Moshe Lewis MD, MPH

Dr. Lewis is a dad of a four-year-old son, a pain management specialist, and the director of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation at the California Pacific Medical Center, St Luke’s Campus, in San Francisco.

What was the biggest challenge you faced while your wife was pregnant, and how did you overcome it? The greatest challenge I faced while my wife was pregnant was the stress of worrying if I would make it to the delivery in time. My San Francisco practice was close to 50 miles from the hospital where my wife would be giving birth, and every time my Blackberry buzzed, I would reflexively spring to action expecting my wife to call saying the baby was half born. I learned to adjust to this by simply telling colleagues and patients that I wasn’t being rude when I kept staring at my Blackberry during their appointment, but that my wife and I were expecting any time.

What’s the most surprising thing being a dad has taught you? Living in the moment is the greatest challenge for a busy professional. As with all career-oriented people, every opportunity we have is a chance to further our careers. The chance to write a book, the networking meeting, time on the golf course, attending industry seminars and conferences allows us to move our status another notch up the ladder by meeting other influential people.

Being a dad means enjoying the simple moments with your child. It means participating in activities that don’t have another motive involved other than face-to-face time with my child. A play date is not a business opportunity to network nor should it be turned into one. I gain more satisfaction and true happiness out of stepping away from the computer and turning off the phone and playing one-on-one with my child. He still respects me and wants me involved in that process unconditionally. Networking and other similar business opportunities may or may not achieve such fulfillment.

What’s the one bit of advice about fatherhood you wish someone had given you much earlier? Everyone has advised me to savor each moment, as the time that your children are reverential and want you for one-on-one face time is limited. I do wish someone had told me how to get more hours and work into the day more efficiently as I continue to struggle with that one.

What’s the one thing about being a new dad that shouldn’t be missed? The delivery.

What’s the most underrated thing about fatherhood? How much happiness children bring all of us, including fathers. The pressures of life are intense: Being an adult, a father, and often the head of the household creates several challenges in all of our lives. We have our corporate or business responsibilities, we also need to rest, and there does not seem to be enough time to also take your kids to school, attend their activities, participate in their homework, get them ready for bed, and just to play with them.

However, the happiness and joy that children bring because they are so loving and innocent makes the impossible seem possible. Fatherhood is underrated because our society doesn’t really place much value on family time. This is because from a business perspective letting staff leave early to pick up their children, attend children-related events like sports or recitals, and the like does not benefit a company directly financially. Indirectly you might have a motivated and efficient worker, but when staff is not doing work and they’re on the clock, the business is not being productive.

Children don’t care or need to understand about deadlines, reports, and business productivity. They’re content with simple things, and they love being part of their parents’ lives. Thus I feel that the happiness they bring is underrated by dads because it has to be recognized and appreciated for its simple fulfillment of love. All of us want to be appreciated. Men seek that in objects, including awards, prestige, money, power, and accomplishments and in tangibles like houses, luxury items, and an attractive spouse. Children teach their fathers, who invest time in their lives, that happiness can be found in knowing that your child loves you and appreciates the time their father gives them. Happiness comes from seeing the new milestones first, hearing new vocabulary yourself, exploring the world together with your child, and teaching them how to fix something or how to fish.

There will always be another goal to accomplish in the world, a record to set or beat, a financial hurdle to surmount, another acquisition that can be made. However, time to really be happy with one’s children before they are independent and on their own is relatively fleeting but no less enjoyable. Hence, I look forward to the various weekend activities as my week is pretty busy. And, yet, I try to find one activity each day, if it is nothing more than getting ready for “tuck in services” where my son and I drown out all the world’s distractions and have our time together, as this makes me happy.

Why are fathers important? Children need both parents. Fathers can show, model, and teach a child a different, though not always the correct, approach. This provides balance and it also shows children that parents should stay together if at all possible. Relationships with children and spouses are hard. It isn’t always glorious and happy. Children need to see their fathers stay. They need to see arguments resolved. They need to see hardships overcome by both parents working together.

Children certainly need their mothers. The bond of love a mother has to a child is probably unequalled. Fathers likewise play a vital role in their kid’s life if they insist on being present and participating.

Career, marriage, kids … how does a guy stay sane? It feels impossible. My life seems schizophrenic from the outside. Many days I will travel more than a hundred miles just to tuck my child in for the night. Or I will not leave enough time to be at my first meeting of the day just to drop him off at school. Likewise, I will push deadlines back and turn down opportunities to be out networking just to spend time with my child.

On the other end, I often take him to events that might only have a handful of children present because they’re more for adults, ie a wedding. I tell everyone who asks that I always take invitations to such events seriously, but I must be able to bring my child.

In holding to that credo, I also try to take my son to all the birthday and play date events that he gets invited to, and I push my work to the side. It isn’t easy. I don’t expect an award. I often am functioning on pure reserve and not even half the sleep requirements I give to patients. Yet, every day that I make it through, I am thankful that my son is in my life and that I am in his. I was adopted and did not have my father in my life. By the time I tracked him down as an adult, he had just passed, which is actually how I found him, through an obituary.

Thus I have already been more involved and present in my son’s life than my father could be in mine. This gives me the motivation to press on and the warmth of my son’s love (at least till the teen years) as fuel.

Dr. Lewis’s Q&As

How do you talk with your child about drugs?

How do you talk to your child about death?

How do you prevent concussions in children, and what are the signs of a concussion?