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Mat Rezaei: “Quality time is the ultimate win-win”

Spending time with your kids ensures that you can better nudge them towards knowing themselves and encourage them to continue to learn. It’s as simple as that, really. The more time you spend, the more likely the kids are to learn and evolve. Meanwhile, the less time you spend, the less opportunities they have to […]

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Spending time with your kids ensures that you can better nudge them towards knowing themselves and encourage them to continue to learn. It’s as simple as that, really. The more time you spend, the more likely the kids are to learn and evolve. Meanwhile, the less time you spend, the less opportunities they have to progress.


As a part of my series about “How extremely busy executives make time to be great parents” I had the pleasure to interview Mat Rezaei, founder and CEO of UPGUYS.

Born into a family of pharmacists, Mat naturally became a Pharm. D. himself. After getting hi pharmacy license in British Columbia, he worked on expanding a local pharmacy chain before starting Canada’s first digital Pharmacy — Caplet — and later, Upguys.


Thank you so much for joining us! Can you tell us your “childhood backstory”?

I was the only child of my pharmacist parents. My parents owned a pharmacy and because back then there was an issue with the child care, I was spending time with my parents at the pharmacy from a very young age, about 4 or 5 years old. The love of taking real care of people started from here. I remember my mother telling me that she has only one responsibility, and that was taking care of her patients. Everything else will take care of itself. Serving people in their most vulnerable moments became my life’s goal. Working in healthcare seemed to be the only option to pursue that goal.

Can you share the story about what brought you to this specific point in your career?

I have tried most of the different roads in health care, from regulatory to manufacturing to pharmaceutical international trades. I realized the most fulfilling aspect of each one is the opportunity to connect with people on a human level and serve the underserved. That’s exactly what we are doing today at Upguys.com. There are men all across the country suffering from conditions that unfortunately society stigmatizes. We give them the dignity and care they deserve.

Can you tell us a bit more about what your day to day schedule looks like?

I wake up at 6 am, meditate, and make breakfast for my wife and my four-year-old. Then I take her to daycare and start my day at the office around 8:30 am. While I oversee different projects and teams within the business, I make sure I carve as much time as possible for one-on-one patient consultation over the phone. That is the most fulfilling part of the job.

I make sure to be home for dinner every day. This way I have enough time to play with my daughter before her bedtime. I tuck her to bed at around 8 pm and spend the rest of the time until around 11 pm with my wife. I should confess that there are nights I need to spend at least part of this time answering emails and finishing up some left-over work from the day. The entire weekends are devoted to the family as well.

Ok, thank you for that. Let’s now jump to the core of our discussion. This is probably intuitive to many, but it would be beneficial to spell it out. Based on your experience or research, can you flesh out why not spending time with your children can be detrimental to their development?

Spending time with your kids ensures that you can better nudge them towards knowing themselves and encourage them to continue to learn. It’s as simple as that, really. The more time you spend, the more likely the kids are to learn and evolve. Meanwhile, the less time you spend, the less opportunities they have to progress.

I prefer to think about this question, though, from the parental perspective. For example, why, as parents, did you bring this child into the world? What was the motivation behind that? You brought a new life and a new person into this world — and now what? The responsibility comes from here. It is incumbent upon the parents to ensure they promote their child’s development at every moment. After all, it was the parents who decided to create the family. The best way to do this, of course, is to spend time with the children and reinforce the attitudes and behaviors we as parents want to promote in the next generation.

On the flip side, can you give a few reasons or examples about why it is so important to make time to spend with your children?

Of course! As mentioned, spending time and being together is important for both parents and children in becoming the best version of themselves. There are a few ways I look at this. First, children offer a new perspective into the world for us parents. A child’s world is like a third dimension, one which adults seldom get to experience. Spending time with them allows us to go back to those simpler times of childhood to experience life in a pure, unadulterated way. I find that the “big problems” of the world quickly fade away when I spend time with my daughter.

Second, this really helps us adults to destress. Passing positive moments with your kids really frees your mind and frees your body. You know, this is especially important for parents who lead companies. Returning to the simpler moments with your children helps managers to put work to one side, if only for a moment, to then come back with more motivation to put something good in the world.

Quality time is the ultimate win-win, one which parents and children enjoy equally and yet for different reasons.

According to this study cited in the Washington Post, the quality of time spent with children is more important than the quantity of time. Can you give a 3–5 stories or examples from your own life about what you do to spend quality time with your children?

It’s a good question — though I would like to challenge the notion of this question a little bit. I think the quantity of time is actually very important. This is because children are not like computer programs which you can plug in for 10 minutes and hope to get all the juice out of it. No, it is a relationship.

