Ottawa couple’s on-air ambitions come with off-air sacrifices
If you ask Stu Schwartz and Consuelo Bernardi if they have time alone as a couple, the answer begins with laughter and ends with a harmonious ‘no.’ “We’ve done a few date nights, but we spend the whole dinner talking about the kids,” says Consuelo. But before five-and-half-year-old Matteo and three-and a-half-year-old Isabella, and before Stu was Ottawa’s Stuntman, the pair were radio broadcasting students at Algonquin College. Stu, a Montreal native, studied at Dawson College before coming to Ottawa for a change of scenery. “Radio was the only thing I was good at,” he says. He was also good at giving relationship advice.
“I asked him what’s the best way to break up with a guy,” recalls Consuelo, who is from Ottawa and studied at Carleton University before enrolling at Algonquin. “It must have been good advice because I broke up with the guy and we started spending more time together.” Married in 2002, the pair began to make a name for themselves in radio, with Consuelo leaving her on-air position for an executive role as program director and Stu being christened with a new pseudonym Stuntman Stu — a name he was given after proving he would do just about anything for radio.
The voice over the airwaves eventually became the voice of the Ottawa Senators in 2006. Now as I listen back to my audition tape, it was horrible,” admits the 37-year-old, who says he grew as a Sens fan, adopting the hometown team after being a loyal Habs supporter.
A power couple and rising, Stu and Consuelo’s work-centred lifestyle came to a screeching halt with the birth of their son, Matteo. “We looked at our schedules and he always had to be somewhere, like a charity golf tournament or a Sens game. So we decided I would stay home. I always blame his schedule for it,” laughs Consuelo.
The work–family juggle
Dropping everything to be a stay-at-home mom, the 38-yearold admits she didn’t have the smoothest transition into her new role. “When we talked about kids, the plan was always to go back to work,” she says. “There are women who love staying at home and women who are destined to work. After first leaving my career, I was miserable. And it wasn’t because of my son. I love my son. I do view it as a sacrifice though, but I don’t
think there’s any shame in that word.”
With his wife giving up her career and now the sole breadwinner of the family, Stu says he was also affected by the change. “That’s a lot of pressure. There’s pressure at work, there’s pressure at home and it’s a huge load to carry knowing every day when I leave this house, I’m thinking, don’t screw it up.”
“It also means he’s missing things, like family birthdays,” adds Consuelo. “Especially when he’s travelling.”
Co-host of the Majic 100 morning show, Stu’s day starts at 3 a.m. followed by two hours of prep before leaving the house. “I will never complain about my career,” he says. “But the hours aren’t great. I’m completely exhausted by the time I get home and I would like to take a four-hour nap, but it usually
just ends up being one hour.”
Consuelo adds: “The rule was to only nap when there’s a Sens game that night, but I’m not sure what happened there because he has one every day.”
And Consuelo is not the only one who comments on Stu’s lengthy hours. “Matteo has ommented on how much I work, but I just tell him the house doesn’t heat itself,” says Stu.
Having his mom at home all his life, Matteo has also formed his own opinions on the ‘foreign’ idea of two parents working during the day. “He didn’t understand why kids would get dropped off and then their parents go to work,” says Consuelo. “When I explained it to him, he said he didn’t likethat.”
Although he’s not always there in person, with the click of a button or the turn of a knob, Stu’s voice is never far away.
“I’ll put on the show in the morning and they’ll hear him. Or when he’s announcing the starting line-up for the Sens, they’ll pick up on his voice.”
“That’s pretty cool,” says Stu with a smile. “I love that part of the job.”
Although Matteo and Isabella have both been exposed to broadcasting, having on-air segments with their parents, Stu and Consuelo agree that radio would not be their first choice for their children’s futures. “I love what I do,” says Stu. “But I want them to explore the world and experience different things. Not that you don’t experience a lot on the radio, but that would be too easy for them. Matteo can draw, so maybe a graphic designer. They’re both very creative. My real dream is for Matteo to go to Italy and work for Ferrari so I can get a Ferrari!”
Giving back a family ethos
While radio may not be in the cards, they do hope their children’s future includes giving back to their community, specifically children in need — a theme that Stu and Consuelo hold close to their hearts.
“Long before I had kids, at the first station I worked at, we would tour through CHEO a lot and the sight of a child who is sick and hooked up to a machine is just wrong,” says Stu. “The only thing a child should be hooked up to is an Xbox.”
It’s no surprise then that Stu, above all other events throughout the year, dedicates so much time to the annual CHEO telethon and has included Isabella and Matteo on the program since they were born. “Matteo understands that it’s to buy stuff for the hospital for sick kids,” says Stu. “I look forward to the seven hours at the telethon so much. Some people say that’s such a long time, but I just love it.”
Showing their children the importance of giving back starts with Stu and Consuelo, “I always bring Matteo and have him hand the bags of food to Scouts Canada,” says Consuelo. “Parents lead by example, and we’re going to continue to do that.”
“Kids don’t get enough credit,” adds Stu. “If you instil in them at a young age about giving back, then they’ll get it. And kids aren’t cynical. If you have to raise a huge amount of money, adults will say it can’t be done, but kids will say we can do it.”
Scheduling time together
With Consuelo’s family living in Ottawa and having found a great babysitter, Stu and Consuelo have finally been able to schedule some time together — even though many occasions are work-related. “People were starting to think that I didn’t exist because Stu was always saying, ‘My wife can’t be here.’
Consuelo has also finally found a way to fit work into their hectic schedules. Although she has had many opportunities over the years, this summer the couple decided she would re-enter the radio world, hitting the weekend airwaves on Majic 100 as Connie B. “It’s really nice to be back and I love it,” smiles Consuelo. Keeping with the theme of music, she also writes a blog for an online club called Yummy Mummy.
So with events to attend and shows to host, what does the family do when they finally get some downtime? “We yell a lot,” laughs Stu. “I always joke that we have one volume and it’s extremely loud. Connie’s Italian and I’m Jewish, so she’s yelling and then I’m apologizing.”
And when asked if there are any plans to add another little voice to the mix, Stu says the only new addition to this family will be the Ferrari.