We’re in the midst of some major home decisions right now. Our 2 year chonse contract is up in April, and we need to decide whether to stay in our current place for 2 more years or to move to a more family-friendly area of the city right now. Like any good Korean parents, our first priority is education, and specifically the daycare options for Dragon beginning in 2013. We’re discussing this issue with Part 1 still fresh in our minds, and with the added knowledge that there is, by both anecdotal accounts (um 60% of my female friends have had babies or are expecting babies this year) and statistical projections, 2012 is going to see a baby boom. In addition, since the government has decided to expand daycare subsidizes to more parents this year, we know there is going to be a shortage of spots in 2013.
In the middle of this discussion, we started considering options near work, and I said to Mr. Lee, ‘I know there’s no work daycare at my university, but what about at your company?’ He turned to me and said, ‘but we have so few women at my workplace – why would we have a daycare?’
Now you have to understand that Mr. Lee is a pretty hands on father. He comes home from his at least 12 hrs+/day workday or from driving all day on a business trip and gets down on the floor and starts squeaking Sophie la girafe in Dragon’s face and claps along to the tummy time playset music. He starts off the night time watch to give me a few hours of sleep, and he makes a verbal stink about changing dirty diapers, but he changes a hella lot of them. He’s involved. And he likes to be involved. And he doesn’t question that he should be involved. But that comment still came out of his mouth because that’s really the pervading feeling when it comes to having children and company life.
Every semester when we discuss parenting styles around the world in one of my classes, we examine Swedish SAHD and talk about how public policy might help to encourage Korean fathers to be more active parents in this land of extraordinarily long hours and mandatory drinking nights. I’ve often told my students that I believe that mandatory drinking would decrease sharply if there were more daycare facilities in companies. If the boss has to pick up his kid at 7 every night from the first floor daycare, he’s not going to take the kid home and then come back for a late night binge session. And if many men have their kids spending their days at the company centre, there’s a greater chance that the general workplace atmosphere will be more respectful of the relationship between fathers and children and the time that parents and children need to forge that bond.
But then I forgot the attitude regarding company daycares for many people: daycare centres in companies exist, but they exist for the female coworkers not the males. Now, I’m sure that this attitude is stronger at Mr. Lee’s work because his company is very conservative, and the nature of the work means that it is unfortunately more male-dominated (especially in his building). So I’m sure that there are men who have their children enrolled in company daycare centres, but this particular conversation made me realize that simply having a centre in an office is not enough if the attitudes toward who should be the primary clientele do not change as well. And I suppose, since men are expected to drink and work late to more extremes than women, perhaps the day when most Korean fathers are able to be the primary parental clientele at company daycares is still some ways off.
Of course, none of this helps us with our housing decisions.