Career Recruitment Site

Men's Participation in Childcare
at Astellas

  • Cybersecurity Group,
    Information System
    Ryoma Nishikawa
  • Gifu/West Owari Group,
    Specialty Care Sales Unit 3
    Dai Kikuchi
  • Shiga/Yamashiro Group,
    Specialty Care Sales Unit 4
    Yuta Onuki
  • Upstream Bioprocess Science,
    Chemical and Biological
    Technology Labs.
    Hiroyuki Kenmoku

*The contents of this article, and the divisions that the people featured in this article belonged to
and the names of those divisions are current as of the time of the interview.

Let us begin with this first question: why did you decide to take paternity leave?

Onuki Before my first child was born…or rather, when I got married, I was already thinking that I would like to take some time to concentrate on raising my child when I have one. So, before the delivery of our first child, I talked with my wife and decided to take paternity leave so that I could spend some time with my family. Because my wife and child spent their first month together at the home of my wife’s parents, I took my paternity leave from the second month for about one month.

Kikuchi In my case, my wife could not return to her parent’s home for delivery due to COVID-19, meaning that we could not ask her parents for help, and I would need to take the time to look after the newborn. That was why I decided to take paternity leave. Due to COVID-19, sales activities had become difficult and the way I worked had changed a lot, so I thought I might be able to take leave smoothly if I could create a system that works without my presence. I took my paternity leave for a full two months from the time that my child was born.

Kenmoku COVID-19 also affected my paternity leave. My wife could not return to her parent’s home for delivery, and since both of us live far away from our parents, we could not ask them for help. That made me realize I needed to take paternity leave. As this was our first child, my colleagues and hospital staff advised me that “it would be difficult for your wife to take care of the newborn on her own” and “you should take care of your wife’s mental health too”, so not taking paternity leave was never an option for me to start with. I combined paid holidays with paternity leave and took about half a year off work.

Nishikawa In my case, I took paternity leave for my second child. Our first child, who was four years old then, was quite sensitive and I thought he would require more attention after the baby was born. I also wanted to support my wife so she could recover as quickly as possible. I took about four months off work by combining paid holidays with paternity leave.

Mr. Kenmoku and Mr. Nishikawa took a relatively long period of paternity leave. How did you decide the total period of leave?

Kenmoku I actually wanted to take leave for a year but ended up shortening the period. When I got married, I was already thinking that I should cooperate in raising our child, and that one or two months of paternity leave would be too short. But if my wife was a housewife and I was the only one with stable salary, my paternity leave might have been even shorter.

Nishikawa My wife has a job too so I decided to take leave until my wife could figure out how to balance home and work. Even if she did not have a job, I think it would have been difficult to do a lot after delivery, and we could not rely on our parents for help either, so although it might have been shorter, I would have taken paternity leave anyway.

This next question elaborates more on the process of taking your paternity leave. Were there any colleagues in your team or division who had already taken paternity leave?

Kenmoku None in my team, but I heard that some people in the Laboratory have taken paternity leave before. Their experiences helped me learn about how to take paternity leave and the applicable rules.

Nishikawa One of my colleagues had taken paternity leave before joining my division, so I was able to ask him what it was like.

Onuki I listened to my colleague delivering a speech on his experience of paternity leave at one of the labor union events, and that helped me.

Kikuchi None of my male colleagues have taken paternity leave before. When I communicated with them about my paternity leave, they would say “oh, males can take parental leave…?” or “times have changed”, implying that it was unprecedented in my team. Because none of my seniors were experienced with paternity leave, I was nervous and it required some courage for me to take paternity leave, but I thought I should set a new standard for the team and enlighten them so that others can follow in my footsteps.

Were you able to easily talk with your manager about paternity leave?

Kikuchi I have to say…it was challenging. Especially when deciding the total period of leave. I told my manager that I wanted to take paternity leave soon after my wife became pregnant, so I started the discussion quite early. But when it came to deciding the total period of leave, because we need to cover the work of the sales force, my manager and I discussed options like “can I manage it by combining remote work” or “maybe I don’t have to stop work completely”. In the end, I made it clear that I want to keep my professional and personal lives separate and took my paternity leave.

