Looking after My 90-year-old Mother Takes up All of My Time

The Japan News

Dear Troubleshooter:

I’m a female company employee in my 60s. I got divorced about 15 years ago, and my two children are financially independent. I currently live with my 90-year-old mother, and my younger sister lives 15 minutes away by car. My sister takes my mother grocery shopping as well as to the hospital.

I have a partner who lives about 600 kilometers away. Our hobby is hiking and we go on trips every month, but because I have to juggle my work and prepare meals for my mother, I’m always having to rush to meet my partner. I feel worn out.

I’ve promised him we’ll live together when my mother passes on, but as she’s quite healthy, the promise is unlikely to come true in the near future. With my mother taking up so much of my time, I don’t want to continue living like this as I’m getting older. I just want some peace in my daily life.

Is it wrong for me to leave my mother and start living with my partner? Do adults who live with their parents have to take care of them until the end of their lives? I feel sad thinking about how long my life is going to continue like this.

V, Saitama Prefecture

Dear Ms. V:

Despite your age, you are in a loving relationship with your partner. I envy you. I can understand the guilt you feel thinking about leaving your mother and being happy. That’s probably why you can’t help but imagine what it’d be like if your mother were not around.

Does your mother know you are seeing someone? If not, she might be very surprised to find out. Please tell her that you have a partner and that you and your partner want to live together.

Then speak to your sister and others about what kind of care your mother will need in the future.

Many people aged 75 and older live alone using nursing care services. Depending on your family’s financial situation, you could also start considering sending your mother to an elderly care home.

Regarding the support you’ve given to your mother so far, I think you’ve done more than enough. I believe that a parent’s greatest wish is for their children to be happy. It’s not as if you’re cutting off ties.

Even if you live apart, I think you can still support your mother to some extent. I wish you the best of luck.

Masahiro Yamada, university professor