I Feel Ambivalent about My Mother, Who Never Showed Me Love in Childhood

The Japan News

Dear Troubleshooter:

I’m a self-employed woman in my 60s. I have three siblings: an older sister, older brother and younger brother. My farmer parents were busy and had a low income, and my mother was always in a bad mood.

My mother’s casual comments always made me feel that I was treated differently from my siblings. I don’t remember my mother ever being kind to me or celebrating my birthday.

In junior high and high school, I was told to help with the housework instead of studying, and I grew up with low self-esteem. Even after becoming an adult, it was obvious that I was treated differently compared to my siblings.

I married in my 20s and had three children. My in-laws were kind to me and always celebrated my birthday. I’m happy now.

During the coronavirus pandemic, my mother — aged over 90 — moved into a nursing facility. Recently, my sister and I have been able to visit her once a week. I’m struggling with the feelings of being fond of and wanting to see her, and hating and loathing her.

Thinking of my childhood, terrible thoughts enter my mind that I should have killed myself back then and upset my parents. I hate myself so much. How can I be at peace?

M, Saitama Prefecture

Dear Ms. M:

The toughest thing must be that you have no memory of being treated kindly. And you were treated differently from your siblings.

There is a state called ambivalence, in which love and hate coexist. You miss her when you are apart but start hating her when you get close.

It’s like a coin. Love on the front and hate on the back, and they are stuck together. It is impossible to peel them off and keep only one. That is why the feeling cannot be thrown away, but remains as a burden. This conflict, however, is human nature.

Your pain probably comes from the fact that you are only showing the front of the coin and hiding the back.

You asked for advice, and now is the perfect time to put your painful feelings into words. Is there anyone who will accept your feelings, which had driven you to the point of contemplating suicide to upset your parents?

How about your sister? Or your husband? I hope you will feel at ease by saying, “Could you listen to what I have to say?” and voicing the words you have been stifling. I hope you will be able to spend your time peacefully.

Tomomi Fujiwara, writer