My mother’s Constant Comparisons Keep Me Down

Dear Troubleshooter:

I’m a homemaker in my 30s and happily live with my husband and 9-year-old son. However, I find it difficult to deal with my mother, who has high standards and likes to compare me to others.

Even when I see her for the first time in a while, she says such things as: “My friend’s daughter is the same age as you and she’s a full-time employee. She raises her children and gets parental leave money. She’s blessed with four children.”

My mother then tells me: “You’re an unemployed homemaker. You’ve had only one child so far. Even if you get pregnant again, you won’t get any benefits since you’re a homemaker. In the eyes of society, you’re useless.”

Ever since I was young, my mother would always compare me with someone else and point me in the direction she wanted me to go. She’s apparently dissatisfied that I’m not more like her friend’s daughter.

I’m raising my son with a lot of love and care. I’m sad because I feel like I’m being told that being a homemaker and having only one child is considered a failure in society. I don’t want to see my mother.

— Q, Chiba Prefecture

Dear Ms. Q:

I think a mother who cannot find anything positive about her daughter is a sad person. You are already an adult who has built a happy home with your family. Isn’t that more than enough?

You should prioritize your family ahead of anyone else. Making financial plans and deciding whether you should go to work is something for you and your husband to decide, not your mother. How about just ignoring your mother’s opinions?

However, there is one thing that you might want to consider. When you are truly satisfied with your life and have high self-esteem, it will not bother you when those around you make comparisons.

If you get your sense of self-worth from your mother and think that those who “only have one child, don’t work and don’t get benefits” are losers, then your mother’s words will bother you, leading you to feel like you’re a failure. So, it is vital that you firmly develop your own values that are separate from your mother’s.

Moreover, if you feel that you need to work to help your family financially in case something happens to your husband, how about you start studying now? If you do so, maybe you’ll become more satisfied with yourself.

— Junko Umihara, psychiatrist