I’m sure you were anxious about filling the hole left by your absence, but how did you cover it?

Kikuchi I had communicated to my team, including my manager, about my paternity leave well in advance, so I asked my colleagues to cover potentially problematic tasks beforehand. I had also told my client hospitals that I would not be able to visit them for about a month and who to contact in case of an emergency. Some doctors, especially the executives who are running the organization, looked confused and would say things like “wow, a male taking parental leave?” or “times have changed”, but many gave me encouraging comments like “why not?” or “that’s the way it should be in this day and age”. In the end, I think there were no major problems during my paternity leave.

What about other members in the panel? How did your colleagues react?

Onuki I also told my colleagues about my plan to take paternity leave right after my wife’s pregnancy was confirmed, then after she entered the second trimester, I started to discuss how long I would take leave for. As far as I am aware, there were no negative reactions to my paternity leave. My manager, who is female, told me “You can take as much time as you like”. My group head and team leader, who covered for me while I was on paternity leave, visited my clients with me before my leave. They were mostly positive about my leave, and one doctor even asked me “is one month long enough?”

Kenmoku There were no negative reactions in my team either. They were very encouraging, and my manager and team members had warm comments for me.

Nishikawa My colleagues were positive about my paternity leave, but their comments were rather divided. Women, especially those who have children would say things like “only four months? You should take a year” or “good luck with the tough time that awaits you. It’s not a holiday, you will see”, which made me laugh. On the other hand, men would say things like “lucky you, have a nice holiday!” or “it’s a great chance to learn new things”, showing that their perceptions are very different. I felt their images of paternity leave were a little different.

Did you do anything special to prepare for your paternity leave, or were there any unexpected problems?

Nishikawa I started handing over my tasks early, so I did not have many problems with my tasks…my child was born a little earlier than the estimated delivery date, so I wondered if I should move my leave forward, but my wife’s mother came to help so I ended up starting my leave from the planned date.

Kenmoku As Mr. Nishikawa mentioned, I was also nervous about whether I would have enough time to hand over my tasks if my child was born earlier than the estimated due date. Fortunately, my child was born right on the estimated date, but the next time I take paternity leave, I think I should be prepared in case the child is born earlier than expected. For this time, I started handing over my tasks about a month before my leave, and by the final week, most of the handover was complete.

Kikuchi In my case, I am in Sales so there was not much work to hand over. I just had to rearrange my appointments so I have nothing scheduled during my leave. However, I did contact my clients early to avoid any problems, so I informed the doctors of whom to contact during my leave well beforehand.

Onuki I also did not have many problems preparing for my paternity leave. Like Mr. Kikuchi, I contacted my clients early and they were very understanding about my paternity leave. My manager told me she received several phone calls from my clients during my paternity leave, but she was able to handle them without any problems.

Kenmoku I did have regular meetings with my manager during my leave, as set by our company rules on paternity leave. But other than that, I did not receive any work-related calls during my leave because my e-mail address was converted to a special address for absences.

Nishikawa The Information System Division where I work changes the e-mail address settings for those who take paternity leave. The regular meeting Mr. Kenmoku mentioned is scheduled about once a month for those who take parental leave for three months or more.

Nishikawa In my case, I once did not notice the meeting invite for a week! The meeting is casual, just checking up on things like how you are doing and if you will be returning as planned.

Kenmoku Yes, it is mainly small talk. In my case, I could also discuss extending or shortening my paternity leave at that meeting.

How did you spend your paternity leave? Was there anything in particular you tried to keep in mind during your leave?

Nishikawa In the beginning, I anticipated that my wife would need complete rest to recover, so I had planned to do all the housework and child-care other than breastfeeding. After she started to recover, she would gradually take over some of the housework and child-care. About a month before returning to work, we arranged each of our tasks so we could both return to work smoothly. The nursery school my older child went to accepted him even while I was on paternity leave, so he would go to nursery school during the day, and I looked after him most of the time when he was at home. He was very active and sometimes regressed, so there is no way my wife could have looked after him on her own right after delivery.

Kenmoku I also did most of the housework for the first month after my child’s birth. After two months, my wife gradually recovered, so she would take up cooking, which she enjoys, and I would do the rest. The baby would cry day and night, so neither my wife nor I got much sleep…we had to take turns to sleep. After a while, the baby started taking naps during the day so we could rest too, but it was mostly a long struggle with sleeplessness.

