7 a.m. to 7 p.m.: How Actor Justin Baldoni Tackles the First Day of School

Justin Baldoni holding his child in the kitchen

Michael Simon

Parents don’t work 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.—we work 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., from the moment our kids wake up until they go to sleep. This is an unfiltered look at a day in the life of actor, author, podcast host, husband, and father Justin Baldoni.

Some parents just want to get their kids prepped and to school on time, with both a packed lunch and their homework. Justin Baldoni, on the other hand, has greater aspirations for his kids Maiya, 6, and Maxwell, 3. "I want to prepare my kids spiritually and emotionally for all the things the world will eventually say they can’t do—for all the damage we can’t anticipate," says the filmmaker and actor.

Baldoni is best known for playing Rafael Solano in the CW’s "Jane The Virgin." The 37-year-old is also the author of Man Enough: Undefining My Masculinity and hosts the eponymous podcast. He lives in Los Angeles with his family.

Baldoni has got a full plate. Besides acting and podcasting, he manages his production company Wayfarer Studios and helms family taco night. Something he has not yet done, though, is host a bake sale for the Parent-Teacher Association. It is partially why he is partnering up with HP Instant Ink on a campaign that could raise up to $3 million in donations to local PTA programs around the country. The collaboration invites parents to lip-sync to a Backstreet Boys song in an Instagram reel (#HPPaysYourPTA) to earn PTA donations.

Baldoni got in on the fun, parodying a Backstreet Boy's video to raise awareness. “If I never work again, it will be worth it,” he jokes. “Participating was a no-brainer—I would love to see men get more involved in PTAs.”

It’s a lot of, ‘Hey babe, can you pick up the kids?’ We’re still figuring out how to co-parent and support each other.

Speaking of gender roles, they are fairly fluid in the Baldoni household. Justin and his wife, actress and entrepreneur Emily Baldoni, 37, practice co-parenting. “We view our marriage as a partnership and call each other ‘help-mates,’” says Baldoni. He attributes the term to the Baháʼí Faith the family follows. “It’s a lot of, ‘Hey babe, can you pick up the kids?’ We’re still figuring out how to co-parent and support each other.” 

Ahead, Baldoni shares how he and Emily juggle work, drop-off, and family time during their kids’ first day back at school.

Justin Baldoni at a cupcake stand with his child

Michael Simon

7:00 a.m. When I wake up before Maxwell, who sleeps until 6:30 a.m., I feel like I have won the day. I am a big proponent of putting on my oxygen mask first, or in this case, brushing my teeth. Plus, I like to start my mornings with breathwork and prayer or a five-minute meditation to get into my body. The routine helps me recharge and prepare for the day, particularly now that I have been off caffeine for three and a half months.

Once we are all up, we go downstairs where Maxwell and Maiya typically ask for three different things for breakfast. Usually, I cook for them, but today I get a special request for waffles, and the toaster does the work.

When my workday starts early, Emily bears the brunt of breakfast. Our roles change based on what our schedules are like. Sometimes it feels like we are wrestlers tapping in and out of the ring. 

7:15 a.m. There is lots of excitement getting ready for the first day of school! Now that Maiya is going into first grade, she is practically a certified stylist; she picks out all her own clothes. While we have offered her overalls and jeans, Maiya is currently into dresses and princesses. We try to give our kids space to show us who they are and what they are into without preconceived notions about their genders.

Eventually, I know the world will try to put her in a box, tell her to cross her legs and be polite, and not to interrupt or take physical risks. But I want her to know she can be loud and boisterous and funny, and talk about fart and poo if she wants to.

I want to raise my kids with a strong sense of self and focus on virtues. To that end, Max tries on Maiya’s dresses from time to time, and we all applaud and think it is sweet, but he has gravitated toward blues and trucks from the beginning. 

7:45 a.m. We head to school together but in separate cars since Emily has some work meetings right after drop-off. Emily typically packs everyone’s school bags up the night before. She’s better than me at anticipating the kids needs' based on their schedules, and getting organized. I am great at other things, and we are both good at helping each other. 

In the car, we have a conversation about gratitude and what we are excited about today. At a particular point in the ride, the kids say their morning prayer—today they sang a new one, and Daddy cried. Maiya wanted to drop off Maxwell at Pre-K before going to her classroom, so we all took some first-day pictures and dropped him off together.

Emily and I walked back to our cars and cried in each others’ arms before splitting up for the morning. The first day of school can be emotional for everyone.

8 a.m. I squeezed in a 20-minute workout in our garage and wolfed down a quick breakfast before my meetings on meetings on meetings. It is important to find “me” time whenever I can.

12 p.m. I took a “break” during a lunch meeting where we ate together at a socially-acceptable distance.  

2 p.m. Emily and I meet at school to pick up the kids, except we got the time totally wrong! Maiya stays at school until 3:30 p.m.; 2 p.m. pick-up was a relic from last year when the school followed a pandemic hybrid schedule. Although we tried to take her home early, she had no interest in joining us so we just picked up Maxwell for some one-on-one time with his parents.

3:30 p.m. I went back to school on my own to pick up Maiya, then passed both kids off to Emily for a bit between her meetings and before our nanny jumps in to help.

5 p.m. We all came back together to eat. Tonight, it is Daddy’s taco night. After eating, I go outside with Max to explore our property, which is particularly fun since we are in the midst of construction and have a tractor parked outside. He likes to “drive” it (without keys, of course).

Then, he took a ride on the ATV we got Maiya for her sixth birthday—it goes way too fast for an almost-4-year-old, for the record. Afterward, the kids take baths, get a nighttime snack, and we read books to wind them down before they say prayers and “goodnight!” 

7 p.m. By the time we turn off the lights and shut the kids’ doors, it is 8 p.m. Emily and I have a really romantic 45 minutes of picking tile for our bathroom. It is very sexy. Nothing gets you going like travertine!

But in all seriousness, we do value couples time. On Friday, we are going out together on a double date, and we recently did a three-day spiritual retreat in Cabo San Lucas—it is all about refilling the well.

After an hour or so, Emily goes up to get ready for bed while I settle down to write. I am working on the middle-grade version of my book, Man Enough. It is called Boys Will Be Human (instead of “boys will be boys”) for 9- to 11-year-olds.

When Emily falls asleep before me, I take a few minutes for myself to watch a show or movie or do a 15-minute meditation. Tonight I say a few prayers before putting on a show from my podcast, which I have to provide feedback on. After a full day, it is no wonder I fall asleep listening!

Justin Baldoni playing with his child

Michael Simon

By Elizabeth Narins
Elizabeth Narins is a Brooklyn-based freelance writer, editor, and social media strategist whose favorite workout is chasing her toddler. Her work has been published by Cosmopolitan, Women’s Health, Men’s Health, Parents, Health, Bustle, and more.