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The act of raising a child is never easy. Some countries offer parents enough rights and protections to make childcare a bit less of a burden, but the struggles and uncertainties that come with supporting another tiny human should never be disregarded.

That being said, everyone’s favorite opinionated Japanese blogger, Madame Riri, has a few things to say about how raising children in Japan is “ten times more difficult” than it is in foreign countries. Keep in mind that Madame Riri has only ever traveled to France and does not actually have any children of her own. But who knows? Perhaps there’s some truth buried beneath the mounds of limited observation, hearsay, and conjecture!

According to Madame Riri’s findings, the experiences of those who have raised children abroad sound surprisingly easy compared to the struggles that Japanese mothers face. A Japanese study from four years ago seems to back up the claim. In it, many foreign women who bore children outside of Japan were asked about their experiences with child-rearing. Many respondents commented on the helpfulness of perfect strangers, saying that when they were pregnant or in charge of an infant, they were often met with warm expressions and kind words. According to Madame Riri, this level of eager reception is not present in Japan, and this core difference is what makes raising children difficult in the land of the rising sun.

The primary example that Madame Riri gives for why raising a child in Japan is so difficult is all to do with strollers. Japan’s Transportation and Tourism Board has set nation-wide guidelines for those who wish to take strollers onto buses and trains. Basically, if the train or vehicle is crowded, they ask that you save space by folding up your baby stroller. Sounds a bit vague, but it’s a reasonable request. While sometimes putting away the stroller proves difficult and the contraption becomes a bit of a nuisance for those in the vicinity, Madame Riri insists that even when the trains and buses are not especially packed, fellow travelers judge those who keep their strollers unfolded.

On the other hand, according to the popular blogger’s observations, parents living in foreign countries (by which we can assume she means highly developed Western urban areas) are privileged with the right to stand on a bus or train with their baby in their arms and their strollers unfolded without feeling ashamed. She goes on to describe two distinct moments from her time in France. First, a nearby stranger helped lift a stroller onto a train car without even being asked, and then a different stranger on a crowded bus offered their seat to a woman with an infant in her arms. To Madame Riri, the kindness that was shown to those in charge of a child was striking and impactful.

Just for the record, I have personally seen these kinds of things happen in Japan as well. It’s standard for the trains and buses here to have seats reserved for those who are pregnant, accompanying small children, elderly, or handicapped. Still, the generosity of someone offering their seat to another in need can happen regardless of where that someone is sitting. But moving on…

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Another point in the favor of foreign child rearing, according to Madame Riri, is the special treatment that people with children are given in places like hospitals and government offices. Apparently, in many places where long lines can develop, mothers who are accompanying small children are given priority in line and do not have to wait as long before receiving service. This practice is unheard of within Japan, though I can’t help noting that it’s also pretty rare in America, too.

For being characterized as so polite, Japanese people take on a strangely relentless attitude against those who cause a disturbance. And so, many Japanese women will decline time out with their friends, because they do not want to get in the way by dragging their kids along. In addition, they feel a very strong sense of shame, as if having committed a terrible crime, if the child cries in public, apologising repeatedly to those around them.

Just for the record, this is Madame Riri’s hearsay and conjecture, because she has never had children of her own. While it is certainly true that Japanese people are under a lot of social pressure to conform and to preserve the peace, is there any good parent who is unmindful of when their children cry? Is that really a point that is particular to Japan?

Japan is currently suffering from a declining birthrate. It’s for that reason that Madame Riri urges its people to look upon pregnant women and young children with a little more fondness. Letting oneself be inconvenienced a little in order to show kindness to those raising children can do a lot to raise the spirits of parents under stress and make the country an altogether better place for bearing children.

Now, while I entirely support our opinionated blogger’s final point, I can’t help but feel that she overlooked a lot of major issues that would have supported her initial assertion. Japan, or rather urban Japan, is undoubtedly a difficult place to raise young kids, but the helpfulness of people on trains is probably not the biggest problem the country faces. Maybe next time we can talk about other parenting hurdles, such as the expectations placed on women to quit work as soon as they’re married, the near non-existence of maternity leave, the difficulty of enrolling one’s child in a daycare, and the complete lack of babysitting services…

What do you think, readers? What are the highs and lows of raising young children in the places you’re from?

Source: Madame Riri (Japanese)
Images: Pregnancy and Baby, HDW