Carson D. Liu, MD

Dr. Liu is a dad of nine- and five-year-old daughters and  the founder of SkyLex Advanced Surgical, Incorporated, a bariatric surgery clinic in California. He named his practice after his two daughters.

What was the biggest challenge you faced while your wife was pregnant and/or as a dad, and how did you overcome it? The biggest challenge is coming to the realization that you are about to raise a family. It makes you take a step back and re-evaluate your goals in life. This was the time when I left a salaried position and went into private practice to have more time to spend with my family. It was also around the time after my mother had passed away, and it made me really take a look back and see if I wanted to stay at UCLA as a faculty member where it is a salaried position with long hours. It was a decision that I have never regretted, and it allowed me to spend more time with my family.

Reflection is something that I recommend for everyone to do every 5 to 10 years and look back at their life and see if it is going where they have intended. Think back to when you were as a kid, and see if your life is headed in the right direction. It is never too late to change directions.

What’s the most surprising lesson that being a dad has taught you? Being a dad in this generation is quite different from my father’s generation. Dads are much more involved with school activities, changing diapers, and sharing the sleepless nights feeding our adorable babies. One of the things that surprised me is the amount of work involved in raising a child. I don’t know how single parents do it! It is a team effort, and it will never be fair for the mother. Somehow mothers end up being the default person for every child. Being a mother has to be one of the toughest jobs in the world, and NO ONE is complaining. It makes me appreciate what my wife does for our wonderful daughters on a day-to-day basis. It also makes me appreciate what my mother and grandmother did for me when I was a baby. My grandmother really helped out my mother when my brother and I were growing up. We never realized how grateful I was, and I never had a chance to give thanks to my mother or my grandmother before they passed away. So the lesson is to appreciate your parents, but especially your mother (and grandmother) if they are around now.

What’s the one bit of advice about fatherhood you wish someone had given you much earlier? Believe it or not, it’s butt spray. I recommend it to every expecting mom and dad. I could not stand spreading diaper rash paste on the bottoms of our girls during diaper changes because you would get your hands dirty. You can’t let go of your baby to wash your hands. There is a butt spray called Happy Bottoms. It has the same ingredients, but you just spray it on the bottoms of your little ones.

On the serious side, kids are very resilient. As new parents, we were totally clueless on our first girl, and I mellowed out by our second girl. My advice is to take it easy on the little things, safety is important and don’t take your eyes off of your baby or toddler, but pace yourself on the fire retardant pajamas, the matching hats, or figuring out the best stroller available out there.

What’s the one thing about being a new dad that shouldn’t be missed? The amazing transformation of your children throughout the years is the one thing that should not be missed. Child development is amazing, and it is fascinating to see that children are born with personalities. It’s definitely not learned. My two girls have very different personalities, and this came out quite early on.

What’s the most overrated thing about fatherhood? Being in the operating room during a C-section is overrated. I believe most fathers should stay behind the ether drape, and if you are afraid of blood, notify the OB doc before they make you cut the umbilical cord! I can see the purpose of passing out cigars in the waiting rooms in the past. I happened to film the delivery of my first daughter, which turned out to be a C-section. I have never shown anyone the footage, including my wife who is afraid of seeing bloody things.

What’s the most underrated thing about fatherhood?

Helping your wife out with the dishes, clothes, or ordering a dinner. These little daily tasks will decompress your wife’s work load, and allow you not to take your wife for granted. An occasional appreciation note or flowers will also remind your wife that she is special as most of our attention is focused on our kids. The amount of work involved with two children was dramatically more than a single child. It is very easy to forget your partner as we get so involved with the kids. Remember, being a mother is a 24 hour, 7 day-a-week job, and anything a father can do, and I mean anything, will decompress the mother, who is juggling everything while we escape to work.

Why are fathers important? Fathers are important because your children will see what it is like to have two parents caring for their child. The modern family can be in any form. Ours is very traditional. For my two daughters, they will end up seeking partners in the future either like me or completely opposite of me. I’m excited to see what type of people they end up being attracted to in the future — whenever I ever let my daughters date. When is that now, 21 years old?

Career, marriage, kids … how does a guy stay sane? Staying sane is easy if you keep in perspective that all of this is temporary. You have a good 18 years to raise each child. My oldest will be turning 10 years old in a few months! Time is flying, and adolescence is around the corner. Always work on your marriage, and don’t take anything for granted. The kids will always love you, but they won’t appreciate us until they have their own kids. I see it as paying it forward to the next generation. My parents did it and never asked for a thanks. I don’t expect it either, but I am enjoying every day of it. The career is the easiest. You can change your career, as I did by leaving an academic faculty job, which allowed me more time and finances to spend on my family.

Dr. Liu’s Q&As

How do you balance work and family?

How do you keep your marriage strong?

Profile by Wyatt Myers