The hand that rocks the cradle

It had to be asked.

We had covered teaching duties, computer resources, research grants, the hiring of students and language requirements. It was quite likely this final point would never be an issue, but for completeness it really ought to be queried when discussing a permanent position.

"How do maternity benefits work in Japan?"


The person I was discussing the job details with was a senior male professor. His English was good, but not fluent and this was probably a topic that didn't come up too often in places where he would use the language. Like at conferences on galaxy formation.

"If I were to have a baby....?" I made a hand gesture of show a swollen stomach. Either I would be understood, or it would be assumed I was concerned about sudden and chronic obesity from over indulgence in sushi. The latter was possibly a risk, so finding the solution to that too would be no bad thing.

"Ahh, so you...?"

"No! Not now!" I hastened to clarify my current state of being. "But possibly in the future. Maybe." I stretched my arms out to indicate vast amounts of time passing. I received a gratifying nod of understanding.

"My wife was a graduate student when she had our son. She had six weeks off."

Six weeks?! Did she drop the baby, rock the baby and declare it ready for school? The Japanese education system is notoriously hard core, so this was almost plausible.

"But that was twenty years ago. Now, the Japanese Government wants more women employed, so it may have changed."

Hmm. Note to self: look into getting birth control in Japan. I smiled, "Well, this will probably never be an issue."

However, this produced quick reassurance that such a move would be a positive thing:

"Please, do find husband and have babies."

Well... let's not contract that in quite yet.

[As a side-note, this professor very kindly went to find what the current maternity leave protocol was and told me this afternoon that is was 8 weeks (I think...) full pay and up to one year on reduced pay.]