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14 Aug, Sunday
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Montreal Families

Cat Spencer talks about his new radio gig and life as a father of two

Cat Spencer is a local radio personality who helped launch the new radio station 92.5 The Beat in September. He currently co-hosts The Beat Breakfast with Sarah Bartok, which airs weekdays from 5:30 a.m. to 9 a.m. Cat was born in Saskatoon and started his radio career at the age of 17 in Fort Frances, Ontario. He has worked in Montreal for the past 17 years. He is married with two children, 8-year-old daughter Jamie and 5-year-old son Brett, and lives on the South Shore.

What is the biggest challenge you face in this new job?

My alarm clock goes off at 3:45 a.m.! Actually, the hardest part — meeting and connecting with my co-host — is over. The most important thing about a morning show is the on-air chemistry and the first time I met Sarah Bartok, I knew we would hit it off.  She’s a real pro with an infectious laugh. When I was asked to consider doing a show with her, I jumped at the opportunity because I knew it would be fun to go to work every morning. Now that the show is up and running, our next challenge is to get the word out that we are a fun, family-friendly radio station that has a lot of laughs in the morning.

What do you love most about being a dad?

Jamie and Brett make me laugh everyday. Recently, my 5-year-old asked to go to Toys R Us after closing hours. He said “It’s ok, the doors open by themself!” (referring to the automated sliding doors). Then he told me that he wanted to buy the Star Wars character DOUG Vader! Just observing them and seeing how their personalities develop is the best part of having kids. I have a video camera in our kitchen and I try to film about 30 seconds of our family life every day.  I suggest other parents do the same because you will capture precious moments that otherwise might be forgotten in a few years.

What do you like the least?  

I don’t want to scare new parents but I have to be honest: your relationship with your spouse will change. After our first child was born, life was great and we figured out a good routine. Then Brett came along and it was still all very manageable. But once they started activities like skating, dance class, soccer and hockey, my wife and I started running out of time for ourselves and each other. We recognized this was a problem and now we go out alone once a week and catch up on the big people stuff. The other two things I could do without are homework and making lunches!!

If you won a million dollars tomorrow, would you be a stay-at-home dad?

I think the only way to know for sure would be to actually get the million dollars first. So let me know when the cheque is ready!

But seriously, yes, I would stay at home. In fact, a few months ago my wife was working in Toronto for almost three months and we only saw her for a couple of days every few weeks. I was thrown into the role of Mr. Mom and enjoyed the challenge. On my first day on the job, my daughter had to show me where I needed to take her to get the bus to school. Then I dropped my son off at daycare only to realize he had no underwear on. Things improved after day one and I really enjoyed the time I had at home with them. There were days that I couldn’t wait for them to get home so we could go for a swim or a family bike ride. I spoiled them a bit with trips to their favourite restaurants and I think we tried out every ice cream store on the south shore! I knew I wasn’t going to be a stay-at-home dad for long so I tried to enjoy every minute.

We are always reading about trying to find a work/life balance. Do you think it is possible to achieve when both parents work full time?

It is possible but it takes patience and hard work. I think if both parents communicate and agree on a plan ahead of time, then life will be much smoother. Because I work in radio, where we follow the clock to the second, I’m all about routine and I tend to be like that at home too. (And, yes, it drives my wife crazy.) But having strict routines helps you fit everything in because you do things in a timely, effective way. I find as the kids get older and busier, Monday to Thursday is all about routine. It’s boring but there are no surprises. Weekends are valuable and we always make sure there is a lot of family time planned for Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

What do you want to instill in your children more than anything?

Confidence. I’m not sure why this is so important to me, but I want them to be able to walk up to friends, family and co-workers and look them in the eye and say “Hi.”

Empathy is also very important. My wife and I will often remind our kids how fortunate we are to live in a nice house and to have an abundance of food. We try to show them that it is important to give back to those who may not be as fortunate as we are and we often bring them to charity events. In the past, I’ve helped out with the Missing Children’s Network, the Quebec Breast Cancer Foundation and an annual Walk for Autism in Candiac.

What is your definition of a great parent?

A great parent will take time each day to find out what is going on in their children’s lives. I like to get down to their level so I can look them in the eye and truly listen to what they have to say. I’m very curious to know what my kids are thinking and what is important to them.

What do you wish you knew before you had kids (about being a parent)?

That if I cut the crusts off of their bread, I will be cutting crusts forever.

  • Eating fruit before bed is bad for their teeth.
  • Family vacations are exhausting.
  • When you buy a piñata for your child’s birthday party, YOU have to supply the candy. (I realized that about 10 minutes before we were to break it, so we ended up stuffing it with loonies and old Halloween candy.)

What are your top three favourite restaurants in Montreal?

1. Queue De Cheval
1221 René-Lévesque Blvd., W.

On your next “date night,” pop in and try the white chocolate cheesecake. You will not find a better cheesecake in the city.

2. Philinos
4806 Park Ave.

Great Greek food with friendly service. We’ve never had a bad meal there.

3. Jukebox Burgers and Bar Laitier
11798 de Salaberry Blvd., D.D.O.

Great service and very family friendly. It’s a fun place to bring the kids.

Can you name three books you’ve enjoyed reading recently?

  • The Seven Spiritual Laws of Success: A Practical Guide to the Fulfillment of Your Dreams by Deepak Chopra — It’s good to check on the old Spirit once in a while.
  • Playing with Fire by Theo Fleury — I got to know Theo in Moose Jaw as I was part of the hockey broadcast team. His story [about childhood sexual abuse] hit me hard because I wish there was someone he could have reached out too. He’s a real survivor.
  • From this Moment On by Shania Twain — How do I explain this one? I got a new iPad and had never downloaded an e-book before. She was on Oprah and her story seemed compelling. It’s more of a journal (very wordy) and I would recommend you skip the first half of the book and go straight to the dirt!
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