Updated: Jul 15, 2021
Every month on WOMENCANFLY.CO’s blog series, The Way, we introduce inspirational women who live abroad. This time, we interview a couple making it our first 'Partner Project!'
Having partners who support and bring the best out of each other allows us to take on new challenges and overcome difficulties. We want to put the spotlight on the efforts and charms that even the person themselves doesn’t notice from their partner’s perspective.
For our first ‘Partner Project’, we meet Haruka and Keiko Terasawa who live in Sydney, Australia.
After getting married they had three children and when their younger twins were two, the Terasawa family moved to Australia. Why did they decide to move abroad at that time? What are the pros and cons of moving abroad? We discuss what it’s like to make the move abroad with a partner.
Let’s do it by 40! Making the decision together to move abroad
During their 20s, they were both living in Bath, England where Haruka was a judo club coach and Keiko attended graduate school to obtain her Master’s in Simultaneous Interpreting. They met in Bath and got married a few years after returning to Japan.
Even after returning to Japan, the two naturally had the desire to one day live abroad with the whole family.
The plan to move abroad started to become concrete in the New Year of 2015.
Keiko says, “Every New Year, we discuss what we want to accomplish in that year and at that time, we were 36. We had always thought about moving abroad but if we were taking on a big challenge, we wanted to do it by the age of 40.”
There were three main reasons why they decided to move at that time in their lives.
First of all, they didn’t want to procrastinate while they had the physical strength and energy.
Secondly, as their eldest was planning to go to primary school, they wanted to go as early as possible while their kids were young.
Finally, the more complicated their circumstances and relationships with the children’s friends, the more difficult it would be to move.
Keiko says, “When their environment changes, children may have a hard time. But instead of saying, “I really wanted to do it but I put up with it for you,” I thought it would be better to say, “Even though it was hard, I did what I wanted to do.”
In this way, 2015 became a year of preparation and challenges where they tried their best.
Full of thoughts and lots to do: The road to immigration
They did as much as they could and after deciding, the couple started moving immediately.
At that time, Haruka, who ran two osteopathic clinics as a Judo rehabilitation teacher entrusted their management to a partner and he himself changed roles from an officer to an employee. He made preparations so that he could move at any given time.
Keiko worked for a global IT company that had four locations, California, Singapore, Hong Kong and Australia, where she could be transferred to.
“I wanted to avoid the financial risks of raising three children so I wanted to move to a place where my husband could also work as well as a place where I could get a job I wanted to do”, says Keiko.
As a result, it was decided that Australia would be the place to migrate to as Haruka’s qualifications would be recognised there and he would be able to find a way to do business in the osteopathic industry.
Haruka immediately started looking for a job in Sydney and received an offer in the summer of 2015. He also had to validate the qualification that he acquired in Japan so to do this, he went to school in Osaka on weekends before moving to Sydney and continued to create an environment where he could work using his expertise.
Haruka immediately started looking for a job in Sydney and received an offer in the summer of 2015. He also had to validate the qualifications that he acquired in Japan so to do this, he went to school in Osaka on weekends before moving to Sydney and continued to create an environment where he could work using his expertise.
Haruka and Keiko said, “Let’s do as much as we can during this year”, and they prepared to move within a year.
Childcare fees are way too expensive in Australia!
The couple has taken strategic actions but they say, “We’re always spontaneous. We just do it before we think about it.”
In fact, they had a hard time after migrating because they hadn’t checked some things in advance.
Keiko says, “Childcare fees are really high in Australia. Business visas don’t allow you to get state subsidies so it costs more than $100 a day for each child. If they go five times a week, that’s $500 and because I have twins it costs more than $1000 a week. Every month I had to keep paying around $5000 a month for childcare.”
Hiring a babysitter would cost around the same or more. Therefore, it seemed that it would be financially challenging until they were able to get permanent residency and receive a bit of state subsidy.
Haruka says, ”By living normally, my savings disappeared in a blink of an eye. At that time, I was earning $2000 which is 200,000 yen in Japan. However, living costs in Australia are really high, I wasn’t able to live on $2000. I was oblivious to this. From then on, I started to think seriously about how to make money in Australia.”
When you’re spending more than you earn, it takes a toll on your heart. After migrating for one to two years, the couple called it “World War III”.
“That time was really stressful but thanks to that experience we got to know our own limits. I think it’s important to keep discussing and adjusting your situation with your family”, says Keiko.
Haruka and Keiko communicate with each other not only on New Year’s Day but also make the time to discuss things on weekends. They check-in on each other by asking questions like, “How are you these days?”, “How are the kids?” or “How do you feel about us?”
Staying together can be more challenging than getting married. They don’t take being together for granted and feel it is important to always communicate, value and respect each other's thoughts.
A happy work-life balance came into fruition in Sydney
Although Sydney has high childcare fees, the Terasawas feel that the benefits of moving to Sydney have been significant.
Below are three differences Keiko feels there are between Australia and Japan.
1. The number of working mothers
There aren’t many working mothers in the Japanese workplace but there are many working mothers in double-income relationships in Sydney so there was an advantage of Keiko’s situation being understood. If your child gets sick, it’s okay to say, “I’m leaving early!”
