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New working style in the nursing care industry. Work with your children!

There are many working moms in the nursing care industry and the working style of each one varies from the other.
For example, a small-scale multifunctional localized elderly care facility, “Aoi Care” and a medical care service provider, “Eustyle Laboratory,” allow their employees to bring their children to the workplace.
In an environment where they can work with their children, how do these mothers work? We will introduce a new type of workplace for nursing care professionals who you might not know.

Watching my mother work in the nursing care industry made me want to do the same work.

The first interviewee is Ms. Moe Shiina. She works at the elderly care facility, “Aoi Care” in Fujisawa city, Kanagawa prefecture. Her mother used to work at this facility and now she works here as well.

––Shiina-san, can you tell me what made you choose Aoi Care as your workplace?

My case might be a little unique. My mother has been working at Aoi Care since I was a child and I have watched her work rather closely. She was a single parent, raising three children, including me. I started coming to her workplace instead of going home when I was a junior high school student. As a result, it was quite natural for me to start thinking, “If I have to work, I would want to work here.” When I was in high school I asked the president of Aoi Care “if I could get a job here” and started working with them after I graduated.

––Has your impression about Aoi Care changed since you started working here?

Not really. For me, it is like my home or like my granny’s home. I still feel that it is more like, “visiting my granny’s home and spending time together with grannies and helping them when they need help,” rather than “going to do a nursing job.”

––What was your working style like before you had a baby?

For me, Aoi Care is where I feel safe as I am surrounded by many people I trust. I took maternity leave but I was here till a day before I gave birth. I did not feel comfortable at home and felt much more comfortable here with everyone I knew. I knew that I would be fine even if I went into labor…although I started having labor pains in the evening after I came home from work.

––When did you resume work?

After a month of the delivery, I was coming here quite often, though I joined back full-time after my child turned three months old. I was quite nervous with my first baby and felt more at ease here as my mother and other colleagues were also looking after my baby. Elderly ladies have a lot more experience than me and they offered a lot of mental support as I was stressed and worried being a first time mother and they even helped with bathing the baby.

Spending time with the elderly is education in itself, for my children.

––Now you also bring your second child to work. Has having children within the facility led to any changes?

They all take great care of my children as if they are their own grandchildren. There is a lady who has difficult mood swings and she becomes quite tense when she does not know what to do, but when my daughter comes, she always smiles at her. If I get upset with my daughter, there are some people who ask me, “Why do you get so angry with her?” On the other hand, there are others who are not good with children and there is not always a good thing, so I do have conflicting feelings. At the same time, seeing people enjoying spending time with my daughters, I feel better about bringing them to work and letting them spend time with grannies.

––Has that had a good influence on your children, as well?

Children watch what adults do very carefully. While talking to the elderly who cannot hear well, they tend to speak in a louder voice and for someone who uses a walking stick and needs to go to the toilet, they remind them, “You forgot your walking stick.” They have even leant how to use chopsticks after watching these elderly people without me having to teach them. I am grateful that this has been a wonderful educational experience for my children.

––How do you work with the other staff?

I am lucky that they are very considerate about my circumstances. When I have to drop off or pick up the elderly, they look after my children for me. As my children are allowed to walk freely around the facility, they also provide support when I am in the other office. When I was in junior high school, I visited an elderly intensive care home for work experience and I remember that I was shocked to see how they were not allowed to enter and exit freely or take time for a bath. For me, what I used to see at Aoi Care was normal. From that time, I have realized that Aoi Care is a wonderful place as the care recipients can do whatever they wish to do and are treated as human beings just like us.

Transform sadness into smiles. I want to make everyone smile.

––Shiina-san, in your opinion, what is it about a nursing job that people love and what aspires them to work as nursing care professionals?

Smiles and a thank you from these grannies give me more happiness than anything else. When I first started working here, my mother told me that “people with dementia tend to remember sad events or painful memories rather than happy memories.” From that time on, I have been working with a hope to “create as many happy memories as possible.” They may forget about them but even then, I hope to spend some happy times with them while transforming sad things into smiles.

