Justin Baldoni says 'we need to see more dads showing up'

Justin. Baldoni opens up about his life as a dad. (Photo: Getty; designed by Quinn Lemmers)
Justin. Baldoni opens up about his life as a dad. (Photo: Getty; designed by Quinn Lemmers)
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Welcome to So Mini Ways, Yahoo Life's parenting series on the joys and challenges of child rearing.

Most people know filmmaker and father of two Justin Baldoni as an actor, but this year he’s proving he wears at least a few more hats. This past spring, Baldoni dropped his first book and podcast, Man Enough; both are personal investigations into the current state of masculinity in the 21st century, with the podcast featuring guests like Rainn Wilson, Glennon Doyle and Matthew McConaughey to name a few) speaking on the same topic.

These days, the father of two is promoting his partnership with HP on the initiative "HP Pays Your PTA," a new way to fundraise for Parent Teacher Associations across the country. To help spread the word, the proud dad created a DIY anthem — "Back to School, Alright” that captures the back-to-school realness while helping to acheive the goal of matching up to $3 million in PTA donations as part of the program.

Yahoo Life caught up with the Jane the Virgin actor and dad to Maiya and Maxwell for a chat about parenting during the pandemic and carving out time for himself.

Your "Back to School, Alright" spot brought me back to the '90s. That must’ve been a tough day at work.

[Laughs] I was a huge fan of [pop] music— I listened to Boyz II Men and All4One, I was a huge fan of *NSYNC, 98°, Blackstreet — all of it. Watching all those music videos made me realize I wanted to be a music video director and that was one of my first forays into directing, before I took on commercials and later, movies.

How does it feel to be a PTA spokesperson?

When HP reached out to me, I was happy because they reached out to me as a dad. Most PTAs are made up of women and I was excited to do something with my family that was fun and funny that also could raise money for an important cause. Flipping the script and challenging gender norms is important to me. How can you be it if you don't see it? We need to see more dads showing up and being active in those ways.

You seem really grateful to be a dad.

What greater gift is it to be a father? Our children are growing up before our eyes and if we’re not careful, we might miss it. They say being a parent is being nostalgic for the present and I feel that every day. I was a mess yesterday when my daughter went to first grade. I’m proud of her, but also I feel like I blinked and she’s 6 and if I’m not careful, I’ll blink again and she’ll be 10. I want to be involved as much as I possibly can, as much as my schedule allows.

To that point though, how do you carve out time for yourself?

I don't believe in the idea of never missing a moment. That is an unrealistic expectation that’s only going to lead to unhappiness or regret and comes from a place of fear and scarcity. If we’re not parenting from love and abundance, we’re missing all of it. It’s not possible to be present if you’re always worried. Parenting is a messy, deeply uncomfortable, fun, happy journey; it’s imperfect — and accepting the chaos is a part of parenting.

My wife and I believe in “refilling the well” so we can show up as better parents. We give each other time-outs all the time. “Me time” for us looks like date nights, meditating, going to the gym — but “me time” is not work time and that’s important. If your “me time” is productive, it’s really not your [time].

What was parenting for you like during the pandemic?

It was tough because I had a book deadline; I tried to get out of it multiple times but I couldn't. So I was gone a lot — gone in the house writing the book — and I had a lot of regrets and felt like a father who was failing. I had to accept that I can't be everything to everyone all the time and show myself compassion and grace. Beating myself up over [shortcomings] prevents me from showing up as the dad I want to be. If anything, the pandemic taught me I have a long way to go.

Do you have any advice when it comes to parenting and/or parent shamers?

I try to come at the place of “you’re doing amazing” because every parent, to a certain extent, feels like they’re falling apart. It’s really hard to have self-acceptance — we’ve got to focus on the good. We’re humans [and we need] to embrace our imperfections.

You recently launched the new Man Enough podcast (with the same name as your book). What man (or woman) would be your dream guest?

I’d love to have The Rock on — he’s such a focal point in today’s culture on what a man looks like and what a man should be. He’d be an amazing conversation, I’d also love to have Brené Brown on — or [Barack] Obama; LeBron James, Michael Jordan — men that have had to carry a cross of masculinity.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

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