Women’s lives as described by female university students – How do they think about the roles of work, childrearing, and taking care of a family?
Are childrearing and caregiving to be done by women?
It is said that in Japanese society the providers of childcare and nursing care have since long ago been sought within the family, and particularly among its female members. This idea remains firmly rooted even today, when female participation in society has progressed. While the situation is gradually changing, as can be seen in the focus on issues such as male applications for childcare leave and the sharing of housework, no small number of people continue to think it is “normal” for the mother to handle childcare.
On the other hand, in 2017 the government established “Policies for the acceleration of female engagement 2017,” and has been promoting measures to make it easier for women to work and allow women to be active in all fields within society. Today, when Japan is entering an era of fewer children and an aging population in the midst of these circumstances and with the environment and society surrounding women gradually shifting, in order for women to actively live their own lives as subjects it is presumably important to look for diverse approaches other than the way of life adopted in the past in which women in families sacrificed their own lives to perform childrearing and caregiving.
The roles of work, childrearing, and family care as described by female university students.
Today, when the society surrounding women is changing, what sort of ideas do the young women who will experience employment, marriage, childrearing, and caregiving going forward have about childrearing, caregiving, and their own work and career? Have they internalized traditional values? Or do they have a diverse set of values that differs between individuals? In order to clarify these points, the author conducted a focus group interview with three fourth-year female university students.
To give a very simple summary of the results, they revealed that two of the students desired both to work and raise children, and to this end were conscious of the importance of a relationship with a spouse who will be their partner. The remaining student, on the other hand, talked about how raising her children properly was important to her, and how she therefore needed a career plan that aimed at becoming a so-called “good wife and wise mother.” Regarding caregiving, one student talked about the idea that it should not be handled by the family but by actively implementing welfare services. This idea seemed to have been greatly influenced by the possibility that it would be difficult for her to live with her parents because of her work or marriage. Through the analysis of these interviews it also became clear that the understanding of women like these is influenced by the behavior of their own parents (particularly their mothers) regarding caregiving roles within the family and what sort of experiences they themselves have had within this context.
Supporting diverse ways of living for women
Through encountering other people’s values and the experiences and relationships with their parents that have influenced them in the context of the focus group interview mentioned above, the women who took part, while each having her own set of values regarding the topics in question, all appeared to have acquired renewed understanding of the fact that diverse ways of living are possible depending on the individual, and to have increased the diversity of her own set of values. If diverse sets of values can be obtained by sharing lived experiences and narratives through dialogue without saying “women should do this,” the establishment of these sorts of venues for discussion may create a platform for the support of diverse ways of living for women.