My Family Only Ever Relies on Me, Even Though I Live far away

The Japan News

Dear Troubleshooter:

I’m a self-employed woman in my 50s. I’m concerned because my parents have treated me and my younger brother so differently.

My mother, who died four years ago, used to talk to me about problems among our relatives. But she usually didn’t do so with my brother, saying she didn’t want to “worry” him. My father, who now lives alone, often relies on me instead of my brother, even though I live far away and he lives in the same apartment.

Even when I tell him to ask for my brother’s help with urgent matters, he seems to be hesitant, saying my brother seems too busy.

Recently, my uncle and his wife have regularly asked me to accompany them to the hospital. My father, who is my uncle’s older brother, hasn’t told my brother about how I am helping.

I’m glad that they depend on me, and I want to do everything I can to help. But I’m busy too, as I have my own job.

I feel ashamed, and I may sound like a selfish little child, but please tell me how I should feel.

K, Tokyo

Dear Ms. K:

They say that serving and supporting others brings more joy and fulfillment than receiving support. The importance of unselfish love and devotion is also often praised.

However, I don’t necessarily support such ideas unconditionally. You have done and are doing everything you can for your parents and relatives, but you feel that you are being treated unfairly. I don’t think such a feeling is something to be blamed for but is a natural reaction.

Normal human relationships are mutually beneficial. If only one person is forced to make sacrifices or endure hardships, it doesn’t hold water. The joy of those who serve is only possible with the joy and gratitude of those who receive it.

I think your parents and relatives ask you to do things because you’re kind and easy to rely on. However, I’m concerned that they seem to take you for granted.

If it’s because of a deep-rooted gender bias that thinks women should be responsible for the housework and taking care of the family, such a mindset should not be allowed to continue. Your brother should also do what he can.

I think it would be fine for you to do what you can when you have time. But if it’s difficult for you to do so because of your work, you should clearly tell them and stay put.

I think it’s also important to first remind yourself that you’re not treating them coldly.

Masami Ohinata, university president