Fri | May 24, 2019

Weekend daddy, full-time father - Keitho Nembhard’s new life

Published:Saturday | January 5, 2019 | 12:00 AMTamara Bailey/Gleaner Writer
With trips to the beach, road trips, play dates, movie nights, attending church among other activities, Nembhard finds all the creative ways to spend time with his munchkins.
Nembhard with children, Liam and Aliyana.
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His kids only ever get to see him in person on weekends and select holidays, but Keitho Nembhard does all he can to ensure his presence is felt as a full-time father, even though he is miles away from home.

With eight-year-old son, Liam, and two-year-old daughter, Aliyana, Nembhard has devoted his life to their well-being, even when it means making the difficult sacrifice to be away from them.

“With my first child, it wasn't very challenging at first as work was five minutes away from home. But, I already knew that as a father, I would give him everything I didn't get from my dad growing up. The toys were one thing, but those father-son talks, walks in the morning and football matches that I didn't have ... it was foremost in my mind to give to my first born, Liam.”

Things got real challenging when baby number two came and Nembhard had a permanent job that was very demanding outside of the parish he resides.

“The distance was taxing and draining, to say the least. I made a pledge that despite the many miles, long journey and lack of rest, I would make it home each weekend to be with family. This means the weekend belonged to them, or better, said they owned me for the weekend.”

With trips to the beach, road trips, play dates, movie nights, attending church among other activities, Nembhard finds all the creative ways to spend time with his munchkins.

“For the past four years, that has been the best option available, except for the few times when work requires a weekend. In the hospitality industry, it's hard to find balance at times. For many, it's tough to make time for what truly matters, especially those who work a six-day week. By the time they get off and get across the island, it's time to return home. Many persons come from across the world and only see their family once a year. Some from within the region and maybe twice or three times for the year.”

Through technology, the father of two is able to bridge a little gap by using WhatsApp video calls to tell bedtime stories, assist with homework or just touch base, so they can see dad’s face.

 “Liam looks forward to these bedtime stories, and I’m in trouble if he somehow doesn't get to make that call! Planning ahead for the weekend also helps in ensuring the weekends are impacting, and I am still working on that to make it even more consistent.”

He continued, “Each evening after work, I feel a sense of guilt for not being there to hear about what went on at school. Those morning hugs before school are missed and not being able to drop them off at school, morning motivational exercise and kissing their foreheads. My heart breaks every Sunday, and Mondays are the hardest.”

As Nembhard admires his son’s emotional intelligence, that he says is way beyond his age, he looks forward to their car races and to bask in the delicate hugs from his daughter and how she runs out of bed in the mornings to lay on his chest. His wish for them is that they are happy and that they are given the opportunity to grow and develop into the best versions of themselves.

“For all working fathers who are often accused of being absent, whether working locally or abroad, find some way to connect with your children. You will soon realise that no matter how many gifts and clothes you buy, or bills you pay, what really matters is that personal one-on-one connection and time that make it all worth it. After all, we make most of these sacrifices for them so why must we lose them in the process,” he ended.

familyandreligion@gleanerjm.com