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          Parenting and Self-Fulfillment

          October 29, 2002

          Heather, 31, is a divorced mother who feels like life is passing her by in the small town where she’s raising her 5-year-old son Austin.

          “I’m just not happy. I feel like there’s just not the opportunity here for me as a single professional person,” she says. “Dr. Phil, I’m ready to go and tackle the world. But I have a son and I am obligated to him. How do I achieve self-fulfillment and be a good parent at the same time?

          Dr. Phil, who gets questions along these lines from single mothers all the time, offers this advice:

          • Ask yourself: Do you believe there is an authentic self within every person? Do you believe that if you’re living consistently with that authentic self that you’ll be happy? Do you think that has anything to do with geography? In order for you to be who you are, do you really need to be somewhere else?
          • Is it really fair for you to take Austin away from all the people who love both of you — and the people he loves — in order for you to live life on the coast?
          • You can’t change what you’re doing. You’re Austin’s mom and you don’t want that any other way. Instead, you have to change how you’re doing it. If you tore him from your life, and replaced him with a home on the beach and a great career, you wouldn’t be making progress. You’d just change where the hole in yourself lives.
          • This is not an either/or situation. Come up with a plan that gives you the best of both. Give yourself permission to not stay landlocked in your small town for the rest of your life, and to do what you want to do. Acknowledge that you do not always have to make everyone else happy, and that you need to take care of yourself because you can’t give away what you don’t have. But find a way to do that while minimizing collateral damage. You can make a decisive move, not get everything you want, and not feel as though you’ve been cheated. Compromise.

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