Celebrating Mums in Business (Tokyo)

By on May 12, 2016

While working mothers are famously skilled at juggling work and family, they are also for the most part, naturally prone to stress. Keeping the balls up in the air all at the same time can lead to mental exhaustion.

Multi-tasking mother Emily Leroux knows she had to do something to keep the balance in check. She founded Mums in Business, a group of dynamic female professionals who get together regularly sharing experiences and finding ways to balance working life and family.

Emily moved to Tokyo with her family 5 years ago. She works as a director at Michael Page International, a British recruitment firm in Tokyo with over 100 staff.

Tokyo families reached out to Emily for inspiration.

unnamedTwo kids, a career, and running a house –  how do you do it?

Health and fitness are very important to me and I always find time to keep myself active. My mama chariot is my trusted mode of transport, although it is quite heavy with 2 boys on the front and back nowadays. I am also a crossfit addict – made even more enjoyable by the coaches and the fabulous crossfit community at the Nishi-azabu box. I have made so many friends and business connections in between a cardio and weights workout.

What ‘s the biggest change in your life since being a working mother?

Simply having to make time for my family, being available to pick up from school, read books at bedtime, and etc…

Homesick blues. What’s the cure?

The first couple of years were tough – adjusting to life in Japan; struggling through shopping for basic food and home items, getting around, communication with colleagues and clients who don’t speak English as their native language. 5 years on I don’t really feel homesick – I love returning to the UK to visit family, especially to my Mum’s house where she stocks the fridge with British sausages and bacon. I have no hesitation asking friends and colleagues to bring back my favorite English chocolate whenever they take a trip back to the UK!

You’ve been in the country for five years. What’s the most annoying habit picked up in Japan?

I don’t really think I have picked up any annoying habits, although my family may have other thoughts. A habit that I like is the subtle nod of thanks to a car at a pedestrian crossing, a door being held open, and etc.

Do you think it’s an advantage being a foreign working mother in Japan?

I don’t think of my situation as being any better to anyone else – working or not working. However, I use my status as a foreign working mum to promote and support events to celebrate the achievements of women and accelerate gender equality. For example, I hosted SPOTLIGHT ON JAPAN on International Women’s Day which invited the business community to consider how they can make a difference to increase female participation in the workforce. As a follow up to this successful event I am now planning another event which is being designed to inspire Japanese women at mid-manager level and offer them advice from Japanese and foreign mid-senior managers on how to combine career with family.

What in your personal opinion is the most frustrating thing about juggling work and family here as an expat?

To be honest, I feel very lucky that I have the support of my family and our helper to be able to juggle work and family. With almost 13 years at Michael Page, I am able to work productively 4 days a week and leave the office at a sensible time that allows me to do the school pick up for my youngest son. What I find most frustrating is the expectation in Japan that one should work long hours to demonstrate their commitment to their job.

How did you come up with the idea of a regular meet-up with other working moms to network?

Mums In Business Tokyo was founded in November 2013, 2 months before returning to work after my 2nd maternity leave. Working for a British company in Japan, in an office of over 100 staff (60% Japanese), it was always going to be a challenge to return to work with 2 young boys especially as the wife of the MD and the only female Director. I knew at this point that the support of other mums in a similar position would be very important to my ongoing career development and enjoyment of living and working in Japan.
Tell us about a typical activity of Mums in Business and more.

We love being mums, but we also love having a career. And because it’s rarely easy to do both brilliantly, we get together every month to share experiences and tips, have some laughs, shed tears of frustration (sometimes), and generally provide support – often, over a glass or two of wine.

It’s a great place to network professionally too. Many of our members are senior leaders in a range of businesses in Tokyo, meaning worthwhile connections and business relationships are also often formed.

How do you personally balance work and family?

I work Monday-Thursday which means that on a Friday I can drop both my sons off at school (one at British School and one at Japanese day care). A workout at Reebok Crossfit, lunch with friends, a trip to the bank to pay some bills and then the school pick up means I am ready to hit the weekend revitalized.

Who can join Mums in Business and how do other working mothers find you?

Any working mums are able to join Mums In Business. So far they have been introduced by other members and therefore through personal recommendation. I will shortly have a website, but currently more information can be found through the facebook page or by emailing me at mumsinbusiness.tokyo@gmail.com

As a working mother, what’s the one thing you would advise others who give up their careers for children?

Everyone is different, faced with different circumstances that may or may not allow mums to work whilst in Japan. I have been lucky enough to meet a lot of inspiring, entrepreneurial women who have not been able to continue a previous career from overseas (due to the language) and have instead taken their move to Japan as an opportunity to launch their own businesses. There is a fantastic network of men and women in Tokyo who can offer advice, share experiences or generally point you in the right direction if you are looking to return to work in the corporate world, or start your own business.


If you want to join Mums in Business, contact Emily at mumsinbusiness.tokyo@gmail.com

About TF Tribe