I’m in My 90s and Suffering a Strained Relationship with My Daughter-in-Law

The Japan News

Dear Troubleshooter:

I’m a woman in my 90s. My son and his wife have been married for 30 years and built their house on our property about 20 years ago. But my relationship with her has been strained.

It seems she is still holding a grudge against me for not eating a meal she cooked not long after they were wed.

She visits her parents’ family grave site, but not the one for our family. Sometimes she stays at her parents’ house late into the night.

The other day, when I cautioned her about the way she disposes of the garbage, she said she didn’t care for my tone of voice and stormed off to her parents’ house.

Still, she sometimes picks up souvenirs for me or offers me home-cooked meals.

I feel very awkward because her mood and attitude fluctuate all the time.

I live modestly to leave my son as much of an inheritance as possible, but I’m not happy with the notion that my money will go to his wife if he dies.

Please tell me what kind of state of mind I should be in.

R, Tokyo

Dear Ms. R:

I’m humbled to be asked for advice by someone who is older than I am. Please forgive me, as I’m in the same generation, for not holding back when I speak.

First of all, you’re in a very fortunate position because you have your own home and your family is living by your side. You should be grateful to your husband and people in his circle.

Don’t force your daughter-in-law to visit your family’s grave site, but instead, tell her with a smile: “Visit me at my grave after I have died. I would love to see you.”

In verbal and emotional misunderstandings between a daughter-in-law and her mother-in-law, the one with better memory loses.

Your letter is beautifully written without a single slip-up. If I were to have a contest involving memory with you, I would surely lose. However, you won’t easily win in a fight with someone much younger.

You should waste no brainpower wondering who is right or wrong. You can just say, for instance, “Well, if a young person like you says so, maybe it’s true.”

As for your concern about the inheritance you want to leave to your beloved son, that is something he will have to ponder and decide himself, isn’t it?

For you, giving up is also a good idea. And don’t ever tell your son and his wife that you don’t need them to take care of you.

You cannot handle your affairs once you have died. Tell them from time to time, “Thank you. I need you.”

Keiko Higuchi, critic

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Dec. 30, 2022)