked.
The Japanese simply laughed and looked a little wistful.
Kids often say the darnedest things but I don't think it comes from meanness; perhaps it's a mix of honesty and innocence.
This morning while in a cab on the way to school, the little one asked me, "Mummy, why you cannot drive the car?"
I explained to her that it was because Daddy has the car so we have to take a cab instead.
"Do you know that A's mummy can drive the car?" She asked me, her voice filled with amazement.
"Yes, I know," I said. We'd bumped into A's mum at pickup yesterday and saw her driving off.
"Why you not driving the car?" She continued asking.
Haha in a moment of pride, I told her I have a licence ok so I can drive if I wanted to to. 😅
On hindsight I should probably have told her that some people, like Daddy, are good at driving while some people, like Mummy, aren't so great at it.
And it is OK.
There would be things we are good at and like doing, and things we don't enjoy as much.
And it is OK.
Though we have to learn to weigh the importance of each.
I don't think she was comparing me with A's mum, in that being able to drive makes her more superior to me.
I think it's part of her curiosity and growing up, learning that people and families and circumstances are not always the same.
Took a cab home with the little one after we paid our respects to Grandma and spent some time at the wake.
The hubs helped to carry our bags (work bag, diaper bag, school bag) to the cab and had to head back for the rites.
We said goodbye and the cab drove off.
"I miss Daddy," she said to me as the cab drove out of the carpark. "Why Daddy cannot sit in the car with me?"
And then she proceeded to talk nonstop for the rest of the 45-minute ride. 😂
She pretended to have a missed call from Daddy, and called him back with her "hand" phone.
Topics covered were very broad, from visiting the aquarium, to funny dolphins and 小红帽 to singing let it go let it go.
It was mostly hilarious but I was worried about the cab driver because he was silent most of the ride but started turning on the radio when we were about 10 minutes away. 😂🤣
I told her I was going to call Yaya to come and help me with the bags.
"Can you ask Yaya to come and carry me? Because I'm very tired," She requested instead.
So I called our helper and asked her to come down to the carpark to carry the little one.
We were already approaching our block and she kept asking, is Yaya here already?
At this point the silent cab uncle spoke.
"Don't need Yaya to come down lah," He said to her.
She immediately responded with a seasoned "No lah!"
"Uncle carry you lah," He teased her.
"No lah, Yaya carry me," She insisted.
Despite the gungho response she was actually starting to look worried.
So she was super relieved when she saw Yaya waiting for us at the carpark. I thought she was going to ignore the cab uncle but she actually waved goodbye to him.
Probably out of pure relief. 😂