For example, most of us only remember snapshots of our childhood, and most of those snapshots are from really random events. That means you never know which moment will have the biggest impact on your kid, and it is why you need to increase the time spent with your kids, hoping one of those moments becomes a memorable one for the kid in future. So, for me, I think we as parents need to constantly nurture our children and be there for the moments big and small. I want to spend as much time with my daughter and my baby on the way so that at the few moments they do recall, I am there.

But, coming back to the question, there are of course things that I do to maximize the time spent with my family. First, switch off the phone. That is first and foremost, really.

Second, leave work at the office. This is only possible when following the first step, but it is integral to getting the most “quality” of interactions between child and parent.

Third, assume the kid is not a kid. This one might sound strange, I know, but this is something I’ve been doing for a very early age with my daughter. I try to speak to her like I will speak to her in 10 or 20 years. This is because kids do not like being patronized, and I find that speaking to them with respect and intelligence is a step to helping them better articulate their thoughts and feelings. In turn, they learn how to speak better and calculate things better. This furthers the quality of our connection and the quality of time we spend together.

We all live in a world with many deadlines and incessant demands for our time and attention. That inevitably makes us feel rushed and we may feel that we can’t spare the time to be “fully present” with our children. Can you share with our readers 5 strategies about how we can create more space in our lives in order to give our children more quality attention? Please include examples or stories for each, if you can.

Yes, this is one of the most difficult parts of juggling leadership roles in the office and in the home!

First, I would encourage all C-Suite parents to master the art of being able to transition between different situations. If you have left the office, leave the office in your mind, too. Do not bring something from one room to the next. This is hard, especially for founders and managers, who are always thinking about fundraising or technical responsibilities. But it is important to have barriers between the work life and family life in order to protect one against the other. Learning how to “cut” between being the boss and being a dad is vital to maintaining my work-life balance.

Second, and how I actually achieve my first suggestion, is meditation. Everyone needs a mental space to be able to emotionally handle things. To be able to control your thoughts and stop your mind from flying backwards and forwards is an important tool, and I use this to achieve distinction between my personal and professional life.

Third, separate the adult world and the kid world. This is another step in maintaining boundaries between the office and the home, but it is very important to just let kids be kids. They shouldn’t be worrying about your work stresses or wondering where dad is running off to.

Fourth, do different activities. Regularly ask your child what they would like to do and respect their decision making. This goes back to giving your child agency and treating them as their own person. But, perhaps even more importantly, doing new things with your children will enable the parent to stay completely present in the moment and enjoy the new experience.

Last, but not least, put away all the screens. It isn’t just the phone which takes away our attention, but other screens as well. Get outside and take full advantage of your five senses!

How do you define a “good parent”? Can you give an example or story?

I think a good parent is one which can be parented by the child. Let me explain — I think parenting is a two way journey with two way communication. Your child is helping you grow and you are helping them grow as well. So, my thinking of a good parent is one who is open to change, who is open to look at things differently rather than thinking that they know everything just by reading five books.

A good parent is flexible to grow with the child. For example, parents expect their children to grow and change, and I think adults should be held to the same standard. Growing from new experiences and information is what makes us human regardless of age. I really do believe the best parents to be the ones who are open to the change that comes with any situation. Parents which constantly improve themselves are simply better role models for their children, in my opinion.

How do you inspire your child to “dream big”? Can you give an example or story?

This is an important question. I feel that if you can provide a safe environment — one that is safe physically and emotionally — and let your children make mistakes, then they can see the other side of failure from an early age. They will then realize that failure isn’t a big deal, really. If you can create this environment to fail as many times as they are comfortable with, and the more the better, they start to become immune to this notion of “failure”.

After a while, this becomes part of their culture. In order to learn something new, you need failure. There’s actually a great Japanese proverb which reads: “Fall down seven times, stand up eight.” That’s the kind of culture I want to foster in my home to help my kids dream big and achieve whatever they want.

How do you, a person who masterfully straddles the worlds of career and family, define “success”?

Success to me is more about the journey than the destination. My idea of success is that it is not a point one can reach, but rather an ongoing process. For me, if you can have a wholesome life which enables you to grow, you are successful in that moment. But, this is something which must be strived for at all times — success is a never ending journey!

What are your favorite books, podcasts, or resources that inspire you to be a better parent? Can you explain why you like them?

For sure. The one I like the most is “The Awakened Family” by Shefali Tsabary. Another two classics which I strongly recommend are “How To Talk So Kids Will Listen, And Listen So Kids Will Talk” by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish, and “The Sibling Without Rivalry” by Adele Faber. This last one is important since I have another child on the way!

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

I know I’ve used it before, but I really do use this quote a lot in different contexts! “Fall down seven times, get up eight.”

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

Yes, it would definitely be the movement of meditation. Especially in times like this, I think we need to listen more to our body and our mind and not to focus on things that are happening outside of our power. Meditation offers the tool to do this.

Thank you so much for these insights! This was so inspiring!

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