Why are pregnant Japanese women so mollycoddled?

My wife wasn’t supposed to even cook for one month after giving birth. My theory was that the (hidden) reason was to save them from the traditional slavedriving of their mothers in law. One commenter on this great post on all the things that are banned for Japanese women who are expecting seems to agree.

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9 Comments

  1. Jeffrey said,

    September 17, 2010 at 10:42 pm

    Never heard such a thing in my seven years in Japan. My wife continued to work, which included a commute into Tokyo, until about her 7th month.

    The only significant difference is that Japanese clinics and hospitals don’t try to kick you out after 24 to 36 hours after the birth. My wife stayed five days.

    I think your wife was having one on you about the cooking.

  2. September 17, 2010 at 11:40 pm

    I wonder what the rate of postpartum depression is in Japan. In the US, there’s a strong correlation between PPD (which you can imagine isn’t great for the infant, either) and a lack of assistance from the husband (which, in the US, would mean most mothers would be doing it all themselves). If rules like those are common, they might be a mechanism of preventing PPD by making sure the mother gets some assistance from someone.

  3. stefhen bryan said,

    September 18, 2010 at 5:05 am

    japan has a very high rate of general depression, and here in japan husbands dont do jack at home, hence the PPD rate must be through the roof.

  4. alexcase said,

    September 18, 2010 at 12:50 pm

    Pretty sure it is an old tradition that is slowly dying out, rather than something new, and therefore far predates the concept of PPD.

    Not sure it was a month, to be honest, but it was my in-laws who wanted to insist on it, not my wife.

    Do have a click on the link if you haven’t. Far more detailed and better written than stuff on here!

  5. September 19, 2010 at 4:05 am

    Well, PPD itself may predate the concept or the name (if it is crosscultural, which is a pretty big “if’), and sometimes mechanisms evolve to prevent things. :) That’s what I was thinking (and I know husbands do little at home, which was why I was thinking that PPD would likely be very high if it exists in Japan and if there were not some kind of mechanism to force some kind of help to be given, regardless of whether it’s from the husband–who’s the sole alternative source of child and house care in the US–or from someone else such as a grandmother).

    Oh, well, that’s as far as I’m going to speculate without an anthropology degree. :)

  6. Ed said,

    September 19, 2010 at 9:32 am

    As the birth rate is so low in Japan they are desperate to encourage women to have children. Attitudes to women are still archaic in Japan. My wife is pregnant and traditionally men will still make a pregnant woman stand on a train. It is changing and they give out badges to pregnant women to encourage men to give up their seats and do the right thing.

  7. alexcase said,

    September 19, 2010 at 9:49 am

    Please don’t say that Clarissa, the whole point of this blog is speculation without any real expertise or qualifications on the matter (although those who do have are very welcome!)

    I’m not sure archaic is the right word, Ed. I don’t think we can so easily tie all Western (Northwestern?) concepts to the idea of modernity. Do agree that pregnant women should get priority though! Here in Korea, it was usually an old woman who stood up to give a seat to my wife. In Japan, you certainly can’t judge the whole country by the people who sit in the priority seats when they shouldn’t, as they are usually instantly spotable as the kind of scum that unfortunately no country is free of

  8. crella said,

    September 21, 2010 at 9:36 pm

    Jeffrey, you notice it said ‘My wife wasn’t supposed to even cook for one month *after* giving birth’

    Japanese mothers generally are exempt from housework for a month after the baby is born, they are just supposed to relax , nurse and get to know the baby. I think it’s a great idea.

  9. Peal said,

    May 5, 2011 at 3:43 pm

    It’s true for most Asian countries.
    Asian people believe that child laboring is the most difficult task one can bear and which would casue serious damage to the mother permanently.
    It’s a well accepted concept in most Asian countries that women should stay home for 1-3 months to recuperate themselves while taking care the newborn. Of course, this doesn’t happen in the US becuase no one could afford to stay home w/o working. However, most Asian countries have a better national health care system and labor insurance which covers the expenses and pay for the maternity leaves up to 90 days.

    This is not out of date, it is still ture in many Asian countries you just never realize it. It is shocking for Asain people to see a woman gets out of the hospital in 2 days and returns to work the next day in need.


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