Today we attended my second son's entrance ceremony at school.
Yesterday's rain had somewhat scattered the cherry blossoms unfortunately, but under today's clear blue sky, the light pink cherry blossoms were reflected by the white school building; it was most beautiful.
This was the second elementary school enrollment ceremony I have attended. I was pretty much used to the ceremony itself, and no longer felt nervous about being there as a parent. We have five boys in our family, which means I've got three more ceremonies ahead of me. I feel a little sorry for our fifth son; I'm afraid there won't be much excitement left by the time his turn comes around.
That's how it is. With five children, everything has to be done five times. If they all go to the same elementary school, you can attend events like sports days all at one time, but for enrollment ceremonies, graduations or age-specific festivals (held in Japan for children at the ages of 3, 5 and 7), you have to attend five separate times.
Having a lot of kids, of course, means setting aside more time for annual functions or events.
Even normal holidays become busier as well; there are five energetic boys to satisfy. Representing different age groups, from 6 months to eight years old, they each have fun in very different ways. Leaving all five kids with my wife, even on days off, is a bit too much.
So I have to do everything I can to prioritize my family time on days off, and to avoid allowing work intrude. When you're operating a school, however, there will be classes on weekends. The same is true in the venture capital business—companies we invest in occasionally arrange executive meetings on days off. For a father of five children, not having work commitments on a day off is a matter of great importance.
And when days off do come around, all my energy goes into the family. Work is supposed to be exhausting, but for me, days off are even more tiring.
I take them to the park to play catch, soccer or tennis, if we've brought our rackets along. We also go the pool a lot. All our kids love sports and so everything involves running around.
We take them skiing in winter, which is another completely exhausting thing. My oldest two sons are now eight and six and can ski on their own, but the third son is just four and needs constant supervision. The fourth son is only two years old. He sleds and works on making a snowman while the baby, who is just six months old, has to be held by his mom. No matter how you look at it, looking after all of them is a tall order for just two persons, my wife and me. It keeps us all very busy.
I ski with my oldest two sons, then help my third son with his skiing, sled with my fourth son and take him for a ride on the gondola. I also take my turn holding the baby so my wife can ski. While I'm doing that, my second youngest gets annoyed, my third son wants me to ski with him, and everybody starts whining. The baby then bursts into tears, at which point I feel like crying myself. Makes no difference that I'm a university dean and managing partner in a venture capital firm. The guy in front of all these kids is just another struggling father trying to keep it all together.
Actually, mothers have the toughest time, since they are busy regardless of what day it is; dads just have to hold their own with the family on days off. After waking up in the morning, moms get the kids up and dressed, and prepare breakfast. Then there is breastfeeding and changing diapers, followed by house cleaning, washing, dishwashing, cooking lunch and preparing dinner. In the midst of all this, there are trips to and from school. Then bath time, preparing them for bed and getting them off to sleep—every day of the week.
One of the kids is being breastfed, which makes this period busier than ever, although it will get easier when he starts walking. We sometimes joke that when we get older, we will look back on these times as the busiest days of our lives.
Then last Sunday, it happened. Yes, my wife collapsed.
At 11 o'clock last Sunday night, she started having breathing difficulties, and we headed straight for the hospital urgently. She was overworked. At the hospital she lay down on the bed and had a drip fed into her. As I traveled back and forth between the hospital and the house where the five kids were waiting, I kept thinking whether I had to be more committed to the family. I concluded that it is obvious that having five kids requires more effort on my part to see they are properly looked after. Thankfully my wife's condition was not serious, and the next day I was able to make it on time to my Monday morning meeting.
Work is vital and I have to make sure I have time to do it, but I have to raise the priority of my family. Of course this sounds rather obvious, but there are things I need to do as an individual, and there are things I want to do.
One thing I do every day is read the Financial Times. As I want to compete in the Japan Masters swimming competition, I would like to go to the pool twice a week. Spending time at the Go club on Wednesday nights is one of my favorite hobbies. Needless to say, I also enjoy a delicious glass of wine and classical concerts. I want to see art exhibitions, read books and travel. Every so often I feel the need to let of some steam with friends in Roppongi. And of course, just as I am doing now, every so often I want to write a column. I need time to sleep, and time to do nothing.
The question is, how do you fit all this into twenty-four hours? In terms of work, our graduate program started last week, and Globis Venture Capital is right in the middle of raising money for the formulation of Globis Fund No. 3. I'm on the phone meeting with overseas investors nearly every night. As I have a meeting this weekend with fellow partners, those days off are down the drain. Next week I will be teaching an Entrepreneurial Leadership class in Tokyo and Nagoya.
There is Yoshito Hori the individual, Yoshito Hori the father and then Yoshito Hori the dean and managing partner—my task is to balance all these activities.
I once wrote a book about this life equilibrium, "Six dimensions of life" (Yoshito Hori, Kodansha, Ltd.) Of course writing it down in a book simple; it's not so easy in practice. What it comes down to, I suppose, is that outside of work, I must completely devote myself to being a father for the time being.
I think this is the period I have to do that.
My five kids are quietly sleeping next to one another in the next room.
I think I'll go and lay my head down on the bed next to them.
April 6, 2006
At home in Sanban-cho