Anthony Fauci on missing his kids’ childhoods: ‘I am sorry & sad, but I don’t regret’

In the past three years, Dr. Anthony Fauci has become a rock star. Fauci heads the NIAID, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, and he became the trusted face of the Covid pandemic in America. Fauci agreed to sit for a lengthy profile in the Washington Post, talking about his life, his family, how the AIDS crisis shaped him, his relationships with presidents and more. I didn’t realize that Fauci is the highest-paid government official. He makes $480,654 a year. The reason he makes so much is because he’s worked for the government for so long and he never left to move into the private sector, where he could make millions or billions. He’s lived in the same house since 1977, he has a wife and three daughters and he swears up and down that Covid is his last pandemic. Some highlights from this extraordinary piece:

Why he never left NIAID for the private sector: “I pride myself in having been — with all due modesty — a fantastically good clinician,” Fauci says of his early-career internship and residency days. “My responsibility would be to the patient, and I would take care of them throughout the night. But when you were off, you knew that somebody [else] was taking care of them. I could compartmentalize. I would go to the Caribbean and snorkel and scuba dive.”

Why he chose the field of infectious disease. “It’s dangerous. I look upon a pathogen, a virus, as an enemy.”

He was one of the first people to understand what AIDS would become: “I was prescient enough to realize that it wasn’t going to just go away. I said: I’m an infectious-disease doc. I’m an immunologist. … It’s killing young gay men. It’s almost certainly sexually transmitted. And sexually transmitted disease is going to spread globally, because if there’s anything that’s universal, it’s sex. … If ever there was a disease that was made for me, it was this new disease.”

He’s still traumatized by the people lost to AIDS:
Fauci went from curing nearly all his pre-HIV cases to, he says, a situation where “you developed relationships with your patients … but almost all of them ultimately die.” It was unendurable to emotionally process that much loss. “In order to be able to live through that, you’ve got to do a lot of suppression,” Fauci says of his preferred coping mechanism. “You can’t mourn every patient, or you spend your entire life mourning. But when you suppress everything, years later when somebody asks you to describe what you were doing, all of a sudden, it’s like you almost can’t even speak about it.” Fauci says he believes he has post-traumatic stress disorder from this experience, though he has never sought therapy. (“I’ve discussed it a lot with my wife, who’s the world’s greatest therapist,” he says.)

He fired people over their attitudes towards AIDS: “I had to get rid of some of my own people,” he says of NIAID employees who thought their process shouldn’t be influenced by nonscientists who had the disease they were fighting. “I didn’t fire them in the street, because you can’t do that in the government. But I made it very clear that I don’t want to work with you anymore.”

He missed a lot of his daughters’ childhoods: “I am sorry and sad, but I don’t regret,” he explains. Of his daughters’ athletic events, he says: “I tried as best as I could. … I didn’t miss them all. I went to a few of them. But I would’ve liked to have done what Chris did. Chris missed none of them. She sacrificed career opportunities literally every month for years because she wanted to make sure that she was there with the kids.” Grady has since become renowned in her field and leads the Department of Bioethics at NIH. Their oldest daughter, Jenny, is a clinical psychologist at Cambridge Medical Group who works with adolescent girls suffering from abuse-related mental distress; their youngest, Alison, worked at Twitter before spending time as an EMT. Their middle daughter, Megan, teaches third-grade math and science at an inner-city charter school in New Orleans and got married the weekend after Fauci and I met in D.C.; her father attended remotely, via FaceTime, because of his covid infection.

He would do the same thing all over again: “I would do it over again,” he says, of being less-than-present for his family, “because I was doing things that are really important. When they were growing up was right in the early, challenging years of HIV, when we didn’t know what the virus was. And then we wound up with pandemic flu, and the anthrax attacks, and Ebola. It was constantly one time-consuming challenge after the other.”

He hated Trump: “I kept on pushing back. ‘No, it’s not gonna end. No, hydroxychloroquine doesn’t work. I don’t care what the pillow man says.’”

