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I envy my son and his wife’s child-rearing environment

The Yomiuri ShimbunDear Troubleshooter:

I’m a housewife in my 50s. I often find myself comparing my life to that of my eldest son and his wife, who are in their 30s.

My son married two years ago and started living at a place about a 10-minute walk from his wife’s parents’ home. She gave birth to a baby boy this summer. She stayed at her parents’ home for two months to rest after giving birth and get some help taking care of her baby. She is currently on child care leave from work, and plans to return to work with support from a nursery school and her parents.

In my time, I couldn’t depend on my parents — I had no choice but to rely on my husband’s parents when I gave birth to my son and daughter. I raised my two children with just my husband.

I had a job before I had my son, but he often got sick so I couldn’t leave him at a nursery school. I was forced to quit working.

My son and his wife often depend on her parents for this and that. Whenever I see that, it makes me compare my life with theirs and I feel frustrated. When I talked to my husband about it, he scolded me and said a grown-up shouldn’t think like that.

How should I come to terms with this? Please give me some advice.

E, Chiba Prefecture

Dear Ms. E:

Your eldest son’s wife is doing great raising her baby with help from her parents, and it seems she can soon return to work. There should be nothing for you to be frustrated about.

Yet you’re somehow feeling dissatisfied. Unlike young parents today, you didn’t get any help from your parents. You also couldn’t return to work. That’s probably why you’re comparing your son and his wife’s situation to your own experiences, ending up with you feeling upset.

It seems you can’t break free of traditional family-centered values, but stop and take a minute. You were an alien to your current “family” when you married.

The happier other people look, the unhappier you feel: This is called jealousy. You might not realize it, but you’re jealous of your son and his wife.

Only being able to measure your happiness and unhappiness in relation to others is tragic. Your son and his wife live quite well. You aren’t especially dissatisfied with your current life, so things should be sufficiently satisfactory for you, yet you feel disturbed by comparing their present to your past.

Try not to let it bother you anymore, once and for all. You’re an individual first and foremost, which comes before being a person that belongs to a family.

Kiyokazu Washida, philosopher

(from Nov. 2, 2015, issue)Speech

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