Richard Kelley, MD

Dr. Kelley is a dad of an eight-year-old son, who’s been practicing medicine since 1993 and is the author of The Fitness Response: 21 Steps to ‘Model’ Your Way to a Fit, Fabulous Body, as well as The 3 Hour Appetite and The 3 Hour Appetite Companion Cookbook.

What was the biggest challenge you faced while your wife was pregnant, and how did you overcome it? The biggest challenge I think I faced while my wife was pregnant was making the decision to forgo amniocentesis in the second trimester. My wife and I were both 43 years old when she became pregnant with our son. There was some consideration about doing an amniocentesis because of her age, just to make sure everything was okay.

We decided that there was nothing that we were going to do differently, if say, an amniocentesis were to show a genetic abnormality. We felt lucky and blessed to be expecting a child and simply chose to have faith that he or she would be born healthy. The challenge for me, as a physician, was in making the decision not to rely on an invasive test, which held some risk, of the possibility of losing the pregnancy. Our son was a breach baby and we were informed that a small percentage of breach babies have some underlying abnormality, which is associated with the fact that they remain in the breach position throughout pregnancy. I’m glad we didn’t risk the procedure, even though it may have turned out fine. I can’t imagine not having my wonderful little boy, if anything were to have happened negatively.

What was the biggest challenge you faced as a dad, and how did you overcome it? My biggest challenge as a dad, seriously, is the realization that he is and will be looking to me to answer his questions and be an example of what it means to be a man. I don’t want to let him down in any way. However, I also know that I am human and have my own flaws, shortcomings, and insecurities. At his current age, I don’t think he perceives them, but in time he will realize that I’m not perfect. I just want to do the best job as a parent, so that he grows up healthy, mentally strong, and with the confidence to go into the world and be happy, successful, and productive. It’s a tall order and even more of a concern for me because he is my only child. I don’t want to not get it right.

What’s the most surprising lesson that being a dad has taught you? I had no idea how much I would grow to love this little boy, and, like I’m sure many fathers will say, he has taught me to be less selfish. My wife and I got married when we were both 38 years old, and I told her I didn’t think I wanted children. I just had so many personal plans and goals that I wanted to accomplish. I just couldn’t see where a child fit into my life. What a mistake that would have been. I can’t even remember what I thought was so important before our little boy came along. He is truly a gift from God.

What’s the one bit of advice about fatherhood you wish someone had given you much earlier? Start earlier and have more children. They really change everything in your life and add more to your life than you might ever believe possible.

What’s the one thing about being a new dad that shouldn’t be missed? There is something about holding your little boy or girl while they are dozing off to sleep that really makes you understand why we’re here. It is an opportunity to hold pure love in your hands and know that you have a purpose, another human being that loves you back, unconditionally, and is counting on you being there for them.

What’s the most overrated thing about fatherhood? I don’t think there is anything that is overrated. It’s all very special.

What’s the most underrated thing about fatherhood?

I think the realization that our children are only within our immediate influence for a very, very short period of time. We have a very short window of opportunity to show them they are loved unconditionally, as well as nurture them and teach them a value system, before they are out the door and on their own. Eight years have gone by in a flash for myself and my wife. I know the next ten years will go by just as fast, and he will be well on the road to a life of independence. You hear it all the time: “They grow up so fast.” Only a parent understands the reality of that statement.

Why are fathers important? I think of all of the insecurities I grew up with: Questions about whether I was good enough, smart enough, talented enough. What to do in this situation or that situation. We all need guidance for all kinds of things throughout our lives. We all have times when we are more vulnerable than other times. I think fathers are important because we represent strength, security, and something solid to hold onto. We are not perfect, but I think our role is to love and to instill discipline along with teaching our children that they can be free to dream and achieve amazing possibilities in this life. We are here to support their hopes and give birth to that spark inside them, that anything is possible and to inform them with our actions that they are good enough to achieve anything that they can dream.

Dr. Kelley’s Q&As

How can I help my children get their weight under control? All they eat is junk food!

My child is exhausted with so many activities, and  we are all worn out trying to keep up with it all! What should we do?

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