Kikuchi As the others mentioned, I also did all the housework other than breastfeeding. I asked my wife to rest and concentrate on recovering. Anything I tried to keep in mind…well, it was our first time to have a child, so we were mindful of each other’s mental health as well as physical health. We tried to be encouraging to each other and cried together at difficult times.

Onuki That is good. I also took paternity leave right after my child’s birth, and my wife wanted to breastfeed, so like the others mentioned I did all of the housework during the day.

What do you remember enjoying or finding difficult during your paternity leave?

Kenmoku It was…a very difficult time…

All (Understanding grin)

Kenmoku To be honest, it was very exhausting and difficult. I could not sleep, my wife’s mood was quite changeable…I wished I could support her better, but I did not know what to do, and it was frustrating that I was not helping enough. It was very exhausting until the third month, but we overcame it, and I am very glad I could be with my child, who was growing bigger every day. I also enjoyed going out for relaxing walks with my baby. Without that, I might have lost my mind…

Nishikawa I guess that happens when you have your first child. In my case, it was our second child, so both my wife and I were experienced and somewhat relaxed. What I enjoyed the most was being able to spend a lot of time with our first child. My wife looked after the newborn most of the time, but from nine at night, she looked after our older child instead so that he would not feel like the baby took away his mother. My wife slept with him, and I slept with the baby. Around midnight, the baby would start crying, so I would take the baby to my wife, and I remember asking her extremely politely to breastfeed. I think my wife and I were cooperative and supportive. I drafted these roles and plans, but I also rearranged them according to my wife’s wishes. I like organizing everyday tasks so that things run smoothly. I do not want to put too much burden on myself, and having too much stress every day is not good for you either physically or mentally…

Onuki I also suffered from sleepless nights. My child would wake up several times during the night, which was very exhausting. At one point, my wife became kind of negative, she would say “sorry” all the time and burst into tears. She said, “sorry for making you do this” when I was doing the housework, so I would reply, “don’t apologize, let’s just thank each other”. We made sure to thank each other for any favors, and she recovered. What I enjoyed the most was seeing my child grow every day. I am glad I took paternity leave.

Kikuchi I completely agree with the others regarding the lack of sleep. I was also very nervous because I had absolutely no experience in child-care, and I was so unsure if we were doing things right. My child was not drinking well due to breastfeeding problems, the doctor would point out health issues at the regular infant health checks, and we could not understand why the baby was crying…everything was challenging. I am glad I could spend time with my child, and now that I think back, it was a very special experience to spend time with such a little baby and it was fun, but while I was in the middle of it, I was nervous thinking “can I really live like this…?” It was difficult, or rather, very challenging throughout.

Nishikawa Unlike the others, I was not as involved in child-care when my first child was born, so I finally realized the joy and excitement of actively participating in raising my children when my second was born.

While away from your professional work, did you have any new insights about the company or your professional career?

Kikuchi It was my first time forgetting about work for a month, so it was a good opportunity to think about my work-life balance and my career going forward. Not all Japanese companies are prepared for their employees to take paternity leaves like us, so I am glad that Astellas has set rules that are actually put into practice.

Onuki I also think it was a good opportunity to rethink my work-life balance and the way I work. It made me think about how I can finish my tasks efficiently when I have to look after my child and do housework as well.

Kenmoku Because I initially planned to take longer paternity leave, I was worried whether my team be okay without me for such a long time, but they were doing fine without me, so I really did not have to worry. Whenever I took paid holidays too, I was always a little worried if it was really alright to take that holiday. But I realized I can rely on my colleagues and this organization is strong enough to cover my work for me.

Nishikawa When I had my second child, I realized that I could not do any work in the evening until my children had gone to bed. I also could not leave everything to my wife so that I could concentrate on my work. To make sure I had enough time to spend with my family, I had to do my work at another time, or work remotely sometimes so I could help with the housework too. I think that made me plan and work on my tasks more effectively too. I know it makes a great difference knowing I have a concrete deadline for any everyday task. I think I am able to make decisions more quickly without thinking about it too much, which is a good thing.

