I Feel Resentment Toward My son’s Wife for Going Abroad on a Working Holiday

Dear Troubleshooter:

I’m a female contract worker in my 60s. My son and his wife are in their early 30s, and they got married two years ago. She is going abroad this summer on a working holiday. She wanted to do so before getting married, but said it didn’t happen because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

My son is gentle and cannot argue with his wife, who won’t take no for an answer, and her parents are not opposed to her plan to go overseas. She studied abroad when she was in college and now works as a flight attendant on international flights, so she speaks English.

She will quit her job to take part in the working holiday program. While she is away, my son will move to a place where the rent is lower. I think it is a waste of time and money, and my son will be the one to suffer. But his selfish wife makes no apologies, and I have begun to feel resentment toward her.

My relatives and friends are also disgusted by her behavior. If she is going to do whatever she wants, she should get a divorce first. I don’t think it is the wife’s role to stay home and raise children, but I want my son and his wife to help each other as a married couple.

— J, Tokyo

Dear Ms. J:

You and I are in the first generation of the Equal Employment Opportunity Law. We were hired by companies without gender distinction and are now about to reach retirement age. In spite of many difficulties, the way women work has changed over the years.

Despite coming from such a background, you’re complaining that your son’s wife doesn’t offer an apology and that she should get a divorce first if she is going to do whatever she wants.

You criticize her and even harbor hatred for her, saying that she is hard-headed and enlisting allies as you call her a selfish daughter-in-law. I assume there may be more reasons for this than just feeling sorry for your son. Am I right?

How we work is how we live. For her, who developed an international mindset early on, learning while working abroad must be as natural as breathing. There is an age limit for the working holiday program, so she would like to go as soon as possible. Your son married her because he understood who she is. Can’t you think of the various costs as necessary expenses and an investment in their future? Even if a problem arises, it’s their job to solve it as a couple. As you are not helping them financially, you have no right to meddle in their affairs.

In the eyes of those of us who struggled during the transitional period, they seem enviably free. But that simply reflects how times have changed. This spring, a former flight attendant became the president of a Japanese airline company. We should not turn the clock back.

— Hazuki Saisho, writer