The Yomiuri ShimbunDear Troubleshooter:
I’m a woman in my 40s who works at a medical facility. My younger child misses me after coming home from school when I’m still at work.
I started working when my younger child was a first-grader in elementary school. My child probably feels all the more lonely because I was always at home before.
These days, my child is going through a rebellious period. When I said: “You used to be very sweet. You’ve changed,” my child responded, “You’re the one who’s changed and doesn’t stay home.” Hearing this, I became very sad and cried.
I feel a strong sense of responsibility regarding my work, which involves patients’ lives. I’m very proud of my work, too. I enjoy my job so much that I want to continue working as long as I can.
At the same time, I have a lingering feeling of guilt about making my children feel lonely. To compensate, I try to do whatever I can for them when I’m home and attend their school events as frequently as possible. Why won’t my child understand my efforts? It’s so frustrating.
Am I a failed mother because I work?
Z, Saitama Prefecture
Dear Ms. Z:
The most difficult and painful thing for any working mother is when they are told by their children that they feel lonely. But I want you to have the strong will to keep working, for your own sake and also for your children’s sake.
You’re proud of your work and find it very fulfilling. You also try to do everything you can do for your children. You should keep your head high and keep smiling. Blaming yourself for being a failure as a mother just distresses you and makes you say things to your child that you shouldn’t such as, “You used to be sweet.”
How much time you share with your child is important, but it is more important to embrace your child’s heart with affection. Talk to your child as much as possible about the joy and significance of your work, and at the same time, keep conveying your love to your child. Give your child the delight of being loved by a mother through conversation.
If you leave your work, your child might feel guilty about making you sad and be distressed by the feeling after becoming an adult.
Children don’t remain little and need their parents’ protection forever. Yours will definitely start to support you in the not-so-distant future.
Masami Ohinata, professor