By the time he gets home at 5:45 p.m., Tiger LaVerde has already had a full day from his heavy teaching schedule, including AP Calculus and Statistics, to his afternoon as head coach of Kirtland High School’s football team.
“I could spend more time filming practice and staying after to watch film, but I never want to wish I had spent more time with my kids later in life,” explains the father of four, ages 7-11, who is also a past Ohio football coach of the year (awarded by the Ohio High School Football Coaches Association). “My wife and the kids absolutely come first and they know it.”
With careers encroaching more and more on home life, many dads like LaVerde have to actively work to make — and keep — family a priority. Here’s how several dads in the Northeast Ohio area are finding a balance between fatherhood and their careers.
Getting Into a Routine
The current favorite cereal around the Berthiaume family’s house is Cocoa Pebbles, although dad Justin usually has a bowl filled with Special K.
“My kids go through cereal phases, we just finished a Froot Loops phase,” says Berthiaume, laughing.
He rises at 6:30 a.m. with his 4-year-old son Kellen, letting his wife snooze a little longer. His 2-year-old son Bryson gets up an hour later.
Berthiaume, who works as the membership manager at LifeStyles – West at the Akron General Health & Wellness Center and as a realtor with Howard Hanna, gets the kids ready in the morning before heading out.
He isn’t always home in time for dinner so he treasures his morning time with his kids.
“We are all trying to multitask in this fast-paced life, and I tell myself constantly to stop and focus on the task you are currently doing rather than thinking about the 10 other things you need to do,” Berthiaume says. “I know when my son says to me, ‘Daddy look at me’ when he is trying to show me something that I am not focusing at the task at hand, which is him trying to share something very important to him with me. He doesn’t know he is doing it, but it reminds me to stop and give him the attention he deserves and I love him for it.”
For Macedonia dad Kuba Njie and his daughter, 3-year-old Nalah, he says fatherhood has given him a new perspective on work life.
Working in IT, Njie can have 24-hour workdays where he’s trouble-shooting computer systems or implementing new ones.
“I can be impatient, but she’s helped me step back and think before I react. She’s helped me learn to be more patient,” he says. “Sometimes work is very, very tough, but when I come home it’s a clean slate every day and I can focus at home on her so the next day I’m ready to get back at it. She’s the best thing I’ve ever done.”
Finding time to spend with their kids is a common struggle for dads in Northeast Ohio. Some are already at work when their kids get up, while others don’t get home until the kids are in bed at night. With long workdays, time with children can dwindle.
That’s one reason Chuck Embley tries to avoid bringing work home with him, especially on weekends.
“I’m very careful about weekends and evening time,” says Embley, director of finance for global manufacturing at Goodyear in Akron. He makes a point to plan family weekend activities whether it’s going to a movie together or simply working in the yard.
The Hudson father of three, with one teenage son at home, says the challenge as kids get older is to find something you all enjoy doing together.
His solution is to attend as many of his son’s activities, whether it be his band performances or church youth activities.
“The advantage of church activities is that I work with the youth his age so I’m able to help out there and be with him,” Embley says.
Mixing work and family is often a way for modern dads to not only spend more time with their kids, but also to share their interests with them.
LaVerde takes his kids with him as much as possible to football games, bus rides, meetings, team dinners and more. It helps that his wife is a teacher at Kirtland High School, which is located on the same campus as the elementary and middle schools. “My whole family is at the same place every day,” LaVerde says.
Living in the Moment
Njie notices that Nalah runs to him when she wants to play.
“She’ll climb on my back or neck and say, ‘Daddy, spin me,’” he says. “We have this Donkey Kong Game that we play where I throw her into the air or spin her around. We have a great time together.”
Since time with his kids may be less than that of his wife, Kristin, who is at home with their youngsters, Berthiaume tries to follow her advice.
“She tells me all the time, ‘Stay in the moment when you get time with the kids and family.’” In fact, Berthiaume has become an expert at playing Captain America, Iron Man or the current favorite, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, with his sons.
He doesn’t mind admitting it’s important to be silly with young kids.
“I am a professional 10 hours a day,” he says. “I try to be silly when I can (with my kids). It is a great stress reliever.”