Why a Doctor?

When you were younger, or maybe even now as you’re reading this, there is most likely that one family member who asked: “what do you want to be when you grow up?”  We are all at the crucial time in our lives to start thinking and planning for our future. You probably had thought about your future and had jotted it down in your mind a few ideas around the professions that you want to pursue. However, those thoughts were all wiped out from your mind as soon as your parents suggested what they wanted you to become. “Be a doctor!” This one phrase coming from either of your parents, and especially if coming from an Asian family, involves much more complexities regarding the authoritarian relationship that exists between parent and child. “Many [children] are raised to believe that medicine is the only respectable profession for a [person in today’s society]”, but why this profession? Is it because of prestige, pride, or because not everyone can become a doctor, that it becomes the ultimate goal parents set out for their child? There are flaws in such beliefs from parents and the consequences of every parent’s choice could be a child that is heavily stressed to a point of mental exhaustion. 

The relationship between parent and child is a simple one to understand.  Parents care for their children and children are nurtured to listen and obey in return. The bond is most secured with love and trust. But parents also carry their authoritarian ways upon their children. “Do what I tell you to do”, “I am your parent, I know what is best for you”; “If you don’t listen, I will disown your forever”. These are the common authoritarianistic phrases coming from parents, especially many of those from the Asian culture. But selfishly, what is not given any thought to are the pressures that creep up, day by day, semester of good grades after semesters of good grades. This ultimately causes the child to respond in a fight or flight way. Fight is to talk back to their parents, all of which will cause the parent-child relationship to break down and their bond  shattered. Flight is for the child to shut-down and submissively obey and quietly do as they are told. But deep down, the mental anguish could be damaging to the child. Major mental problems for the child such as burnout, chronic stress, or even depression are the results of their parent’s pressuring ways.  These children are “moved not so much by any sense of [desire] but by a sense of responsibility toward [their parents]”, with the fear of disappointment weighing heavily on their shoulders. These students push themselves to their limits only to be reprimanded when they bring an unsavory grade back. They’re always told that it’s for their own good or that it’s going to pay off when in reality that’s not a guarantee. 

There are plenty of other fields of occupation that the child might have more interest in, and despite having a completely different requirement of education, can offer a hefty salary while potentially allowing people to pursue their dreams. Poet Marge Piercy said in “A Work of Artifice”, “But a gardener carefully pruned it. It is nine inches high. Every day as he whittles back the branches” A parent could easily be seen as a gardener carefully pruning their child’s life, snipping away unneeded branches that are unsavory to the gardener. Having lived their own respective lives, they’ve amassed experiences that younglings couldn’t begin to understand, despite thinking they’re on top of the world. “Finances are an issue in most households” and the world, especially America, revolves around the financial system that is in place. Simple things such as getting healthcare or being housed in America relies on how much money you make and only those who make over a certain threshold of money will live a “good” life.

The medical occupations are known for many things, but what parents seem to focus on is the salary that a doctor is guaranteed to make. “Be a doctor and you will be financially secured for the rest of your life” is often the financial reason for parents to encourage their child in pursuing such a profession. They always say “[I do this] because of my love for you” and more times than not, it’s true because all the stress and debt that their child will go through could very easily not affect the parent when it’s all done. If the child listened, all that’s left 15 years later is the (now) adult’s proficiency in a field that pays extremely well and offers amazing benefits, ultimately having all that stress in their childhood pay off. 

As evidenced, not everyone wants to pursue a career in medicine. Maybe they have an interest in acting or being an entrepreneur.  It’s doubtful that parents will listen to their children if all they say is “I don’t want to be a doctor, I want to be a comedian.” because parents are scared for their children’s future and want the financial security that comes with being a doctor for their children.  Children, especially those with Asian parents, will have to develop creative education materials about the pros and cons of being a doctor compared to other professions to politely combat the authoritarian nature of their parent’s mentality.  A lot of persuasion about financial securities of what other professions, besides being a doctor, could bring will hopefully convince their parents that it is not necessary to be a doctor to reach pinnacle success in life.   A spreadsheet or infographic, similar to this one,  of how much the job makes, how to get to the jobs, good colleges for those specific jobs, and other useful information shows maturity and shows that they are ready for the real world. At the end, children are faced with enormous pressures to fulfilling the expectations of their parents, but it is hoped that parents would listen, for once, to their children’s desires. 

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