The Daily Juggle
The Daily Juggle
Why working mothers need signs that their child is happy
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Every year the local Council library runs an art competition for school students. Fifteen years ago the theme was Putting Yourself In The Picture and my then five-year-old won an award.
His teacher was undoubtedly as surprised as I was that his drawing had been chosen as a standout. My son's fine motor skills were not as developed as some of the other children in his class. His drawings were more stick-figure than expressive characters.
I took him along to the library for the award ceremony. One of the librarians asked me his name on arrival. Upon hearing it her face lit up. "Have you seen his drawing?" she asked excitedly. I indicated that I hadn't. "Come with me," she said, "I want to show you something".
The librarian led me to a part of the library where the entries were kept. She grabbed one of the piles and started flicking through them like a woman on a mission. "Here it is," she said, and held up a picture that can best be described as sunny.
It was my son's drawing and he had predictably drawn a stick figure image of himself with a round face, big blue eyes and great big smile. He had positioned himself in the middle of the picture with his arms wide open and a large rainbow behind him. It was the happiest picture you could ever hope to see. It was a long way from being the most artistic or stylish drawing but it was the sort of image that draws you in and puts a smile on your face. I was conscious that I was smiling.
"As soon as we saw it we just started smiling," she said. "We couldn't stop talking about it".
If you want to know if your child is truly happy, get them to draw a picture. Apparently it reveals a lot. And if my son's sunny drawing meant that he was a really happy child then there was one drawing in that lot that should have set alarm bells ringing. It was a drawing of a girl. Her arms were hanging by her side and her body was sort of hunched. The drawing was far more detailed than my son's stick man and it revealed a sad face. The colour scheme was black and grey.
My son was in kindergarten when his class entered this competition. It was my first year of serious working mother guilt as I was never home for him after school. The school day finishes so much earlier than daycare. His grandparents were with him but like many working mothers I assumed he couldn't be truly happy unless I was there for him.
I worried that my absence would impact him negatively. I had convinced myself he was unhappy and was starting to weigh up my options. So this award could not have been given to my son at a better time. In some small way it felt as though my decision to continue working full-time had been vindicated.
Do you worry that your child's happiness is at stake while you pursue your career?