The Dad I Want To BeJun 14, 2022
If you have young children, you might be familiar with the cartoon series Bluey. For those unfamiliar, Bluey is a six-year-old Australian puppy full of curiosity and energy. In each episode, Bluey and her younger sister, Bingo, engage in imaginative play. I have endured many animated kid’s shows over the last ten years, but I actually enjoy watching Bluey with my children. It isn’t because I find the main character so riveting. Rather, I am completely in awe of Bluey’s father, Bandit. (Before sitting down to write this, I didn’t even know that he had a name.) When I think of Bandit Heeler, I think of an incredible dad. #dadgoals
Bandit Heeler is the perfect dad role model. He is attentive, patient, and quick to teach a powerful lesson in a way his children’s young, developing brains can understand. He also plays entertaining games with his kids. I am not ashamed to admit that I have stolen many of his ideas. My kids love Daddy Robot and think it is hilarious when I pretend to be a claw machine that is unable to hang onto their stuffed animal prize.
It turns out that Bandit Heeler works as an archaeologist digging up bones, yet he is almost always at home. He rarely needs to go to work. In the one episode when he does try to leave for work, he ends up playing with his children on the trampoline. Mom (Chilli Heeler) intervenes, and Bandit can finally head off to work, but not before having one final heart-to-heart with Bluey. He explains that he has a job to do, and so does she. Her job is to make up fun games. Bandit heads to work, and the kids head off to play fun games on the trampoline.
It probably doesn’t seem reasonable to compare yourself to a cartoon dad. Clearly, this isn’t reality. Bluey is a blue dog, for goodness sake. This is pretend. It is make-believe. And comparing myself to Bandit Heeler makes me feel terrible. I was always aware that other dads were doing a better job; I just didn’t realize an anthropomorphized dog could make me feel inferior. Theodore Roosevelt said it best, “Comparison is the thief of joy.”
As I sought out coaching, my role as a dad was one of my biggest concerns. I felt pulled in a million different directions. I have always been driven to work hard and be productive. Once I had the doctor thing sorted out, I began having marathon weightlifting sessions at the gym. I took French classes, poured myself into learning personal finance, and joined committees at the hospital. After having children, the other activities felt like they conflicted with my goal of being a great dad. In my mind, being the dad I wanted to be meant giving up on my mission and purpose so that I could play with my children full-time. I struggled with the internal tug-of-war between my desire to fulfill my purpose and my goal of being a great dad. It felt terrible.
Coaching revealed two issues with my internal conflict.
- Is it possible that this isn’t an either-or situation? Is it possible that I can fulfill my desire to do other things, work hard, be productive AND be a great dad?
- Is it helpful to compare myself to other dads?
The problem with comparison is that it is usually fueled by self-judgment.
- Why can’t I balance my life better?
- You should be better at prioritizing your life.
- You are not efficient with your time.
- You are not a good dad.
During an early coaching session on this issue, I was asked an important question: “Can you ever spend enough time with your children?” What is the ideal amount of time to spend with your children? Can you imagine a scenario when your young children might tell you they’ve spent enough time with you? (Keeping in mind we are speaking about young children, and I do not doubt that teenagers are a different beast altogether.) The answer, of course, is no.
Coach: Do your children love you?
Me: Of course.
Coach: Do they like spending time with you?
Coach: Are they excited to see you?
Me: For sure.
Coach: Is it possible that you are already a great dad?
Coach: Is it possible that even though you can’t spend every waking moment with your children, they love you and think you are great?
Me: Sure. Yeah. It is possible. And I kinda think they do.
Coach: So maybe the problem isn’t what your children think?
It turns out that I have a normal human brain that causes me all kinds of trouble My brain frequently offers unhelpful thoughts that do not serve me in any way, shape, or form. And it is my job not to allow my thoughts to run wild.
My motivation and drive did not decrease after finding coaching. In some ways, they grew. I can see so many possibilities for my life that did not previously exist. The difference is that now I spend more time trying to see how my drive and ability to produce will benefit my family in the long run. When I am out in the world creating and building a better life for myself and my family, I get to set an example of what is possible. I get to illustrate the power of dreaming, goal-setting, and perseverance to my children. I enable them to witness that life is full of endless possibilities.
The truth is, I am not the dad I want to be. I am not even close to the picturesque father figure that I created in my mind. I am not Bandit Heeler, and I probably never will be. And that is okay. I get to be me with all of my flaws and imperfections. Despite that, my children will love me. I don’t have to be a perfect dad to be a great dad that loves his children unconditionally. Every day, I learn a little more about myself and my children while making choices that get me closer to the dad I want to be. #dadgoals
Happy Father's Day to you and your family!
Do you have trouble balancing the roles in your life with your expectations? Do you find yourself making unhelpful comparisons to other people (or cartoon dogs)? Do you struggle to see that you might already be doing a fantastic job? Physician coaching might just help you find the balance and solutions you have been searching for.
I want to invite you to check out my FREE Guide. Click here to get: Design Your Life: A Goal-Setting Guide For Physicians.
This guide will help you discover what you truly want in life and how to get it!
PS - In case you need an introduction to Bluey and her family, here you go:
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