Footnotes: Thoughts from the margins of a mom’s life

There’s nothing like travelling to another country to make you see how universal the job parenting is. On a recent visit to Japan, this realization struck both my husband and me on several occasions.

For example, as we walked through Kyoto station, I saw a mother carrying her toddler who decided to place his ball cap on his mother’s head. The result was cumbersome and awkward as the mother attempted to balance the ill-fitting hat with one hand, and carry the child with the other. (Both of the child’s hands were free to play with his mother’s hair, which I’m sure she found lovely).

I also joined little groups on subways cooing over a sleeping infant, (a scene universally adored), and commiserated with a father trying to maneuver a stroller around the sharp turn of a garden path. The best example of the link between all moms and dads was demonstrated by my husband, however, who was involved in a little transcontinental parental mindreading.

We were visiting a garden in the mountains just north of Tokyo. After stepping over the threshold into a smaller greenhouse, my husband caught the eye of a man, about our age, quickly scanning the room. Without missing a beat, my husband raised his hand and pointed through the door to the greenhouse. The man hurried around the flowers and out the door, saying “Arigato go-zai-mas!” (“Thank you very much!”) as he went by. “What was that?” I asked. “Oh, that guy is looking for his child and I just saw the boy walk outside.” Ah yes, that’s right. It was the classic face of a parent who realizes he’s lost sight of his child while in a public place. Without using any words, my husband could intervene, father-to-father. With this I realized that “Team Parent” – the amorphous and yet utterly committed body of people tasked with caring for little ones – is strong worldwide.


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