I will explain the routine in my first family toward the end of my stay. The father is very busy and comes home late, around 10:00 p.m. When he comes home in the evening, the mother warms up the dinner, if he hasn't eaten yet. He changes his clothes from formal to informal during this time. Then he eats, with the mother sitting beside him and they exchange daily news in informal language. They laugh a lot, and sometimes flirt. After they finish eating, they take a bath together. After the bath they disappear into their work room. If they are not too busy, the mother will prepare a midnight snack for all of us. If they are busy, she prepares something for him, since he always gets hungry around midnight.
During the week-end things are different. The mother and father prepare most of the dishes together, which means she gives him directions for how to do things. On Sunday the boys get up very late. Usually the parents have breakfast together, sometimes with me. After breakfast we sit in the living room drinking coffee (mostly prepared by the father), listening to music and reading the newspaper. The father starts reading what he likes and the mother starts with the advertisements for supermarkets. He hands her each part of the newspaper after he finishes reading it. He sits at "his place", a comfortable chair by the window with a view of the bay of Osaka and Kobe. If we sit for a while longer, the mother serves us tea, and either the father or I clean up the table afterwards.
We all take dinner together. Again, the father has helped in cooking, whereas I have cleaned the bathroom and the boys looked after the dog. During dinner the topics for discussion are events in the news or any other topic, usually raised by one of the two children and discussed by all of us. Also they discuss problems any of the children has, or family matters. After dinner everyone takes his or her own plates, the father and I wash the dishes and the mother cleans up the kitchen. Then there is relaxation time in the kotatsu (table with heater to warm one's legs) with fruits, cakes or tea, prepared by the mother and brought by the father. During the week there is no rank order in taking baths. But on week-ends usually the father or mother goes first, followed by me and after that first the younger and then the older son.
In this family all the members experience the same sort of attention. All the family members seem to be relaxed. And all seem to contribute to the well-being of the family through fulfilling their tasks. The mother is not the only one who is doing things for others, or cooking or serving. Usually everyone available will put a hand in.
I was also expected to notice when there was something to help with in the household, or when it was necessary to do something for others. I got involved in the cycle of giving and receiving. In that family a person who was tired, ill, or in a stressful situation would get deference from the others, especially from the mother. It was never tension-related for me, since I was never the only person receiving deference. The mother had more responsibility, and usually did things for others, even when she was tired after work. But she also received deference (meaning people did things for her) when she showed her tiredness. Then the boys would try to do their tasks more diligently, so that things went smoothly. The father would do things for her, as I would also, such as helping with the washing or cooking a German dinner or just doing additional things to spoil her a little.