2. The pressure for mothers and fathers
In Japan, there is a high social expectation that the mother has to do housework and raise children and the father earns the household income. On the other hand, in Sydney, having an apple and bread for a meal is okay! When you are tired or not good at something, it’s okay to not work as hard.
3. It’s easy to take a break
It’s easy to take leave in the Australian workplace. During school holidays, most people can take paid leave.
In the same way, Haruka feels that his life changed in dramatic ways after moving to Sydney.
When he was in Japan, he worked almost every day until midnight and didn’t have much time to be with the kids. However, after moving to Sydney and working in a Japanese store for two years, in 2018, he was able to independently open his own clinic and had more time to spend with his kids.
He takes days off from work when the kids have school events and participates in them as much as possible. Haruka is also in charge of the daily school drop-off and pick-up.
Haruka also takes charge of cooking and cleaning the car while Keiko is responsible for cleaning and doing the laundry. It seems that housework in the Terasawa family is divided based on what each person is good at.
Haruka says,”In Sydney, fathers all send and pick up their kids from school and cook. In Japan, these kinds of fathers are called, “ikumen” [a portmanteau of the words “ikuji” (childcare) and “ikemen” (attractive man)], but by the time my children become adults, I hope the term “ikumen” will no longer be a word as it should be normal for fathers to participate in childcare and housework. I’d be glad if in Japan this would become easier to do.”
The clinic run by Haruka, YAWARA (Soft) Shiatsu (a form of Japanese finger-pressure therapy)
Constructing their own definition of career and family
After completing graduate school in the UK, Keiko got a job as an English proofreader and research instructor at a medical university in Japan. Following that role, she changed careers to human resources at age 27.
Keiko currently works in the HR department at a foreign IT company and creates programs that promote the active participation of minorities such as women, the LGBTQ community, those with disabilities and those who come from various backgrounds in the workplace. She is also active on the frontlines of Asia in creating courses that support employment in the tech industry and coaching as a mentor. Keiko’s team is the first to take on this kind of work in Asia. Therefore, we should realise their unprecedented and pioneering work.
Keiko says, “Originally, it was ideal to work from home while I raised my kids so I used to wonder when I’d be able to quit my company and become free? However, if I was financially independent, I’d have more options. Otherwise, it would’ve just been my husband’s income and I would not have been able to have given birth when I wanted a child. Maybe I’ve continued to work because I simply wanted to live with who I liked but I really like my current job.”
Although they don’t talk about each other’s work, they always consult with each other when they have any problems.
After returning to Japan from studying abroad in England, Haruka went to school for three years to get his qualifications in osteopathy. The year after he graduated he married Keiko when they were both 27 at the time. As his colleagues around him were doing things like getting promoted and buying houses, there was a time when he felt impatient.
However, Haruka decided to go to school for three years to get his qualifications in acupuncture and massage therapy.
Haruka says,”At first, I didn’t have the courage to go to school after I got married but when I started a business, my wife encouraged me as it would be much better to be a qualified masseuse. It was also my wife who helped me when I opened my own clinic in Sydney.”
Haruka also supports Keiko’s work more than anyone else. When the opportunity to change jobs to Keiko’s current workplace at a foreign enterprise, he also encouraged her by saying, “Why don’t you just try it out for a year?” when she hesitated to change jobs knowing they’d be strict with her taking care of her kids.
At her current workplace, Keiko has a lot of responsibilities and before COVID-19 she had many business trips. She wanted to spend time with her kids but believes that trying her best now will definitely benefit her family in the future.
“In the end, a career means continuing to work. In the 10 years after giving birth, I’ve had difficult times but I’ve managed to keep going. Priorities can be flexible, and I think if you don’t throw what you like away and keep them by your side, one day, you’ll get a job in an unexpected way,” says Keiko
Being each other’s partner
Finally, when we asked what it’s like to be with one another, Keiko says, “He’s the most important person and the one I am living my life with. He’s my co-operator of the family.” Haruka says, ”It feels like a collective fated to be together.”
Keiko says,”When Haruka was young, he experienced many hardships so I think he understands the pain of people. The good thing about coming to Australia is that we function well together. In a good way, in society, as we’re all indifferent to each other, we can be ourselves with our family.”
On the other hand, Haruka admires Keiko’s, “Guts to go through with things once she decides to do them.”
Haruka says, “After she came to Sydney, she started attending law school straightaway. While working full-time and raising her kids, she would stay up until 2am to do her readings. It’s amazing how once she decides on something, she goes through with it thoroughly!”
Stages throughout our family and career are constantly changing but they’re always thinking about how to keep the family happy. However, that happiness not only relies on patience but also the ability to be flexible about what constitutes each person’s happiness.
That’s exactly why they share their goals and dreams with the family.
“I have to be happy with myself first! Otherwise, I can’t make other people happy,” says Keiko.
“I love Haruka!” Keiko exclaims as she unapologetically expresses her affection for Haruka. A shy Haruka blushes as he says, “When I’m not at work, I want to make my wife laugh a lot.”
Although they’re complete opposites, Keiko who likes to spend time with her favourite person now spends her time with her family in Australia and seems very happy.
We wonder what kind of goals and dreams will come up for discussion during the next New Year.
We see a smiling family laughing together saying, “That’s great!” and “Let’s do it!”
Thank you for reading this, and We are always here for you!
Women can fly.
Much love, xxx
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