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I’m A Doctor And I’m A Bad Parent

Oct 23, 2023

Growing up in a household with both of my parents as physicians, I compared my childhood with my friends’ upbringing. I remember that I wished my Mom would have more time at home. At the same time, I understood at a young age that working long hours was something she did to provide for the family, along with my father.

I remember times when most parents showed up for school plays and my Mom could not. I also remember the couple times that she made it to a school performance and I was so excited and proud. I always thought my parents were great parents (I still think so), yet I also started to tell myself that I would do my best to spend more time with my future children.

It was just a natural path for me to go into medicine. My parents enjoyed their work. They did not force me into this field. I think their example was enough for me to follow. I knew I would be working long hours.

Somehow I also believed that I could do it all. I believed I could be a superwoman. These ideas were engrained in my mind – probably gradually and over the years. All the “I should…”

“I should know it all.”

“I should be able to work the long hours AND attend all the school activities.”

“I should be able to drive and attend to the kids’ extracurricular activities.”

“I should be able to teach the kids well, such that they are the straight A students, they know their manners and they have the best values.”

“I should be saying things once and the kids will obey.”

There are many more “I should” sentences. Do you feel the same way?

If any of those sentences come out not to be true, I think I am a bad parent. Needless to say, since I have not been able to do all of the above all the time, I have told myself that I am a bad parent endless times.

“I am a bad parent” brings on immense guilt. It makes me feel like I should not be a parent at all. It becomes a belief that “I am a bad person”. I feel as if I cannot do anything right. This feels so real. Our mind likes to generalize things. Then I start to feel lost because I do not see a way to take out the “bad” in that sentence. I feel stuck, inadequate, not worthy to be a parent.

We are often our worst critic. Staying in the belief that “I am a bad parent” is not helpful at all, not to mention the unpleasant feeling of guilt, helplessness and frustration that comes along with that simple sentence. We have the ability to form powerful sentences in our mind. Sentences which affect how we feel and act.

The belief “I am a bad parent” stems from what is happening is not matching the preformed “I should” sentences. The next question is to ask if those “I should” concepts are the absolute prerequisite to be a good parent.

To define what a good parent is like, I think people may have many different ideas or concepts. In general, and I think many will agree, that a good parent is someone who loves their child, who does the best of their ability to care for the child, who strive for bringing the family the best things. A good parent is someone who brings the family love, joy and safety. I believe that you are a good parent if those are your goals. A good parent can look many different ways.

Instead of telling yourself you are a bad parent, what else can you say to your biggest critic – yourself? You are doing the best that you can. You are imperfect and that is okay.

Question your beliefs, especially when they are not serving you.

Be flexible – when you have a set notion of what a good parent should be like, be open to different versions of a good parent. Ultimately, you are the one and only person who decides if you are a good parent or not. Other people can have their opinions and that does not change who you are.

Control what you can control. If you think working long hours is the biggest obstacle for you to be a good parent, is it possible to cut down on the work hours? Is it possible to be more efficient at work? Do you have to think about changing your job?

Stop comparing. Every family’s situation is different. You only get to see part of the family dynamics of other people. Even for other physicians’ family, the circumstances are very different. The more you compare, the more you think “I should”.

Change your narrative. “I am doing the best that I can.” “I am not perfect and that’s ok.” Adopt a sentence that is more neutral or constructive. Be kind to yourself. Be loving to yourself. It is with this kind of narrative that you are open to different approaches to do things. Always question your thoughts especially when they are unpleasant and are not serving you.

Are you ready to stop feeling stressed and overwhelmed? Are you ready to have more time to do what you want?


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