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Doctor Led by Example When Raising Children


For high-income households, the cost to raise a child to age 18 can exceed $400,000, but money is not the only thing involved in being a parent.

“Example is not the main thing in influencing others — it's the only thing.”

— Albert Schweitzer, MD

For high-income households (sorry, that’s mostly you docs), the cost to raise a child to age 18 can exceed $400,000, according to the US Department of Agriculture’s most recent Cost of Raising a Child report.

My doctor dad sired and raised 8 children. As a father of only 2, I don’t know how he did it. Forget about being a physician, providing for 8 kids is hard, costly work in itself. In the end, I guess love gets you through. Although being a doctor certainly helped to pay for it all.

As for the actual fathering, he was a guy who taught by example. Dad never really sat me down and said “do it this way” or “do it that way,” or “say this” or “say that.” He wasn’t that kind of father and, besides, he was too busy. So I had to be a good watcher. I think I was. I suppose it’s why I’m a journalist.

Here a just a few of the things I “observed” through my father’s example:

Dress for success

Dad was a suit and tie guy — always. And not just at the office or hospital. I remember he’d take me to New York Giants football games still wearing the suit from his Sunday morning rounds.

Dad thought it essential that his patients see him in a presentable and professional manner. It helped that my mom had a superb sense of style, so he always looked good.

Show up for work

My father seldom took sick or personal days. And doctors’ days mostly begin early. I can tell you from experience — he put in long hours. Plus, every patient knows that waiting for a doctor comes with the territory. I know my father made an extra effort to consider the patient’s time too.

Eat 3 square meals

My father was a very regimented breakfast-lunch-and-dinner guy, and he ate at the traditional times too. He didn’t nibble or eat between meals. It was a food consumption plan he kept throughout a largely healthy life. Granted, he had a wife who dutifully waited on him…

Exercise regularly

He was a sailor, golfer, horseback rider, swimmer, and world traveler. The man was always on the go. Obviously, his career as a medical professional kept him on the move, but he liked to be active anyway.

Another good example dad set was his gift for friendship. So he had good company during his leisure activities.

Get an education

Dad’s parents never went to college, but they were smart and saw to it that he went and continued on to medical school. Although none of his children became a doctor, my father was a vigorous proponent of education.

“No one can take that away from you,” he would say.

And he even inspired a grandson into becoming a physician — my nephew, Andrew L. Kelly, MD.

Books are your friends

I grew up in a house of books. Reading was something everyone in my family considers, then and now, as being a complete joy; never a burden. I never saw my parents happier then when they were reading together. And dad claimed that reading helps with vocabulary — so all his kids are pretty good talkers, too.

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