My aging mother never showed me any love, now I find it difficult to care for her

The Japan News

Dear Troubleshooter:

I’m a retired woman in my 60s, and my husband and I live on our pensions. Our two children have moved out, and I’m happy, but I worry that I lack self-esteem.

My mother never praised me and seemed indifferent toward me. She never understood working women and we gradually grew apart. Recently, however, I started visiting my parents more often to care for my mother, and bad memories come flooding back.

When I was throwing up, my mother just ignored me. She never voiced any concerns when I had a fever. When I asked her to take care of my sick child, she said, “You have to work that much, huh?”

It feels like I’m going to be crushed by these complicated emotions that I never felt when I was working. I don’t want to confront my mother, who is in her 80s, but the feeling of not wanting to see her has become stronger. It’s really hard for me. Is it normal to have these kinds of thoughts come out now?

My father, who is in his 90s, has always been such a kind and supportive parent. I plan to continue caring for them, but please tell me how I can manage these emotions.

A, Akita Prefecture

Dear Ms. A:

It is not uncommon for people your age to start feeling dissatisfied about how they were raised. I think it’s because they now have enough time to look back and see things more clearly.

It is understandable that you are bothered by your uncaring mother. However, there is a sense of positivity and accomplishment coming through in your letter, and I could understand why by the end of it.

You grew up feeling loved by your father. That is why you could brush off your mother’s comments about working women while successfully raising two children.

Around 1970, the women’s liberation movement began to spread to Japan from the West. Being a fledgling writer back then, I came across several documents about the movement and found an unforgettable thesis, which stated that daughters who grow up feeling loved by their fathers tend to become more adaptable when they enter society as adults. Your stability now is the result of your father’s love.

Please don’t bring up the past to your mother. Do what you can without getting too emotional. I think it’s OK as long as you remember to be grateful to her for giving birth to you.

Keiko Higuchi, critic