He doesn’t hate everyone within the Trump administration. “I try to look for the positive aspects of people in the Trump White House. I think anybody who says, ‘Everybody who was in the Trump White House was a bad person’ is incorrect. I mean, there were people there who were really trying their best, except that there was a prevailing motivation, with few exceptions, of ‘Defend Trump and what he does at all costs.’ ”

[From WaPo]

The WaPo piece quotes a lot of Republican senators, all of whom are still salty about Fauci for… reasons. It never made any sense, their attacks on him and blaming him for the pandemic. It’s interesting to know that those attacks did come close to breaking him, but he was so hellbent on seeing the pandemic through to a manageable level, he stuck with it. He also seemed surprised that he loathed Trump so much because before that administration, he was always known as such an apolitical figure who got along with everyone. I was extremely moved by all of the stories about the early years of the AIDS crisis and how Fauci worked hand-in-hand with gay activists and how he cared so much about saving that community. As for what he says about not being around for his daughters… it is the choice he made and it’s the choice he would make again. I understand it but I don’t really admire it.

Photos courtesy of Instar and Avalon Red.

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32 Responses to “Anthony Fauci on missing his kids’ childhoods: ‘I am sorry & sad, but I don’t regret’”

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  1. Nancy says:

    Greatness requires great sacrifices. Sometimes the greatest of sacrifices.

    He’s a rockstar. Yes.

    • Harla says:

      But I wonder if the people he sacrificed feel the same.

      • Blue Nails Betty says:

        They probably do. It wasn’t like he was playing golf with the guys or focused solely in making money/power. He was trying to save lives.

        Having said that, I hope his daughters are well and are able to talk about any issues (even small ones) that were caused by his absence.

      • Thinking says:

        I think it’s likely his kids are proud of him. It’s not like he’s Ben Affleck.

        His work also probably supported them to go on to do well in life themselves. None of them seem to be struggling in their own interests/careers.

        I think maybe too much is expected of parents in this day and age to be everything all at once in terms of supporting a family financially with a sizeable income AND being there for every moment in life.

      • NotSoSocialB says:

        We are a medical family with a similar circumstance (not in government)- I’ve missed him and the kids have missed him. They are all in their 20s now, and while they lament time lost, they understand and admire their dad. He always spent quality time when he was around, he just wasn’t around as much as we all wished. I used to be an ICU RN, so I understood what our future family circumstances would be.

      • shiba says:

        That’s between Dr Fauci and his family.

    • Janet DR says:

      Some of us make small differences with how we live our lives. Dr. Fauci is a man who has made great differences.
      No parent feels like they did everything right.

  2. teehee says:

    Everyone should find a career this meaningful for themselves. (Including women and mothers)
    Children are no everything in your life, and a parent is often not all that you can be (in most cases).
    Not everyone can find such a calling though, so some people throw themselves into their home life and children, or hobbies or other things. Or parenting is their calling.
    Does being this passionate mean that you have to be absent? I would hope not all the time.
    I wish that women got this allowance.

    • Rhonda says:

      Children need at least one parent who treats them, maybe not like they are “everything”, but that they are the number 1 priority. Traditionally, that’s usually Mom and men seem better able (for many reasons) to disconnect from home life when they are at work, in my experience. Women are often told they should be able to raise kids and have important careers, but it’s not possible to do both well unless you have a partner who picks up the slack. If both parents were pursuing their passions at the same time, to the same degree as Fauci, the kids would have really suffered.

      • Sigmund says:

        @Rhonda Exactly. Fauci came really close but didn’t quite explicitly acknowledge the fact that his sacrifices were workable because of his wife’s sacrifices.

        She gave up career opportunities to be with the kids, and in turn, he was able to prioritize work. He’s not the only one who sacrificed here, and certainly both parents could not have prioritized work and raise healthy, well adjusted children.

    • teehee says:

      I don’t see any conflict in the statements, but rather just an extension/addition.
      You can be passionate about plenty of other things but still prioritize your children too, or, delegate that focus, as you point out. Thanks for the addendum.

      • Rhonda says:

        The level of commitment to his career Fauci is talking about is leaving for work before your kids get up and getting home after they are in bed, weekdays and often weekends and possibly travelling for work. Fauci’s wife raised the kids while Fauci dedicated himself to his career. That works if there is another parent (or maybe grandparent) willing to devote themselves 100% of the time to raising the children. But you can’t “delegate” raising children. It just means you didn’t raise them and someone else did.

  3. alwaysannarun says:

    Republicans didn’t like him because they thought they were smarter than him. Hence why we were in a pandemic for much longer than we should have been.

  4. Truthiness says:

    Both of my parents skipped out on attending activities for me, I was the third child out of 4 and I never expected it. My mom saw some of my brother’s basketball games when it was convenient. They’re Fauci’s generation. Times change. Fauci sounds 1000% more supportive than my Dad.

