Daycare Dilemma

(Let’s go ahead and get it out of the way. The main point of this post is that I basically need to gain an additional $37 dollars a month at my Patreon site to get both my current and future kid into daycare here in Shinjuku. I totally understand if this makes you want to leave this page, but I hope you will at least read to the end.)

Edited to add: Friends and family have already lent me their support and in an incredibly short time the goal has been met. Still, I would appreciate it if you gave the following a read. And while you are here, why not look around and see if there is anything you’d like to read.

I have lived in Japan since 2004 and in Shinjuku, Tokyo since 2012. My son was born in 2015 and he will get a baby sister this next March. My wife and I are thrilled to be growing our family. But we are also rather worried, especially about a very specific aspect of life.

See, even though Tokyo regularly gets listed on various websites as one of the greatest cities in the world to live, it also was the dirty little, but rather well known, secret of being an incredibly difficult city to secure daycare. There are many reasons for this issue, including the ever increasing rise of the Tokyo population, the relative small salary  Tokyo (and most of Japan) pays to daycare workers, and an elderly population in Tokyo that protests and fights the opening of many new daycare centers. It’s a whole big issue.

An issue that we experienced first hand when we tried getting our son in daycare. It is a rather intensive series of visits and paperwork that entailed, my poor, poor, wife having to handwrite out a ridiculous amount of paperwork for every daycare that she wanted to apply for. Keep in mind that all of this paperwork still went through the same city office. If I remember correctly, most of it also had be received in person and was not available online for easy printing. Because that would be cheating.

The short version of how you get into daycare in Tokyo is that there is a point system. I am not going to pretend to know all the different ways you can earn points. But I do know that it helps to get you points if both parents are full-time workers. If both parents do not fit this description, it is ridiculously unlikely to get into daycare. Even with that, it can be unlikely. Neither myself nor way wife fall under the category of traditional full-time workers.

She is self employed and that means she has her own set of hoops to jump through in order to prove that she works. (Thank goodness her career has grown because it sounds like she will have an easier time proving that she merits consideration as working full-time.) I’m the problem.

I teach Elementary English at one of the more prestigious girl’s school in Tokyo. That isn’t a brag. I’m just lucky. This school is a joy to work at. The kids are (mostly) awesome. The atmosphere between the staff is honestly the best I’ve felt at a school here in Japan after over a decade of experience. And, again, I’m not bragging, my salary keeps us rather comfortable.

The down side is that because English is not considered a major subject in Japan, this job does not meet the qualifications needed to count as full-time, even while teaching 19 classes a week. I can’t blame the school for this, especially since the administrators do what they can to make sure the English department feels valued. (It really is a great school.)

But, having that part-time qualification meant is was unlikely to get our kid into daycare. Fortunately, I do a little writing an the side, and by an extreme case of luck I had just crowdfunded my first self-published novel. That meant when the city office was calculating our points we were able to show them my book earnings and that, combined with the school work, was enough to get me points equal to full time.

We were granted out 18th choice of locations, and let lucky to just be accepted. We knew several couples that were rejected. That the daycare was roughly 90 minutes roundtrip, including, a bus ride, was worth it. As much as we love our son, being with him almost every hour of every day’s putting a strain on my wife. Sure, I was able to be her relief when I wasn’t at work, but that still put the majority of the strain on her. And not only was she getting tired, but she had her own career that she wanted to return to. So, being able to put our little treasure into a daycare was well worth the commute.

Almost two years later, we are both getting pretty exhausted. That 90 minute commute was taking its toll. Time was becoming precious. It was a good daycare, but we just couldn’t keep up. My wife rolled the dice and put in for a transfer.

And we ended up at a daycare that is less than 500 meters from our apartment. It is so close that sometimes our now three-year-old son runs all the way home. Having a school that close has refreshed us both. It has given us the gift of time.

And now we are trying to get our soon-to-arrive child into daycare. It is just as frustrating as before. And just as scary. Bless my wife for having the patience to look into our options. Today she spent a could portion of the day meeting with the city office division in charge of daycares. And, even though our daughter won’t be born until March, if we want it to even be an option to get her in during the 2019-2020 school year, we need to have our paperwork in during December.

What we also learned is that even though both my salary and hours at my school have increased over the last three years, I am still not going to be counted as full-time. I also need to prove that I am still working (read that as “earning”) enough as a writer to count as it being an additional job. And those earning only count if they are from the most recent three months, ending in November.

I’ll be honest, I have not sold anywhere near enough books for that to count.

But I do have a Patreon account, and that Patreon might do the trick. The bottom line is this: If I can raise my Patreon account to roughly $60 a month before the end of November then that should be enough earned income from writing to get the city office enough points to be make it possible to get both my son and (unborn) daughter into the same, close daycare. The city office people stressed that if the materials we provide them aren’t for November, there isn’t much they can do in the first round, but having the $60 later on can still help us get high on a waiting list to put them together during the school year.

And just to say, this local daycare isn’t anything exclusive. It is just a standard public daycare (well, we do think the staff are great) but we live in an area with a relative high density of families, so these daycares can fill up rather fast.

I’ll be honest, if I don’t hit that goal it is still fairly likely that she will get into a daycare, just a different one from our son. And I have little faith that if they are in separate daycare that they will reasonably close together. I’m already mentally preparing for the outcome of both of us needing to do pick up and drop off, with one daycare being close and the other being another 90 minute journey. It’ll exhaust me, but I love my wife and already love my daughter (and my son, let’s not forget about him), so I’m getting prepared.

But I really hop it doesn’t come to that. As of writing this my Patreon stands at $23. Another $37 getting added to it before the end of November could really help my family out. So why not at least check it out? There are some neat perks. Podcast shout outs, inclusion on a Patrons page in any and all upcoming works, and a few other cool things. And even $1 gets us closer to the goal.

Plus, like I said, it will really help my family out if we can get the points to hopefully get our two kids placed at the same local daycare.

スクリーンショット 2018-11-09 1.19.26

If you enjoyed this post, please like my Facebook author page and become a patron through Patreon. Or if you like podcasts and want to hear more of my thoughts on Japan, check out Living Japan. If you want to hear me talk superhero comics, listen to Brent & Lydia Talk Starman. And of course, follow me on Instagram and Twitter. Thanks!

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