It was a Sunday, but unlike many lazy Sunday mornings, the breakfast table was already set by 7 am, and the couple was dressed to the prim. “Shouldn’t we wake him up,” her husband asked, looking at their ten-year-old son, who had fallen asleep on the couch. It was as if they had forgotten that he too needs to come with them to school that day, although it was his open house. Annoyed at her son’s nonchalance, she hurriedly woke him up and ordered him to get ready in the next five minutes. “This happens all the time. He’s not a child anymore. Couldn’t he have managed to get ready on time for his own open house? Is that too much to ask?”, she complained to her husband, with a sense of exasperation. “We are not late. The Open House begins at 10 am, and the school is at a half an hour distance from our place. Why are you so hyper today?”, her husband asked, without expecting any reply as such, and continued ruffling through the morning newspaper.
He wasn’t wrong in assessing her emotional state but couldn’t understand her reasons. She was indeed hyper. It had been six months since she went back to a corporate career post her break. She had been a marketing professional for a decade and decided to pause after her son was born. It was only a year ago that she chose her family doesn’t need her to be around all day, and she can now prioritize her career. Albeit complete support from her family and friends, the transition had not been easy for her. A small dip in her son’s exam scores, her husband running a slight fever, a negligible delay in serving food, etc would make her feel overwhelmed with guilt. The anticipation of what her son’s teachers would have to say about any possible change in his behavior in school owing to her going back to work had kept her up all night. ‘How has he scored this time? Could he have taken up more extracurricular activities had I been home? Is he showing any emotional disturbances at school because I am no longer there for him during the day? Is he misusing his freedom?’ were the nagging questions that were responsible for what her husband rightly pointed out-her being hyper on that day.
As she kept mulling over these thoughts, her son stood beside her ready to go. The drive down to school was tense yet silent. All knew she was anxious, but none had the slightest clue as to why she was feeling like that.
Many parents greeted the family, few congratulating her on her new job, some wondering why she wasn’t to be seen around much these days, and some enquiring about the upcoming school activities, etc. As they entered the classroom, her son’s teacher greeted them and handed out the report card. “His scores are pretty good. He is a good kid. Nothing to worry about” the teacher told her and then turned to her son and said encouragingly “You can do much better though. It would be best if you still worked on Maths. Practice, practice and more practice.” The mother in her couldn’t wait to respond and said, “As you know ma’am, I have started working again. I have not been able to focus much on him these days. Probably that’s why..” she trailed off.
Before she could go down the guilt trip, the teacher cut her short and said, “Ma’am, first, congratulations on the new job. Now could you do me a favor and read out the name on the progress card? Can you tell me who that is?” Perplexed, she said’ “That’s my son’s progress card.” “Are you sure?”, the teacher asked with a hint of sarcasm. “Yes,” she replied. “Then don’t make it a mark of your progress. He can and will take responsibility for himself, only if you let him” the teacher said.
The incident left a significant impact on her. Each time she had to make difficult choices with regards to her family and career, she kept reminding herself, that she is an individual, just as her son is.