They suggested that “I bring my children and work on weekdays too” as opposed to my offer to work only on Saturdays.

Next, we move on to our second interviewee, Ms. Chiharu Michinoshita. She works at the Tsuchiya Wakamiya office (operator: Eustyle Laboratory) where dementia care recipients come. With her professional qualification, she was planning to work only on weekends. Let us find out how she ended up bringing her children to work and started working on weekdays as well.

––Michinoshita-san, what motivated you to become a nursing care professional?

I worked in an elderly intensive care home for about ten years till I had my eldest daughter. I chose this job because of my grandmother. She was diagnosed with dementia when I was in junior high school. I wanted to help my mother in any way possible and I studied to become a certified care worker at a technical school. She passed away before I sat for the qualification exams but I still feel that I was born for this job, as seeing the care recipients smiles makes me happy. That is why I wanted to work in the same field even after I had my child. I went for an interview and asked if I could work on Saturdays when my husband has the day off. They suggested that “I could try bringing my child to work on the weekdays,” and since then I have been working for two to three days during the week.

––For how long did you take a break from work?

I took a break for four full years. In the beginning, I was worried about taking my children to work, but I realized that the division manager is good with children and looks after them very well. This helped me a lot. My youngest child was only one year and ten months and needed a lot of attention. The manager held and comfort my son, played with him, and put him to sleep when I was occupied with work. I was the first person to bring children to work but thankfully my colleagues are very helpful.

––Now I would like to ask Sasajima-san, the division manager, why did you decide to let employees bring children to work as the first case?

Sasajima: There are not many certified care workers who have ten years of experience of working in an elderly intensive care home. I felt that it would be a waste of talent and opportunity for such a person to give up work because they have children. I like children and also have a son of the same age. I offered the option as I thought I could deal with whatever happens.

My eldest daughter is an “origami teacher” for the care users.

––Have you seen any changes in your children after they started coming to the facility?

My children are not shy around people and are growing up as outgoing individuals as they are always surrounded by adults. My eldest daughter is very good at looking after people. The users with dementia often do delicate work like origami and my daughter is their “origami teacher” as she is very good with her hands. She goes around from one table to another and teaches them how to fold morning glories and hydrangeas.

––What is the response of the elderly to having children around?

Most of them like children and even the ones who do not show their emotions a lot tend to smile and talk to the children. My children sometimes go for a walk with them and there are some people who have dementia and in spite of that, remember walking with them. They sometimes say, “We have walked hand in hand before, have we not?” and this makes me think that maybe my children are creating some good memories for them too.

––Michinoshita-san, are you currently the only person who brings children to work in this office?

Right now, I am the only one, but I have introduced a number of my friends who felt that “they could work here” and some of them have worked like me before. There have been nine of them, I think. Having so many children around makes us feel like we are raising them together. Most of the elderly can do most of the things by themselves so it was easy for me to tell people about this job even if they have no qualifications or experience.

A workplace where I can bring my children, feels like another home.

––What aspires you to do this job?

For both, me and my children, a workplace where I can take my children is like another home. The care recipients are like members of our family and so watching them do things that they could not do before or creating something by themselves make me happy. There is nothing here that seems difficult for me. This job is a part of my life and I cannot think of doing anything else. I feel safe having my children where I can see them and I hope to be able to continue working like this for sometime.

Both the interviewees shared the same feelings that “workplace is equal to home.” As it feels like their own home, the users and staff are family for them. That is why no one feels like they are only “giving” nursing care or “getting support” to raise their children. Everyone involved supports each other to create their own comfortable “home.” In a society where different styles of working are desired, we hope to see more of this “double-care” working style that enables people to work in nursing jobs and raise a child at the same time.

Interview/writing: Akiko Tominaga
Photos: Takeshi Yamagata (Ms. Shiina), Ayako Shimobayashi (Ms. Michinoshita)

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