California Dreaming: Jasper Watts on Family Life in LA

“Living in California is great; we can be at the beach or a ski resort in under two hours.” Jasper Watts talks life in Altadena, LA, with his wife Vjera and their two kids: Isla, nearly five, and James, two… 

It’s been two years this month since I started at ID; my official job title is account executive. Basically, I’m responsible for several clients the agency represents. We specialise in marketing, PR and social media for high end automotive brands, but we have some tech and beverage clients also.

Each client has different needs, which keeps my job interesting, but for the most part it’s content-based. For my latest project I organised a road rally for over 70 Porsches to launch a collaborative project with MOMO and Magnus Walker. It was quite complex logistically, but very fun.

I used to run a streetwear brand out of Venice Beach called Rogue Status (DTA). I met Yo, the founder, in 2005 when he was working at UNDFTD in Santa Monica. Yo had just made his first batch of t-shirts and was selling them out of the sneaker store. I offered to take some samples back to England to open new accounts, which I did.

When I returned from the UK I started working with DTA more and more, but was still working on the set of the TV show ER. The company took off so I quit my job and started working with DTA full time.

It was great, especially in the beginning. We opened up a shop on Venice Beach, hired our mates and did loads of fun stuff. I think the most fun experience was the Gumball 3000 rally that we did three years in a row, such a crazy event to take part in.

I managed to set up collaborations with UK brands such as Addict and ATG; it was great working with people that I had always looked up to, and then being able to promote their brands out in the States

When I first moved to LA I really missed my friends and family back in London, and working with DTA allowed me to travel back to Europe quite often where we got to catch up at various trade shows such as B&B which used to be in Barcelona.

I managed to set up collaborations with UK brands such as Addict and ATG; it was great working with people that I had always looked up to, and then being able to promote their brands out in the States.

My favorite UK project was working on a Grime mixtape ‘DTA Grimetape’ with UK record label No Hats No Hoods. My best man Will Robson-Scott connected me with those guys; we had many a cold evening shooting freestyle videos. We even managed to get some artists out to LA for a show, but that was a disaster!

I met my current boss Victor while working at DTA, he actually helped us get a foothold into the world Yo and I both loved: cars. Through Victor’s connections we ended up sponsoring the Scion (Toyota) Drift Racing team.

Jasper and James 2 - theearlyhour.com

Out of everything we did at DTA, the car stuff was my favorite by far. When I left DTA it seemed like working in the automotive industry was the right thing for me to do, and luckily Victor was hiring at The ID Agency.

This is where I was working when I had my two kids. I took off about two weeks after each of them were born, I think that is plenty. I don’t really like being locked up in the house for that long.

Dads can’t do much for newborns, just there to help mum, so as long as mum’s ok then you should be fine to go back to work. We were lucky with both our newborns; they were fairly chill (maybe my wife would disagree!).

Going back to work for me was easier than expected. I always stayed online so I wasn’t out of touch, which helps. Almost all of my colleagues are dads so it felt more like I had joined a special club, and now we have more in common.

I definitely don’t like hanging about at the end of the day, it’s so nice to get home and have some time to hang out with the fam. My wife Vjera really enjoyed being a new mum, but I know it wasn’t that easy especially in the beginning. Luckily Vjera’s mum lives in LA so she helped us out lots while Vjera was adjusting to mum life.

I do think it’s good for the kids to spend some time away from their parents so they don’t become overly attached

Vjera’s a freelance stylist, which actually works out great as she has more time with the kids. I’d say she probably works about two weeks out of every month. When Vjera works we have a nanny who comes to our house to watch James while Isla is at kindergarten. Our Nanny has two kids of her own, so it can get tricky – my son can be a handful.

Paying for our nanny and afterschool care does get expensive. To be honest, if you’re not making more than double what you pay the nanny/childcare, you might as well not work. Overall, I’m pretty happy with our situation, the hardest part is finding a nanny you can rely on.

I do think it’s good for the kids to spend some time away from their parents so they don’t become overly attached. I noticed after we came back from a family vacation that our youngest got really upset every time we would leave for work, but after a week or so with the nanny he was fine.

I enjoy work most of the time, and I really enjoy coming home to the family. My son is more into cars than I am, it’s nuts. I like to involve him in my work whenever I can. We have a race track pretty local to us where we go to watch Formula Drift, which my daughter also enjoys (not so much my wife).

Jasper - theearlyhour.com

My working hours aren’t particularly long and I try not to work at home when the kids are awake. It’s important for me to spend quality time with both kids every day. The nature of my job does mean I end up working some weekends during the summer season, but I can usually make that up during the week if we aren’t too busy.

Overall, I’m lucky to have quality time with the family – you need to enjoy every minute of it. No matter how hectic it seems we will look back on it and remember how amazing it was.

On an average working day, we all get up at 7am. I make a pot of coffee and my wife makes breakfast. Isla starts school at 8:30 so we leave the house at 8:15; luckily it’s on the way to Downtown LA where I work.

I get in to the office around 9am. My wife picks up Isla at 12pm (on days she isn’t working), I get home at around 6pm and usually spend that time in the garden with the kids, trying to tire them out.

My wife and I split up dinner/bath duties. We start the whole bedtime process around 8pm, which lasts 30 minutes to an hour. Once the kids are both asleep, we finally get a chance to chill out, the trick is not to stay up too late.

My daughter is all about nature, we often find interesting creatures in the garden such as praying mantis, snakes and lizards

On the weekends, it’s nice to just get up early and hit the road. Living in California is great; we can be at the beach or a ski resort in under two hours. Our favorite weekend trip is driving up the central coast through Santa Barbara wine country. You don’t have to do kid stuff to keep them entertained. I think it’s more fun to experience new places together as a family.

We also like to keep it local and chill at the house. Gardening is a good activity to do with the kids. My daughter is all about nature, we often find interesting creatures in the garden such as praying mantis, snakes and lizards.

We like going out to eat, but this can be challenging with our youngest, as it’s a battle against the clock. Once they expire – dinner is over. For the occasional treat we found that Korean BBQ is a good option, it seems to keep the kids entertained. Most of the time we cook at home, my daughter likes to help out in the kitchen, which is fun – and messy.

We recently bought a house so we spend quite a lot of time on home improvement, which is pretty fulfilling, even the kids like making the trip to Home Depot.

This year I travelled within the US about eight times, but it was only long weekends, which wasn’t too bad. I did take a 10-day trip to Australia, which was a little long to be away from the family, and really hard for my wife. Watching both kids without help for an extended period of time is tough. I’m trying to keep travel to a minimum, but at the same time I do enjoy it. It’s all about balance.

The hardest thing about juggling home and work life, once a baby arrives, is performing at work with lack of sleep – it takes a while to adjust to. Also, trying to maintain a healthy lifestyle is tricky; my friends call me ‘fat dad’.

My advice for other working dads? Family first.

 

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