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The wisdom of women in solving child-raising problems

Although child-related problems in Japan are said to be less severe than those in advanced western nations, the problems that children face here are critical. Among them, we have the declining birthrate or fewer children, problems of child-raising, child care, and education, child abuse, etc.--the list goes on. And when we think of the next generation, the key question becomes: How should we raise our children.

All of these issues, whether fewer children or child abuse, are being addressed by the entire country, but the effects are little to be seen. The birthrate has not risen, and child abuse, which must been considered in tandem with issues of child-raising, has continued to increase, based on the number of cases handled by child counseling centers. Something's wrong and society is not quite working the way it should.

In December 2009, the Benesse Institute for Child Sciences and Parenting issued its Second Report on Japanese Fathers' Views on Childrearing, which provides insight into the problems of raising children. The main results are as follows.

(1) The percentage of fathers who want to be more involved in housework and raising children than at present is increasing, from 47.9% in 2005 to 54.2% in 2009.

(2) Fathers' participation in child rearing and household matters has changed little compared with four years ago.

(3) The number of fathers taking child-care leave has increased little compared with four years ago despite the considerable number of those who express a wish to do so.

(4) The percentage of fathers who feel "I am needed by my wife" has decreased compared with four years ago.

(5) Fathers' top three anxieties about the future involve money: high cost of future education, high cost of child-rearing, and decrease in own income.

(6) Fathers in non-urban areas spend more time with their children than fathers in the Tokyo metropolitan area.

The notion that fathers should participate in child-raising is hardly a new one. At the very least, the idea was voiced twenty years ago. Nevertheless, even if fathers want to, the reality is that they often can't. On the other hand, it is important to note that it is easier for fathers in non-urban areas because life is slower and they have more time.

In my view, child-related problems, including those that concern child-raising, can be attributed to the negative side of our affluent society. We all know building an affluent society requires work, and to maintain it, a concentrated urban population and participation of both men and women in the workforce. A slow-paced lifestyle becomes difficult in the city, making it harder for fathers to participate in child-raising.

When our lives are busy every day, it becomes impossible to attain peace of mind, and the world becomes a cold and inhospitable place. The working of the human emotions of kindness, consideration and sympathy weakens, and it becomes possible for parents to even abuse their own children.

So, would it be better to sacrifice a little affluence to bring our standard of living to that of a small country in Europe? In that case, whether we like it or not, our lives would slow down. We would work with less stress and be able to enjoy life more, too. Our towns would be filled with lullabies, children's songs and other melodies. They would become places where people greet each other on the street, give their seat to another passenger on the train, and talk gently to children. This would make our towns and neighborhoods friendlier, more sociable places.

In towns like these today, government policies, even the good ones, aren't effective, so they might actually work in such a town.

In thinking about society, we have to consider the areas and mechanisms that contribute to its optimal functioning. Roads and transportation are necessary for society to function, but good systems and policies are just as necessary, and society requires affective information in the form of good information and human kindness that they work. And when it comes to raising children, the ideas of women who give birth to new life are important.

A city in the Kansai region has a group of fathers who seek to play an active role in child-raising. The fathers and their children meet on weekends to enjoy various events together. This helps mothers, both directly and indirectly, by giving them some free space and time. According to the head of this group, he started it because his wife asked him to.

In order to solve problems related to child-raising, shouldn't we be making more of an attempt to incorporate the ideas of women into the practices of child-raising and child care? Let's heed the wisdom of women, who experience childbirth themselves and are directly engaged in raising children.

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