  5. RoSco says:

    I don’t really see a problem? It sounds like his wife CHOSE to forgo career opportunities to be there for every event; I didn’t get the feeling that he made her. Dr. Fauci was doing literally life-and-death work but still tried to be there for them. Judging by the fields the kids went into, they all seem public service minded, as well. Would love to hear their POV though.

  6. Nic919 says:

    Not every parent has a fancy job and sometimes they still have to miss events for kids. People who work shift work can’t always take the day off for a school play or something else. Or maybe they can’t afford to take time off. Kids will understand especially if they know the parent isn’t choosing work to avoid them. Parents have enough guilt to deal with they don’t need to be criticized for something like this.

    • Anna says:

      My dad worked a lot, sometimes I only saw him on morning and sundays. Still, I felt very loved, he made it clear that when he didn’t work he was only for his family. Amount of time spend with kids matter but kids also feel if they are a priority or something else.

    • Siobhan says:

      Absolutely. I know very few parents who go to every single event and truthfully once you have a few kids, usually the parents have to divide and conquer especially on the weekends with all the games, practices, birthday parties etc. My kids know I will go to the field days, field trips, mystery reader, etc. that I can but it’s not going to be all of them because between all of them I’d need to be taking practically every day off from work to do so. I think it should be normalized that parents aren’t going to go to every event and can still be a very involved parent in the upbringing of their child.

  7. samipup says:

    Dr. Fauci was my sister’s doc. She lived being HIV + for years and ultimately, smoking got her. A nice and genuine man.

  8. BeanieBean says:

    Did they ask him if he could cook, too? Men don’t usually get asked about missing things in their kids’ lives, or do they regret not being there. That tends to be reserved for women. And why was his paycheck brought up? I can see Republicans going on a rant about that, you know that’s going to happen. ‘Overpaid government employees’ etc., etc.

  9. Katie says:

    I ponied up for a month of Audible to listen to the current Fiasco season on the AIDS crisis. I highly recommend it.

  10. Xiolablue1971 says:

    I am a civil servant, and I have been for 17 years. My position has the potential to make a direct change on a statewide level for the educational lives of children and I work very, very hard. Sometimes that means that I miss things in the lives of my own children or my family members. Sometimes it means that I am sick because of stress or overwork. But this role holds meaning for me and I understand what Dr. Fauci is saying, I mark the sacrifices but I don’t regret. Dr. Fauci’s choice to remain in the public sector and dedicate his life to service, the kind that helps people live, is worthy of the utmost respect. He is a GOAT and I admire him greatly.

  11. anothersarah says:

    He may not have been at every sporting event but his hard work gave his kids (and so many other people) a healthier world. Pretty hard to find fault in that.

  12. Athena says:

    I don’t recall my mother ever showing up at parent teacher conferences or any of my school events, other than graduations, it always just my dad. And believe me my mother was not out there saving mankind. I didn’t consciously think about it at the time, but as a parent I made a point to be more present, perhaps to the point of sacrificing too much of my own life. My point is the absence has left a mark on his kids, no matter how well there doing.

  13. jferber says:

    This man. On the side of the angels. Total opposite of Murdoch, whom I just wrote an opinion on a minute ago. I see Fauci on the side of God and Murdoch a handmaiden of Lucifer. Yes, it really is that simple to me. God bless you forever, Dr. Fauci. You have truly made the world a better place.

  14. Siobhan says:

    Wait I’m a little confused here. It sounds like in the article he talks about not attending all their sporting or other events – is that what counts as being an absent parent these days? I think we need to normalize parents not being able to attend every single event that kids have, I actually think it’s problematic for both kids and parents to have that expectation.

    • Betsy says:

      I agree. I am able to attend all my kids’ stuff by virtue of being a SAHP, but I don’t think it’s healthy for kids to think that the world revolves around them. There’s an argument to be made between feeling supported and feeling like the world revolves around that, but I think there’s an argument to be made that we’re still mucking up the balance.

  15. Bisynaptic says:

    Fauci is a problematic figure for those in the HIV/AIDS community and those of us in the ME/CFS community. When the facts of long covid become better known, he’ll become a problematic figure in that community, as well, for what he failed to do vis a vis ME/CFS.

  16. jferber says:

    Bisynaptic, Please share. Why is Fauci problematic in the HIV/AIDS community and the ME/CFS community? I hope you are doing well and that a cure can be found for ME/CFS.

  17. Em says:

    This man co-wrote the literal Bible of
    Internal Medicine literature. He is responsible for saving so many lives and changing the face of medicine/public health. He is a hero.