Wednesday, January 24, 2007


My husband and I have had a rather unusual arrangement throughout most of our marriage regarding our work since coming to Japan. When we first arrived, we both worked full-time for 2 years then I quit to have gall bladder surgery (and because I hated my job). I recovered from surgery for about a year and a half and was a housewife who taught about 3-5 private lessons a week at home during that time.

I then worked at a temporary job which turned permanent while my husband continued to work at his language school. Several years into my work at an office that sold correspondence lessons in English, my husband started having some troubling health issues including asthma, constant fatigue and the inability to get completely well after a series of minor illnesses. At that point, my job seemed stable and I encouraged him to quit and I'd support us. He was a "househusband" for about a year and then started to work as a temporary employee at the office at which I was employed. He worked between 3 1/2 and 8 months of each year over nearly the next decade.

The time when I was relatively healthy and we were able to work together in the same office on the same schedule was pretty much the best time we have had. We would have continued this schedule if it weren't for my former company's decline in business reducing the number of months we could work together. Eventually, it looked as though they might not even need my husband full-time for 3 1/2 months each year and that was pretty much the point at which it became clear that he would have to find work elsewhere and our "golden age" of togetherness was going to end. Also, my health was in shambles and he'd been encouraging me to quit my job for years and he knew the only way I'd do it would be if he was in a stable relatively permanent, full-time situation.

One point that was really brought home to both of us during the times when one of us was handling housework full-time (for the most part) is that there is a definite increase in overall quality of life when someone takes care of the domestic work and you're not cramming it all in at the beginning and end of a workday. You eat better and more cheaply because someone has time to shop and cook nutritious meals. You live in a cleaner and more healthy environment. Both parties are less tense because there's less rushing about trying to get things done and the person who works gets more genuine resting time while home.

Our work situation has mainly been shaped by our desire to have as much time together as possible and, to a lesser extent, health problems for one or the other of us. I quit my full-time work a year ago because of my health but I think I may have hung in there longer if the schedule he got at his new job hadn't pushed us to have only one day off in common together and to work schedules which forced us to spend 4 hours of any day in which we were both working apart due to schedule discrepancies.

I'm sure we could have saved more money or we may have left Japan by now if we had both worked full-time all the time but I wouldn't trade the togetherness we have had for any amount of money or comfort back home. You can't have that time back once its gone and the opportunities we have had to work together are rare in any country. The way in which my husband and I can structure our lives to be together so much is one of the biggest reasons we've been here so long and one of the reasons we are somewhat reluctant to leave.

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