May 31, 2022
The Coca-Cola Bottlers Japan Group regards the promotion of diversity and inclusion (hereafter "D&I") as one of the essential business strategies for our continuous development. We are working on various initiatives aimed at creating a comfortable working environment for everyone and implementing flexible work styles suited to our employees' respective lifestyles.
In this interview, we talked about how she balances work and childcare, the things she worries about, and the state of her career after having a child.
―Please tell us about your past experiences and current job.
Since joining Kansai Beverage Service Co., Ltd., a subsidiary of Kinki Coca-Cola Bottling, as a new graduate in 2004, company and organization names have changed due to bottler integrations, but I had been working in corporate sales up to 2021. I sold coffee beans for coffee servers installed in customers' offices like banks and car dealers, and was also involved in VM sales. I now work for the Retail Business Dept. in FV Japan, Coca-Cola Bottlers Japan's group company, and am responsible for new business planning in sales. It is a two-person team of myself and my manager, and I am based in Senrioka office in Osaka and my manager is based in Ikebukuro office in Tokyo.
―Tell us about your maternity/childcare leave. How long was the leave?
Approximately one year. I took maternity leave in March 2017, had my baby in April, then took childcare leave up to March 2018. Where I live, it was relatively easy to get into a nursery of your choice if the class was for 0-year olds, so I waited for the time when I could start using the nursery.
―What were some changes you experienced before taking maternity leave and after returning to work?
In terms of work, there was no significant change because I didn't ask for shorter work hours. I met with my manager to talk about my career before taking maternity leave, and a colleague of mine had taken leave and returned to work before me, so I had a pretty good idea of what it would be like, and I had no particular concerns.
After taking leave, I returned to my previous job in corporate sales. I was fortunate to be put in charge of almost the same customers as before. Thanks to my manager's support, I was transferred to a SC close to my home, which I was grateful for because it gave me more time.
There were times when I felt that back office work may have been better, but I think I was emotionally better off continuing with work that was rewarding and allowed me to make use of my experiences. But, I never know when something unexpected may come up like my baby coming down with a fever, etc., so I made a point of doing work that required communication with customers or other depts. ahead of time, so that everything else could be done from home.
―Why did you choose to not work shorter hours?
I did hesitate in the beginning because there was a preconception that "it's normal to choose shorter hours after returning from childcare leave." But we all have different ideas and ways of working. I didn't choose shortened hours because I wanted to avoid limiting my work from the shorter hours and building up stress because of it. I believe that you need to understand what kind of work style fits you, if you want to stay true to yourself at work and at home.
―What difficulties did you face after returning to work?
I had "mommy guilt" for about two years after returning to work. I told myself that "we all feel the same thing, one way or another," and tried to let it go, but there would be days when my emotions couldn't catch up.
My baby would often get sick, and it was during those times that feelings would build up within me that I couldn't put into words. When we had to get hospitalized, it was during the pandemic and I had begun working from home, so I was able to work while still in the hospital room with my baby. But there was also the fear of contraction, and it was a difficult time both physically and emotionally. My seniors advised me that "children become stronger around the age of 3, and time takes care of some parts of it," and I would tell myself these words to get by. Now, my child is a little older, stronger and doesn't need to stay home as much, and I see that they were right!
―Are you doing anything differently to balance work and childcare?
About 2 years after having my baby, we moved closer to my parent's house and they help us with the baby. This has allowed more time for me. I think it's important to have people who help you. You can't do everything on your own. At work, I use Super Flex to flexibly change my starting and finishing hours. It's convenient because I can work after going to the nursery or the hospital. One key point of balancing work and childcare is to understand the various systems that exist and how they can be used.
―This is a question about your career. Have you been able to achieve what you were aiming for or what you wanted when you were younger?
In my 20s to early 30s, I was committed to the work that was in front of me. I was mainly dealing with coffee, so I would attend seminars or obtain certifications to gain knowledge about coffee. I was absorbed in self-development, like entering a contest for pour-over coffee, etc. Around last year so, I began feeling that I'm satisfied with my corporate sales position, and after participating in a training program called the "Female Next Leaders Program" which was held for female employees to "find their core for the leader that they want to be and take the first step", the various thoughts and opinions of the participants inspired me to re-examine my career. I don't think age is very relevant when taking on a new challenge. Actually, some things become clearer because of your experiences. I spoke with my manager at the time, and the current department had just been established, so I decided to transfer.
―What do you do when you want to refresh?
I try to make time to just do nothing. I enjoy coffee and drink it often at home, and the time spent grinding coffee beans or pouring coffee becomes time for me to relax my soul.
―Finally, can you offer some advice on balancing work and child-rearing?
I personally feel that Covid has changed the way I work in a positive way. There was previous talk about a transfer to Tokyo, but I gave it up because I had just had my baby. But now, we can work from anywhere, so we have more opportunities to take on challenges. In our team as well, my manager works in Ikebukuro and I work in Osaka, but there are no major issues with communication or work. There's no need to give up just because you have a child. When you want to value both work and raising your children, but it inhibits you from doing something, that may be demotivating, but there are things you can do. You may often lose heart for 3 years or so after having your baby, but both you and your children will get used to it, and you'll get over it. Life is long, so don't overly blame yourself or feel anxious about the future just by looking at the "now".
The Coca-Cola Bottlers Japan Group will continue to promote D&I and create a diverse working environment, creating a working environment where employees with various backgrounds and values will not forget their aspirations to learn.