This month, All the Moms spoke with "Jane the Virgin" star Justin Baldoni (Rafael Solano on the show) about his partnership with the National Peanut Board to promote early introduction of peanuts to infants.
But we were curious about other aspects of his life as a modern dad, too. We chatted with him about how he handles being a working parent and how he and his wife, Emily, are raising their children (daughter Maiya and son Maxwell) to be conscious of gender stereotypes.
Baldoni has been trying to cultivate a national conversation about what it means to be a man or a woman in today's world for awhile now.
In 2017, his viral Ted Talk titled "Why I'm Done Trying To Be 'Man Enough'" challenged people to rethink masculinity and femininity. He's continued that conversation in a roundtable web series called "Man Enough," featuring several men including actor Matt McGorry of "Orange Is the New Black" and "How To Get Away With Murder."
Men in the series contemplate timely subjects like the #MeToo movement, body image and male vulnerability.
Q&A: Justin Baldoni's thoughts on modern parenting
Note: This content has been edited and condensed for clarity.
Question: In the past few years, you've been filming "Jane the Virgin," hosted a viral Ted Talk, directed the film "Five Feet Apart" (debuting in 2019) and launched the "Man Enough" series. Being so busy, how do you ensure your kids feel loved and cared about?
Justin Baldoni: You know I can tell you that it might look like I have it all together or it might look like that I'm really good at it from the outside, but I struggle with it a lot. I think we're living in an age where we could just choose to work 24/7. There's gonna come a time when you have to make a choice and it's: Do I not work now? Do I not take the job? Do I not choose to be on my phone for that extra hour.
My actions today are their memories tomorrow. That's how I'm choosing to try to live. But I fail all the time, and I think it's really important that other parents know that you're going to fail.
Q: Do you have any examples of specific times you've struggled?
Baldoni: I just directed a film in New Orleans and I brought the whole family with me. That was really hard. But they got to be with me one day a week, the other six days were really, really hard on the kids. That was something Emily and I talked about.
Q: Are there any mandatory rules you've set for yourself as a dad?
Baldoni: It doesn't matter where I am or what I'm doing, if it's around 7:30 at night and my wife calls me, I know she's Facetiming me because she's putting the kids down. I answer, whether I'm in a meeting (or something else). I say, "Excuse me, I'm going to say goodnight to my kids." That's really, really important to me.
Q: What advice can you offer other busy parents?
Baldoni: I'm just going to assume that parents are thinking about this already, and the parents who work are already struggling with the balance and already wishing they could be more present in the lives of their kids.
Be patient and kind to yourself in the process. I think that's important to know for parents who don't have the choice or luxury of not going to work or saying no to a job because they're doing it to put food on the table and to put a roof over their kids' heads.
They need to be patient with themselves and know that they're also giving their kids something by working.
I think parenting is the hardest thing you could ever do. We beat ourselves up a lot... I believe a good parent is one that tries.
Q: What's your biggest struggle as a dad in 2018?
Baldoni: What I have to work on more than anything is putting my damn phone away and not trying to capture every moment. There are times where we don't bring our phones out at all, and (when) there's a beautiful moment that happens, I'll catch myself saying, "Oh, I want to film it!" Then I realize, no. I'm filming it in my head and that's really important today.
Q: You work hard to prompt conversations around gender. Why is that important to you?
Baldoni: The reason I did the TED Talk and why I'm doing this show "Man Enough" is because I realized that I was blindly following these unwritten rules of masculinity my whole life and it was causing me a lot of pain.
I've tried to figure out how to become a better friend, a better citizen of the world. And a lot of that comes from questioning these things that were taught to us that we blindly follow. When you become a parent, you realize how just ingrained it is.
The idea that girls have to like pink and boys have to like blue. Where does that come from? Why do we suddenly call girls who are more athletic and adventurous tomboys instead of just calling them girls?
Why do we teach our girls that they need to be sweet and kind and polite and pretty and our boys have to be strong and brave and adventurous and daring?
When you unpack that, you realize it doesn't come from anywhere.
Q: How do you and Emily raise Maiya and Maxwell to be aware of gender stereotypes?
Baldoni: For us it's just about being conscious.
Emily and I are focused on making sure we give Maiya the choice. We ask, "Want to wear a dress today? Want to wear jeans and overalls today?" Our daughter is one where she will go for the pinkest, pretty flowy dress. And that's OK. That doesn't mean we're not feminist parents. We're giving her the choice.
And for Maxwell, letting him know that he doesn't just have to be the way all the other boys are. He can be whoever he wants to be.
Teaching them that their minds and their hearts are far more powerful than their bodies is another really important (lesson) that we're starting to implement now.
It's also in our language. We let Maiya know she's strong and brave and Maxwell that he's sweet and kind. If I call my daughter sweetheart, then I need to call my son a sweetheart.
These are all things you don't think about until you have kids and you start unpacking the gender norms.
You realize, "Oh wow. I'm contributing to the problem..."
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