How do dads balance the challenges of work, marriage and kids? How have their lives changed since becoming parents? We asked Neal Sonnenberg to give us the inside scoop.
Neal Sonnenberg is the curriculum coordinator for Virtual High School, where he oversees the delivery and development of all math and business courses. Before having kids and moving to the suburbs, Neal was active with CJP’s Young Leadership Division, serving on the board for two years and running the Boston Marathon for CJP. He now attends more of the family friendly CJP events that don’t interfere with nap time. Neal and Suzie have been married for four years and have a 2-year-old son, Noah, and a 1-year-old son, Ethan.
How do you manage work, your kids and your relationship?
I think it’s a matter of priorities—my relationship with my wife and kids will always come before work. Work is important to me, but at the same time it’s not everything. Twenty years from now, I’m not going to be judged by how great I was at my job, but rather how great I was at being a dad and husband. Balancing these three things requires a partner who has similar priorities as me and is willing to work toward the same goals. I am so lucky that my wife, Suzie, is such a great mother and wife; it makes balancing all these things a little easier.
How has your life changed since you had children?
I think having children has made me reevaluate the priorities in my life. Prior to having kids, it was all about me and Suzie. Now, it’s all about them. Having children has helped me to appreciate my parents more for everything they went through to raise me and my siblings. Each day is an amazing day of discoveries with children, and I love the enthusiasm they possess for even the most mundane things! I try to appreciate all these moments as they happen, since I know this is one of the joys of having kids. While I no longer have as much time to do the things I want to do, I get a greater satisfaction by doing things that my kids and family want to do.
How have your Jewish practices and values shaped your parenting?
Suzie and I are lucky to come from families that emphasized the importance of being Jewish, both culturally and religiously. I know we want to pass on those same values to our boys. Being Jewish is and always has been a source of pride for me, and I hope my boys will feel the same way. We make sure that our children, even at this young age, are developing their own Jewish identity, whether that’s through keeping kosher or singing Hebrew songs or giving tzedakah; it’s never too young to instill these values. We are also lucky to live in a region where Jewish programming is readily available to families with young children, thanks in large part to CJP.
What’s the best Father’s Day gift you could receive?
The best Father’s Day gift would be to have a day where I could get some time to myself, spend some time with my family and then spend time with just Suzie. It might go something like this—get up early and go golfing with my buddies or go for a bike ride. Come home and have a nice breakfast with my family, followed by a hike or trip to the park. After the kids are sleeping, Suzie and I would leave the kids with someone (anyone interested in babysitting two cute boys?!) and drive down to Newport for evening. I love my kids, but I also know how important it is to spend adult time away from them.