Talking All Things Work and Family Life With Justin Baldoni
You probably know Justin Baldoni as the leading hottie Rafael Solano from Jane the Virgin (the very definition of tall, dark, and handsome), who had one of the most drastic character developments from playboy hotelier to devoted husband and father. Since the show ended in 2019 (which some of us still aren’t over), Baldoni has gone through some incredible transformations himself, including becoming a father to two beautiful children of his own.
Balancing work and family life can be difficult for many of us regular human beings, but the TV star lets us in on a little secret: he’s just like any one of us trying to do good for ourselves and our families. Baldoni might not be able to give us the golden rule on how to balance your career and fatherhood (since we can all agree that there isn’t one unless you’re superhuman), but he does give us his best advice on being successful in the office and at home, which comes pretty damn close.
What are you currently working on?
Honestly, I’m working on not working as much as I usually do (which was way too much and just not sustainable), but of course, there’s still a ton going on. Let’s see, so I released my book Man Enough last Spring, and I have been writing a version of it for boys ages 9-12 called Boys Will be
boys Human. Then I’ve got The Man Enough Podcast where me and my co-hosts Jamey Heath and Liz Plank have super real, and sometimes really uncomfortable conversations around masculinity with celebrities and people on the frontlines who are doing the work to help us move beyond these boxes and binaries that we tend to put people and ourselves in, and I’m producing two films this October via my Studio (Wayfarer Studios) and currently casting my next film that I’ll be directing called Hold Back The Stars early next year. Yeah… that still feels like way too much.
Ah! And I also just partnered with HP to help Parent Teacher Associations across the country. They’ve launched the #HPPaysYourPTA program and will be funding up to $3 million in donations to PTAs. So, I’ve joined forces with them to help bring awareness to their incredible initiative. I wanted to throw it back to my days of being a student, where I’d make these ridiculous lip-syncing music videos with my friends, so we made what might be the most terrible and good music video to go with an equally over-the-top, terrible, and much auto-tuned anthem for grown-ups who are dealing with back to school. It may or may not be to set to a Backstreet Boys’ song. I also may never work in this town again.
How do you balance work and family life?
Short answer: I don’t. But I don’t know if balance, in the way we tend to think about it, is attainable. It often implies that equal time, energy, attention is given to every part of our lives. Is that realistic? Especially currently, it seems like everyone, every work thing, every headline, every app, is vying for our attention. I mean, apps and social media literally make money off of our attention. So, I am trying to not strive for balance as much as I strive to be conscious in how I spend my time, and really present with who, or what is right in front of me. Sometimes that means work gets more time than my family, other times that means my wife and/or my kids come to work with me, and other times it means I take intentional, extended time off to be with my family. It’s not necessarily balanced, and I don’t always get it right, but I am trying to be more intentional and present.
What do you most enjoy about being a working father?
I love when my work and my family can co-exist in the same space. When I can bring my kids to the office, or to a set when I can incorporate my family in my work. My wife, Emily, has been on the podcast and in movies, I’ve directed, and she was in an episode of Jane the Virgin. My family has moved to every city with me when we’re shooting movies. And like when the HP project came up, it was so easy to have them join in on the video and we got to make a fun, silly day of it! I love when my work can help create memories with my family.
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Many working fathers believe that they’re balancing the two worlds but their families may not always agree. How do you make sure your family feel that you’re present at home, do you check in with how they feel regularly?
I think part of it is making sure that we aren’t operating as if they are two different worlds, but consciously having those “worlds” co-exist, like bringing them to set or having work that I can do from home and stuff like that. We tend to get trapped in these ideas of false choices. But look, that’s not to say that I haven’t struggled with this big time – especially during the pandemic when our offices were closed. And let’s be honest, even before the pandemic.
My kids and wife have had to tell me way too many times to put my phone down or put my computer away. We recently moved out of LA and that has helped a ton. I have slowed down in a way that was needed for the wellbeing of my family, and myself. There’s nothing like the mountains to bring you back and help you remember the fact that you are breathing.
And of course, communication is everything with Emily and me. So yes, checking in with her, but also being open and listening when she lets me know that I’m not being present (without taking offense), and then making changes and following through to more present.
How do you deal with the pressure that comes with being a working father?
A lot of the conversations we are having on the podcast, and that I wrote about in my book, are about digging into where these pressures come from in the first place. Where do we get the messages that we, as men, have to be the provider for our family? And really looking at what parts of the messages are serving us and what parts aren’t. So, even though it’s work, those conversations have continually helped me navigate the pressures I feel. And it’s important to remember that pressure isn’t always a bad thing. Like the message to be a good dad, to be a present and engaged father – that’s good! Pressure can make diamonds; it can help us reach our full potential. It can also destroy us or make us forget that we are human, not machines or robots.
When I’m starting to feel less like a human and more like a robot, I try to do things that help me connect back with my humanity. Working out, cold plunges, being in nature, going to therapy, putting my damn phone down. These are all tools and resources I use to help me use pressure as fuel and not as force and to help me remember that I’m human and that I am enough.
Finally, I believe that every human on this planet needs to heal. We all have our stuff, our trauma, our baggage that influences every action in our lives. For me, realizing that so much of my drive for success is really a trauma response and a desire to be seen and valued, I’m then able to look at myself objectively when I get lost in the hustle and take a step back and see it for what it is. A plea for love and acceptance. If we don’t do the hard work of heart work and dig in, we will never know the real reason why we allow ourselves to spin on the hamster wheel.
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What’s the most valuable thing you’ve learned since becoming a working father?
That is such a good question. Being of service and being creative – making media content that is hopefully doing some good in the world – is a part of my purpose in this life. And of course, being a husband and father is part of that purpose too. I’ve learned that being able to feed different parts of me helps me show up more authentically, and more fully in each of those roles. I’m not just a director, or author, or actor, or podcast host. And I’m not just a husband or father. I’m a human. And I’m super grateful that I get the opportunity to be a full human. And the most valuable thing that I’ve learned since becoming a working father is that there is work that makes all the other work possible. Meaning my wife, Emily, has made sacrifices in these first several years of our kids’ lives that have enabled me to do the work that I do. She’s been the main parent at home, and while she is also an entrepreneur and actress, she’s made career sacrifices that have enabled me to grow in my career. There is always someone, and often more than one person, who is doing the work that makes all the other work possible. And it’s so crucial that we celebrate and honor that work. Because at the end of the day, it’s the most important.