The Yomiuri ShimbunDear Troubleshooter:
I’m a female company employee in my 40s. I’m worried about the behavior of my mother-in-law, who lives with us in a two-household house.
She is almost 80. Her husband died 25 years ago. She has lived on the first floor of our house for the last 15 years.
She uses her toilet with its door wide open, probably because she had lived alone for a long time. However, when my sons or I go downstairs and come across this kind of situation, we feel very bad.
In her kitchen, she uses the same kitchen cloth for cleaning the dining table and drying dishes. I’ve warned her not to do so several times, but she won’t listen to me.
And in the daytime, she usually takes a nap without properly cleaning her space. I tell myself I should overlook it as she’s so old and it can’t be helped.
People tell me she is better than an overly meticulous mother-in-law who could reproach me for this and that. However, my own mother was tidy and hard-working, so I can’t stand my mother-in-law.
As I work outside on weekdays, I’ve made efforts not to be bothered by her lifestyle. Should I just endure living this stressful life?
E, Saitama Prefecture
Dear Ms. E:
As you and your mother-in-law live in a two-household house, you can use different areas without interfering each other, can’t you?
There is a saying — good manners are important even between good friends or family members. Some elderly people say they are scared of closing the door when using the toilet. Your family and your mother-in-law use different toilets, don’t you? When you enter her area, why don’t you be more considerate by saying, “Hi, mother,” to notify her in advance? Tell your sons to do the same thing. Imagine, how does a person who is in the toilet in his or her own living space feel when somebody comes into that space without notice? You should consider her feelings.
Also, it’s more important for you to tell her good ways of doing household chores as suggestions, rather than warning her that her way is dirty.
You said you aren’t happy your mother-in-law takes a nap without properly cleaning her space, but you’ve managed to overlook it. It’s easy for elderly people to get tired. She is almost 80, so she may need somebody to help her do household chores. Why don’t you apply for the nursing care insurance system for her to obtain assistance?
We all want to live freely in our own home. I think your mother-in-law has the right to do so, as you do. Why don’t you see this matter from her viewpoint? If you do so, you will probably see this matter quite differently.
Megumi Hisada, writer