Did your workload change after you returned to work?

Nishikawa Either there was no change, or maybe only a little increase.

Kenmoku Same here, there was no change.

Onuki There were some organizational changes when I returned, and I became responsible for a larger sales area. But I have been given a lot of discretion to make sales-related decisions, so I think I have better control over my work than before and am using my time more efficiently.

Kikuchi I also experienced some organizational changes when I returned, but I don’t think my workload has changed much. I am basically able to control it myself, and did not have any problems returning to work.

Nishikawa I did not have any problems returning to work either, but I realized that quite a lot of the company’s systems, or rules, had changed while I was on paternity leave. I had a lot to catch up on all at once, which was a little difficult.

Kenmoku The company does not inform us about such changes while we are away.

Nishikawa You are right, no updates.

Kenmoku You return to work and get surprised with all the updates. There might be some room for improvement there.

What were the good points about taking paternity leave, and what do you wish you could have done more of?

Kikuchi Regarding my personal life, I am very glad that I could take paternity leave and be present in overcoming a major life event with my wife. Regarding my professional life, I think it was learning to think about how I use my time, because I am now able to use my time more efficiently than I was before. And I think I am now more conscious of “thinking outside of the box” when talking with others and have a wider perspective thanks to paternity leave. But I also wish I could have extended my paternity leave a little longer so that I could enjoy more time with my family, because I ended up returning to work just as my wife finally recovered and our child could start going outside.

Onuki I am glad I had the time to talk thoroughly with my wife. Of course, I am glad I could look after my baby, but the baby was still a newborn then and was sleeping most of the time, so I had the time to talk with my wife about our future. In terms of work, as Mr. Kenmoku mentioned, you know how kids are uncontrollable…they are unpredictable, and they cry a lot…

Kenmoku Absolutely.

Onuki Thanks to that experience, I think I am now much flexible in my job too, I learned to change what I am doing when I feel like it is no longer working. I now change my mindset and switch to another task or change my approach.

Kenmoku Like everyone else mentioned, my wife also has a job, and she returned to work when our child was about nine months old. I think she was able to return to work smoothly thanks to both of us taking parental leave, and we are both able to balance our professional and family life now. Before taking paternity leave, I tended to want things to work out as I had planned, but after learning that kids are so uncontrollable, I learned to give up on trying to control uncontrollable things and concentrate on tasks that I can control.

Nishikawa I am also glad that I had the time to spend with my family. Especially with my wife, we could talk about our kids and their future. My time with my family was tranquil, and I think it affected myself as well as my family positively. Regarding my professional life, maybe some of my colleagues had a hard time covering for me, but I am thankful for their support and I really felt how versatile our company is. There are only four members based in Japan in my team, so the absence of one member can have a great impact. I think they decided to skip some of my tasks, but the fact that the team was able to manage without those tasks is testament to their flexibility, and I felt once again the strength of our company.

Any final words to fellow colleagues who are planning or hesitating to take paternity leave?

Nishikawa There is no need to hesitate. Just take it if you have the chance, that is my message. Of course, you may feel worried about your colleagues, but I think you should trust and rely on them. Your colleagues are all reliable. Concentrate on spending time with your child and take this opportunity to open up a whole new world.

Kenmoku I know there are so many things to worry about, such as finances and career progression, but the system and organization are strong enough to support you so there is no need to worry at all. The time you can spend with your newborn when they are so small is limited, so you should definitely take paternity leave and spend as much precious time with your baby as you can.

Kikuchi You cannot force others to do your job by using paternity leave as an excuse, so you must communicate with your team well in advance. You should take a lot of time for thorough discussion, but the company’s paternity leave system is well established, and your colleagues will be accepting, so I would definitely recommend everyone who is considering taking paternity leave to do it.

Onuki Your professional career is very long, but the time you can spend raising your child is very short in comparison, and I think it is very important to think about how you can be involved in raising your child. If you strongly wish to get involved and watch your child grow, then you should definitely take paternity leave. The company’s paternity leave system is well established, and your manager will be ready to hear your thoughts about it. Do not worry about it alone, simply say “I would like to take paternity leave”, that is the first important step. Please do not be afraid to ask.