Saturday, August 21, 2010

Identity and Change

Yesterday Gboy and I had yet another conversation about where and how to live in order to support the girls with becoming bilingual and bicultural. It seems we've discussed this over and over and over again. The sticking points include:

1) How to find a way to make a real home of OUR own while we live in Japan. Staying with my mother-in-law and father-in-law isn't all that bad. The cost of living is much more affordable that way and the girls benefit from having extended family members around (lots of them live very close by). And I'm fortunate to get along pretty well with my MIL and FIL. As much as Gboy and I have worked to carve out some space of our own in the large house, there's still work that needs to be done if I'm ever going to feel like I can call it my own.

2) How do I find a way to pursue a career path or even do some volunteer work that is fulfilling? Two and a half years ago when we found out that I was pregnant with our first child, I was just finishing my degree in library and information science. I was thrilled to have found a career that I expected to enjoy and had made a career change - quitting my job, and going back to school for another advanced degree - in order to do it. I love my children, but I also know that parenting alone isn't enough to fill me up. I may be able to say good-bye to my career as a young adult librarian. I mean, how can one work in a library for 6 months out of the year? How could I work in young adult services in Japan when I don't speak the language that well and I'm not sure the concept of YA librarian even exists in Japan. I'd be sad to give it up before I even got a chance to really be employed as a YA librarian, but if that goes, I really feel as though I'd need something else to take its place. I don't have that much time right now and I don't expect to or necessarily need to be working at the moment. But I'm looking at options for what to do in a couple of years when Peanut is ready for kindergarten and Sweet Pea is ready for preschool.

3) How do we manage to keep our home in the U.S. so that we have a place to return to? The idea of renting it out for 6 months at a time every year, to new renters, starts to feel like a logistical nightmare. Did I mention that the hardwood floors were damaged by our last renters? Their dog who according to them, never does this, urinated on the carpet. The didn't see it until it had soaked into the carpet and damaged both the carpet and floors. The dog also chewed up and destroyed a remote control. In the future, no pets! We'll learn these lessons the hard way I'm sure, but I'm not sure I really want to.

4) How do we educate the girls? Everyone asks us this question. If we're existing in two places (for now let's say 6 months in each location), how can the girls go to school? Do we pull them out of school mid-year? The fact that the school year calendars are different doesn't seem to help. In Japan the school year starts in April and there's no extended summer vacation like we're used to here in the U.S. This makes things tricky.

In the end, we've decide we're going to keep on trying to make our own path and carve out a lifestyle that works for all four of us and for now that means going back and forth between Japan and the U.S. After our long conversation yesterday, I visited a favorite website of mine, Multilingual Living and read this article on Identity and Change, which is really about how multicultural families can work together to make these huge and potentially life altering changes.

For me, it's obvious that there are significant changes to my identity if we continue to pursue this particular bicultural lifestyle. Item numbers one and two on this list deal directly with creating my own, comfortable personal space and my own personal identity with relation to work or other activities that I find fulfilling outside of my identity as a mother. While Gboy and I had some very productive conversation on our own yesterday and came to a conclusion that I think we're both happy with, I'm hoping that this article will give us some guidelines for decision-making that may help us in the future.


  1. We had wanted to do half and half with the countries, but it just turned out to be so complicated, we're just going to settle on here for now.

  2. Funny that you should post this today. Just yesterday I learned that some friends of ours, who have always spent just the summers in Japan, have now moved there permanently.

    Someone else I know does a year or two in one country then a year or two in the other, which seems a bit easier logistically than half-years in each but still creates a lot of issues for things like the kids' schooling, kids' friendships, and parents' job situations.

    Good luck in getting it all worked out!

  3. What a lovely post! It is amazing how much time we spend thinking about language and all that goes into that but really, when it comes down to it, when we ask ourselves the really deep questions that mean the most, it comes to what you write about in this post. It is about what it means to be who we are in this confusing yet beautiful bicultural mix. We wouldn't change it for the world yet it can feel like free-falling much of the time. So many questions and so few answers - yet the path opens up before us and our questions seem to answer themselves each step of the way! :-)

    Thank you for reminding me that I'm not alone in feeling this way!

    I got teary-eyed when I read that Multilingual Living was a favorite website of yours. I can't tell you how much it meant to me to read that. It makes it all worth it when others appreciate Multilingual living as much as I do.