Routine Behavior is a series where we talk to guys who successfully juggle businesses, careers, and parenting about the routines that keep them on track. Up next is Guy Raz, host of NPR’s TED Radio Hour — the show that combines TED’s world-changing thinkers with Raz’s signature enthusiasm to make commuting less miserable nationwide.
Most know Raz as the former voice of All Things Considered. Your kid may know him for his Breakfast Blast Newscast on Sirius Radio. His sons’ friends know him as “Coach” this time of year. Despite his many hats, Raz would walk away from his award-winning career if that’s what it took to be home at a reasonable hour to cook, lip-sync MC hammer, and wrestle with his (remarkably well-read) 4 and 6-year-old sons.
What time do you start answering email in the morning?
I try not to until I get to work. I have a deal with my boys that I don’t email or text around them unless I explicitly explain the purpose, because I restrict their screen time pretty severely. They get to be in front like their Kindles on Friday and Saturday nights only, so I’m trying not to model bad behavior, even though I’m totally addicted to my devices. My boys end up calling me out on it when I use it at home, so sometimes I do it on my bike as I’m biking into work, which is a terrible idea.How do you reconnect with your boys when you get home from work each day?
The first thing I do is try to put my phone away and not check it more than once before I go to bed. If it’s early enough in the evening, we’ll go throw the baseball or kick a soccer ball in the park.Then I try to pry out what they’ve done at school that day. I will say, “What are 5 things that happened at school, and if they can tell me all 5 then they will not get tickle tortured — that’s the deal.
We do a lot of wrestling in our house. I will have the boys on 1 team against me as kind of a sneaky way to build a bond and camaraderie between them. Last night, they were pummeling me: One was beating my head, and another would try to push me off the bed. That’s a typical evening.
Did your wife stays at home or does she work?
She works and has a very demanding job. She’s a lawyer. She’s super disciplined.
What services do you pay for, like cooking, cleaning, or yard maintenance?
We have a cleaning crew come in twice a month. We just started having an au pair, who helps us out with picking up the boys from school and looking after them; that’s been great.
One was beating my head, and another would try to push me off the bed. That’s a typical evening.
How many times a week do you cook, and do you ever get home for dinner?
I really make a point of getting home for dinner every night. I love my job. It’s incredibly important to me. But if it meant I had to stay until very late every night for NPR to employ me, I just wouldn’t do it. Part of the deal for me is I have to be home at a reasonable time to ask my kids about their day and cook for them every night. If it doesn’t happen, I’m thrown out of balance and I get sad. I need that energy and interaction from them to feel like I can be fully present at work.
What would you say is the one piece of kid related gear that you cannot live without?
We love Micro Kickboard scooters. The boys each have one they take everywhere, and they’re wonderful for the city we live in, Washington D.C.
Lately, my 6-year-old has discovered my clunky iPod from 2005 that I stopped using a few years back. I’ll come home, and he’ll be playing like early REM. For some reason he got obsessed with Vampire Weekend. He can sing every song on their first 2 records, and it’s just crazy to watch him get into a band. He discovers them because he likes the name of the band. Then he listens to the music, so it’s pretty cool. How much exercise do you get in a given week, and what kind?
I try to go 3 nights a week, usually nights when my wife does bedtime. If I’m lucky, I get to the gym by 8:45 PM, but it’s usually closer to 9:00 PM.
How often do you travel for work, and do you look forward to it or dread it?
Before we had kids, my wife and I were platinum members of Lufthansa and British Airways. I flew many times a week as a foreign correspondent, and my wife was a lawyer overseas with me. We were always on the road, and I loved it. After we had kids, that just ended.
That lifestyle is very difficult, and frankly it’s not that appealing to me anymore. I go to the 2 major TED conference every year — that’s a week-long each. I’ll visit public radio stations to do speaking. I try to minimize it and not overnight away from home, because we have a routine and a rhythm at home.
If it meant I had to stay until very late every night for NPR to employ me, I just wouldn’t do it.
What is your go-to when you need work related inspiration?
I really go to one place, and it is a pep talk from my wife. She’s an incredible mom and an accomplished lawyer and amazing wife. She’s incredibly positive and has an incredible attitude and a really clear and constructive way of looking at the world. When I’m feeling down or negative, which happens, she helps me see clearly and get perspective. She’s the most important source for getting me back on track.
What is your go-to when you need to completely turn your brain off?
When I have some time to just veg out, I disappear to into the newspaper on my iPhone. It’s totally pathetic, but it’s actually the one thing that I’m able to do when I’m lying in bed or early in the morning and I want to sleep. I also love reading the hyper local newspaper that comes to our doorstep — it’s about our neighborhood. That’s generally something that I read cover to cover every week.
How is your attendance record at your kids’ events, games, milestone moments?
It’s pretty good. I’ve missed one school performance in 6 years. I coach my oldest son’s baseball tee-ball team, so obviously I’m at all the games and practices. I hope that it doesn’t come across as self-righteous; it really is the combination of luck and I’ve been pretty stubborn about that. It’s really important to me that I’m able to be there to witness those moments, because that’s what it’s all about. Life is the collection of these moments, and I want to be there as much as I can.What are your kids’ favorite books at the moment?
My 6-year-old Henry is a big reader, an independent reader. He loves:
• The People of Pineapple Place
• Diary of a Wimpy Kid
• Island of Doctor Libris
• The Lunch Lady books
• Pippi Longstocking
• Secret Agent Jack Stalwart books
What are the boys’ favorite toys at the moment?
My oldest son Henry loves baseball cards and board games. He’s really into Risk and Carcassonne, a Medieval castle game where you build villages and castles. He’s really into soccer guys and baseball guys — little plastic figurines you set up on a baseball field or soccer field. Both boys are super into Lego’s. Thankfully, they’re now into free-play Legos, so they’re just building their own things from all the flotsam and jetsam of Lego material. Henry the other day integrated the control panel from the Millennium Falcon Lego into his boat-building garage.
Before kids, my wife and I were platinum members of Lufthansa and British Airways. We were always on the road and loved it. After kids, that just ended.
My little one, Bram, is super into trucks, especially these really well-made German trucks by a brand called Bruder. They make trucks, fire engines, tow trucks, crane trucks, and garbage trucks. They’re really well made and last a long time.
Can you think of any apps that have proven useful to you as a parent?
• Dubsmash (iOS, Android) — Allows you to lip-sync a line from almost any song or TV show or movie.
• Hopscotch ( iOS, Android) — Supposedly helps kids learn how to code.
• Tow Trucks ( iOS) — Bram loves anything with trucks.
• Peekaboo Barn ( iOS, Android) — For babies. Touch the animal to hear its sound.
• iMovie ( iOS) — Let’s you make a little movie trailer. They love it.
• PBS Kids ( iOS, Android) — Awesome because it has video from PBS shows.
• Madden Mobile ( iOS, Android) — Football.
• TripIt ( iOS, Android) — For vacations. Forward all of your bookings — Expedia, AirBnB, rental car, whatever — to this app, and it creates an itinerary for you with all the relevant information.