The Gucci-wielding moms

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Thirty-six percent of mothers own genuine Louis Vuitton.

More than a quarter own Gucci. Nearly 20% own Prada. Seem like crazy numbers? Not in Japan. Our continuing "Real Mothers" study of Japanese mothers of children under 12 confirmed what everyone who has visited Paris or Milan in the past 20 years suspected.

It's not surprising when you think about it. These women were the children of the bubble economy of the late '80s, then the "office ladies" of the '90s who were able to devote their whole income to self-care and shopping. And now they are a different kind of mother.

A couple of years ago, there was a best-selling book in Japan called "The Howl of the Make-inu" (or "Howl of the Loser Dogs") that described 30-something women who had yet to obtain their own children and families. The author suggested that these women were losers in the traditional sense, and that it was better and more modern to declare yourself a winner or loser based on your own choices rather than have others decide for you.

Pride in being a mother, and seeing yourself as a "winner" for making that choice, suddenly became a statement of identity. Motherhood is seen as an option but also as something to be proud of. And now it's something women treat as a luxury, because it is hard to do. The escalating costs of getting a child through highly competitive schools, the desire of young women not to give up their own personal-care lifestyles, and what is sometimes called "the decline of men" as desirable lifestyle partners all make the desire to have a child a real luxury.

Wait! Decline of men? This is also a generation of women contemplating marriage and motherhood just as the expectations of men change. A host of Korean soap operas (the biggest media success story across Asia in the past 10 years) has highlighted what Japanese women say they never saw enough of in their own men: romance. In addition, today's young Japanese women don't want the same type of relationship their own parents had, with Dad a distant figure always at work.

So is it any surprise that a generation that grew up expecting the best of everything also wants it all as a mother?
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