The Balancing Act of Fatherhood
June 16, 2021
Let's face it, becoming a parent is a blessing that can come with some challenges. Balancing family and work is difficult, but being a partner in a firm and building your business while your children are young takes determination and space to carve out your priorities. So in honor of Father's Day, we sat down with our partners at Cambaliza McGee, LLP, Lino Cambaliza and Robert McGee, to chat about fatherhood. Lino has two children, Lino Bach (LB), age 5, and Camile, age 1. Robert is Dad to Robert, age 10, and Demetri, age 3.
You both have young children. Why was it vital for you to start Cambaliza McGee, LLP? How did fatherhood play a role in the decision to create your firm?
Lino: I have been fortunate to have experienced various accounting roles within larger companies, allowing me to accelerate my career growth and professional skills. Of course, when working for a major firm, you are not in control of your time or your client roster. Starting our firm in 2017 allowed me to take more control over my time, types of clients, and projects. Don't get me wrong, tax season is still demanding, but I have a bit more flexibility than in the past.
Robert: As an auditor, many firms require you to travel frequently to conduct audits on-site for clients. When you are working at a regional firm, you don't have control over scheduling your audits. Joining Lino and Thanh as Audit Partner in 2020 allows me the flexibility in my schedule to take care of my clients and be there for my family. It is important that I am part of my kid's daily routine to influence and be a role model for my kids.
Did your Father influence your parenting style?
Robert: My Dad was very hands-on when we were children. He was always involved with us and our various activities, teaching us life lessons. Unfortunately, he passed away when I was young, but he instilled a fire in me to ensure that I carve out time to be present in my children's daily lives. He did so much for our family, and the life lessons he taught us I still use today. Because my Farther died while I was younger, I feel like I don't want to miss out on anything.
Lino: I am close with my Dad, and I speak to him every other day. My Dad was and continues to be a great role model; he is the type of person you can relate to, ask for advice, or help with your car or house if you had a problem. He is always there to help others, and I want to have the same relationship with my kids. Seeing the impact, he has on so many people makes me realize how blessed I am to have him in my children's life. Unfortunately, some people wait until their kids play sports or are older to get involved, but I see how essential it is to spend time with your children at every age and stage of their lives.
2020 was a challenging year for parents with young children. What were your silver linings?
Robert: The shift to virtual audits was a welcome change for me. It pushed our clients to embrace technology. As a result, we can be as effective for our clients without traveling to their facility. We didn't close our office during COVID-19 as clients faced business challenges we have never experienced in our lifetime. I am grateful that I could service our clients and spend more time with my family.
I also had additional opportunities to bring my older son, Robert, into the office. I want him to understand what I do, and I felt it was important to show him where I spend my time when I am away from our home. When your kids are young, all they know is that you are leaving them for the day. I must model a work-life balance to him, even at a young age. If I were with a big firm, I would not have the ability to take my son into the office and have him work side by side with me.
Lino: I echo Robert's comments. We remained open and committed to partnering with our clients. Our team needed to be available for our clients to advise on COVID-19 emergency programs like the PPP to determine if it would benefit their business. Our business, like all businesses, had to pivot to understand all the new relief programs to ensure we could support our client's requests.
LB and Camile come to our office frequently. We spend so much time in our office that it is crucial to Thanh and myself that our children know where we are and understand our work when they are a bit older. Right now they think our conference room is a fun place since it has a large screen and they can play in there. It also allows us to teach life skills appropriate for their age. Good manners and using our inside voices are what we model for the children. Our children are young and impressionable, and they see how we work hard, appreciate our staff, and create opportunities for fun.
You both enjoy spending time with your children. What activities are on the top of your list?
Lino: Between COVID-19 shutdowns and an extended tax season, we all spent a lot of time cooped up indoors. Our kids love to get outside in nature and have "adventures," as we call them. Beach days are a popular activity, but we also enjoy visits to the Irvine Zoo, Legoland, waterpark visits, and days spent with cousins. I recently purchased LB a fishing pole and tackle box to spend some time together fishing at Irvine Lake.
Thanh and I look forward to traveling with the kids in the future, but we are focusing on short trips right now. Taking LB to Disneyland and California Adventure in the middle of the week or quick family getaways extended weekends in Lake Tahoe or Arrowhead have been great ways to spend time together.
Robert: I enjoy spending time coaching soccer, basketball, and baseball. I usually plan to coach in the fall since the spring is a busy season for CPAs. In addition, my oldest son is very active, and I like to be involved in day-to-day activities as much as possible to create special memories for both of us.
Since I enjoy coaching, I host a youth sports summer camp through my church for kids ages 3-10. This year was my third year hosting the sports camp, and the first year, my youngest son, Demetri, joined in the fun. Watching Demetri working to keep up with the older kid was pure joy. My summer camp is open to both boys and girls, and our focus is all about having fun while learning essential skills like passing a ball and scoring. In addition, we spend time running, jumping, and focusing on overall conditioning.
Do you have any words of wisdom you would share with young Dads in your office or your social circles?
Robert: People always tell you that your kids grow up so fast, and I know that you have a short period to set a good foundation and create a strong relationship with each of your kids. Although my oldest son is turning 11 soon, I feel that I am on a five-year countdown with him before he is spending most of his time hanging out with his friends or girlfriend, and I won't be so cool in his eyes anymore.
I am looking forward to traveling when my youngest is a bit older. I want to expose my kids to different cultures, food, and traditions to open their minds and give them a different perspective. I see how quickly my sons are growing, and it sounds cliché, but enjoy the little moments and the quiet conversations while you can.
Lino: Spending time with your children and involving them in your daily life is essential as you spend time engaged in their activities. During the last year, LB has had the opportunity to volunteer with me to support one of my favorite charities, Art and Creativity for Healing. I am not artistic, but I have been delivering art boxes to children in homeless shelters or whose families do not have the resources to purchase art supplies. My son sees firsthand the delight in a child's eyes when they receive their very own box of crayons and a coloring book. Sharing that experience with him and seeing firsthand how you can impact another person is so fulfilling. Even at a young age, he is learning the importance of charity and giving to others when you can help.
There are days when we joke about how exhausting raising little ones can be, but we are always amazed at how many little conversations and activities you do with your kids they remember. Social media has been a great reminder to stop and enjoy the moments I have with each of my children now. The memories that pop up are a great way to relive some of our favorite times, and I see how quickly my children are changing each year.
Why is it important to you that you model being an involved Father for your staff?
Lino: Robert, Thanh, and I have known each other for a long time, and we knew that we had the opportunity to break the mold of what a traditional CPA firm looks like. We want to build solid and long-lasting relationships with our clients and create an environment where your employees do not feel they need to choose between a career or their family.
For the three partners, we wanted to create opportunities to mentor our staff and model how you can work hard and have a family too. It is at the heart of who we are. I think Robert and I have been extremely fortunate to have had close relationships with our Father's and we have witnessed firsthand how their love has shaped the people we are today. So, likewise, we feel lucky that we have the opportunity to create a business where we can live our values daily by spending time with our children, mentoring our team and the youth in our community, and partnering with our clients to help them be successful.
Happy Father's Day to all the Dads, Bonus Dads, and Stepdads!