Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Babies! in different places - (世界中いろんな所の)赤ちゃん!

No, I'm not pregnant. But it seems like this past year our life has been very baby-oriented, in that our family members and close friends have had new babies left and right. (Congratulations, Annette & Derrick, on your newest arrival!)

The new movie "Babies" follows four babies in different places:
Opuwo, Namibia; Tokyo, Japan; Bayanchandmani, Mongolia; and San Francisco, U.S.A.

What I'm realizing is that the moms (and dads) in different places have touchingly similar emotions and experiences--and at the same time, vastly different experiences depending on where they live.

For example, I learned recently that my friends in Japan almost must be working (for someone else) in order to enroll their child in a licensed daycare/preschool. I vaguely knew this from watching a made-for-TV drama "Daisuki!" (I love [you] to death!), which chronicled the struggles (and triumphs) of a young, developmentally disabled, recently widowed single mom. (Yeah, talk about having odds stacked against you.) In it, childrearing gets to be hard (and sometimes dangerous) for her and her family since everyone else has to go to work and the mother has limited abilities to mentally organize necessary tasks or to respond to emergencies. So they set out to find some childcare help/preschool, but most preschools turn her away because she is not a "working mom" (and also because they find the child somewhat disruptive, at first)--eventually she finds one preschool, but there other moms talk (so mean!) behind her back because "It's not like she has a job."

Our heroine eventually develops enough skills in the drama to work part-time at a bakery (where she almost loses the job, of course), but I'm sure for many that may not be possible.

Here in the U.S., I'm sure some preschools have wait lists and other obstacles, but it's not like you need to present a reason why you need childcare/preschool. I know of friends who start their child in daycare/preschool because they felt group socialization was a good idea; others get childcare while they attend school. Other times, there are drop-off daycare centers, where your child can show up part-time as long as you pay. Sure it's costly and it may not be accessible to everyone, but you are not asked to have one kind of life or another.

Apparently you are in Japan, because my friend just got turned down for licensed daycare centers when she put down "self-employed" for her employment status. She was able to, however, get a spot at an unlicensed preschool. I guess the reasoning is that these daycare centers receive government funding, but if someone wants to further their education or be self-employed, shouldn't those be a good enough reason?

I guess we tend to have more choices in this country. And it's always hard to state which system is better--the Japanese system may drive moms bonkers, but it is true that Japanese kids are significantly better behaved and tend to grow up much less violent (in general anyway). But are those Japanese kids happier? I'm not sure. Are American kids happier as their parents has more choices? I'm not sure of that either.

The new movie, Babies, follows four babies from four very different places: Opuwo, Namibia; Tokyo, Japan; Bayanchandmani, Mongolia; and San Francisco, U.S.A. I saw the preview in a theater, and back then vaguely wanted to watch it because the babies were cute. Now, I really want to watch it, because I also want to see the different experiences of the parents in different places (and common, shared experiences too). I'm imagining that people in Namibia and Mongolia have even less childcare options, but I could be mistaken--I really don't know much about Namibia or Mongolia.

So, when I was contacted recently by BzzAgent about watching & sharing some exclusive content from the movie, I jumped at the idea. (BzzAgents typically get to try new products and services and share their experience with their friends and families; I'm a BzzAgent.) What timing! Just the movie I wanted to see.

Some things are always true: Babies are a blessing and joy. They are positively adorable. Other things also tend to be true. I know of very few friends (okay, maybe one) who didn't go mildly crazy/get depressed during their first year as a mom. I think childrearing is a hard, hard job--I think it's the toughest job out there.

It's hard to tell due to the recent recession, but if we are really the richest country in the world (though I always feel like Germany or Sweden must be, seeing how their governments are run and their countries not in gazillion dollars of debt), I think we should be paying moms (or dads) who are taking care of the kids. I think they actually do that in Sweden. But despite the researches that consistently show people in places like Sweden and Norway are the happiest bunch, Americans (esp. those who watch F-- News) tend to think those countries are communists/socialists and/or take too much of your hard earned money, so that'll never happen. I tend to think I'd love to pay more taxes if we had excellent social services (including educational system) as well as an insurance system that actually works, and got paid to take care of your kids. If your country was not horrendously in debt, that would also be a huge bonus. But that's just me.

I guess we just have to pay ourselves for now...


Ponijao (below), who lives in Namibia with her family, is one of four babies
followed from birth to first steps in Thomas Balmès' new film, BABIES.

Photo credit: Focus Features

Theatrical Trailer:
(The last scene is my favorite--beyond awesome.)

(Japanese portion to come later... My computer is broken so it might take a while :P)

P.S. I just found out, though not to the extent of Sweden, in Japan parents are starting to receive government stipend for each child. (Don't quote me, I haven't researched this to verify the amount) I am told you get something like $125 or $150 per child. It doesn't seem like much, but I guess it could add up if you have multiple children. Of course, they are doing this because people are not reproducing enough, and coupled with the population that is living longer than ever, not having enough tax-paying citizens in the near future would be problematic.


Ruth said...

We can't wait to see this movie! Loved your post.

Aya said...

Me neither--doesn't it look awesome? I love the landscapes of Mongolia & Namibia. Amazing! I wonder if those places have more community-oriented childrearing experiences... Here (and often in Japan) we're so left up to our own devices, it seems like.