Work life balance

Family motivates custodian Raymond Perez, also known as Ray, to lead himself through his responsibilities.


Emily Cao, Print editor-in-chief

A pervasive droning escapes a chunky vacuum cleaner attached to custodian Raymond Perez’s back, but he’s clearly not phased. Instead, he’s focused on finishing his tasks before his lunch break at 5:30 p.m., just barely enough time to walk to Suzanne Park and watch his youngest daughters play softball – after all, he hasn’t seen them in almost a day. 

“I don’t [often] see my family for dinner. My kids are asleep by the time I get home from work. Sometimes, by the time I wake up in the morning, they’re already at school,” Perez said. “It can be a little depressing sometimes, but we’ve learned to balance.

Perez is an evening-shift custodian, working weekdays from 2-10 p.m. In addition to the Performing Arts Center, drama room and portables, he looks after his five kids, aged three to 18, with his wife, Erica Perez.

“Everything I do, I do for them. I don’t really spend too much time with friends because I try to make up for the lost time [with my kids],” Perez said, “and when I’m able to spend time with them, it’s awesome. Fortunately for me, my family doesn’t live too far. I get to see them a lot more now being closer to home versus where I used to work.”

Everything I do, I do for them.”

— Raymond Perez

Prior to joining the Walnut staff in May, he served as a custodian at Beckman High School in Orange County for six years. Despite his seniority and job security there, Perez had limited freedom and time to see his family.

“I had to stop coaching my son’s baseball team. I missed my daughter’s softball games. I chose to not take days off or call out sick or take vacation days for that time which sometimes I do regret,” Perez said. “I hyper focused because I wanted to show them I’m the guy for the job and move up in the district, but it was possibly never going to happen. Chances are pretty slim to move around the district. There’s really no wiggle room. It’s almost like I’ll stop there.” 

Perez became a construction worker after leaving school at 17 to support his burgeoning family. Yet, financial instability had been a theme throughout his childhood. 

“We never went without school, clothes, food or anything like that. But there were some things extra like, you know, we’d go to the store. Being a kid, you’d see toys [and want] to get a toy. There were times when I’d go to the store like, ‘Hey, Mom, can I get that toy?’” Perez said. “‘Well, not this week because we gotta pay some bills.’”

As he recalls his own upbringing – a slight tremor setting in his voice – he’s reminded of why he must persevere for his family. 

“I’ll say we do make pretty good money for what we do, and I’m able to give them a little bit more than what I had,” Perez said. “[While] I wouldn’t say I spoil my kids, they get rewarded.”

Saturday outings to Brea Mall, Target and Island Burgers never fail to compensate for schedule conflicts on weekdays. On rare occasions, he and his wife go to the movies together as members of the AMC Stubs list.

“Each of the kids likes to pick [from] their own store – my 10-year-old loves to go to Hot Topic, my 7-year-old loves to go to Optimus Toys and my 3-year-old, the Sweet Factory candy shop,” Perez said. “We can easily waste three, four hours at the mall. Then we’ll go grab some dinner, and by then, it’s seven o’clock at night. Everybody will get showered up and they’re relaxed now; about eight o’clock, we’ll start a movie, have some snacks, might even order a pizza. We just love to eat, watch movies and spend time together.”

When he’s not at work or with family, Perez pursues DJ-ing as a hobby. 

“With DJ-ing, you don’t want to have dead air – as soon as one song ends, the next one plays immediately, like a never-ending song. It’s been a long time since I’ve actually brought things out because I’ve been so busy, but it’s something I’ve always done,” Perez said.

I love this work. It’s like I’m at home.”

— Raymond Perez

Much like the crossfade from one track to the next, Perez persists in his search for a beat. Though Perez felt uncertain about his availability after leaving his old workplace, he finds solace in the family-oriented atmosphere at Walnut.

“A lot of guys [at Beckman] felt like we were at the bottom of the barrel. And there were a lot of times [when] you’d say hello to an administration office person, or some of the teachers, and they won’t even say hello back. They won’t even look at you,” Perez said. “One of my biggest fears leaving that district was, ‘What if I’m not happy? What if things don’t work out for me? What if I miss it too much? What if I’m just, you know, I end up regretting it and I want to go back and I can’t go back? But I wish I’d moved a lot sooner now. I felt like it was just written in the stars for me to be here. I’m happy. I love this work. It’s like I’m at home.”

Once Perez’s six-month work probation ends in November, he plans to take vacation time off to take his family on a trip to Disneyland. In the future, he hopes to move into an a.m. shift to coordinate with his children’s school schedules. 

“I get joy out of my family being happy – even the small things, like when my three youngest daughters come in and want to mess with the [DJ] equipment,” Perez said. “It’s the best feeling, honestly – it is.”