I’m a Mother Who Always Feels Inadequate and Blames Myself for Everything

Dear Troubleshooter:

I’m a homemaker in my 40s. Recently, I have begun having symptoms like menopause. I feel uncontrollably frustrated, or I feel like disappearing.

When my son, who is a junior high school student, performs poorly at school, I feel despondent and wonder whether I’m at fault with the way I have cared for him, and I end up blaming myself.

Since I’m a full-time homemaker, sometimes I’m told by others that I’m fortunate for not having to work. But there are times when I feel isolated from society and am tempted to disappear.

I’ve read that child-rearing is the world’s most valuable job, albeit without pay, and I have tried to approve of myself. But when I make even a minor mistake, I feel miserable.

My ideal is a mother who is always genial and smiling. I cannot help comparing myself with others, wondering why I cannot do everything perfectly even though mothers around me all do a good job with both work and house chores.

What should I do to spend my days with peace of mind?

— D, Saitama Prefecture

Dear Ms. D:

I, too, think it would be really nice if I were able to become a person who is always genial and smiling. However, things often don’t go my way.

When I make a small mistake at work, it eats at me and I feel down. Or, my wife makes some casual remark that irks me and we end up quarreling.

But that is the way with us human beings. Humans aren’t robots, so we aren’t good at doing our tasks perfectly and systematically.

You said that you suspect you may be having some physical problems that are being caused by menopause. Like you, other people also sometimes feel frustrated by health issues. First, why not try accepting yourself for not being perfect?

Humans also have the unique ability to make the most of failure. Even children cannot feel at ease if they are with their mother who does everything perfectly and is always smiling. Children feel more comfortable and are able to be themselves when they see a mother who is able to accept her imperfections.

I think you are a very kind person. That’s why you feel frustrated with yourself when you cannot do things well enough. Please apply that kindness to yourself, too, and try to add into your life things you can enjoy and to feel relaxed, even if just a little.

— Yutaka Ono, psychiatrist