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 Jason Tanz, the editor at large for WIRED, who recently moved back to New York after a few years in the magazine’s San Francisco office. His writing has also appeared in The New York Times, Esquire, Spin, and his book Other People’s Property, ponders exactly what the hell white people have been doing with hip-hop music.
When he’s is not chasing the latest story across the country, Tanz can be found regretting the fact that his son has developed a similar taste in music — for a pretty good reason, it turns out.
What time do you start answering emails in the morning?
I usually answer emails on the train into work if I’m going into work, so probably around 8:30 AM. Most of my emails come from the West Coast and not here on the East Coast, so when I stop answering emails is another question, considering the time change. I will go late at work, but I don’t have too much waiting for me in the morning.Do you work a so-called “third shift” at night after dinner’s over and the kids have gone to bed?
It’s not so much like a shift. I don’t go home and work for an hour or anything like that. I do make myself available, so I’m distractible. It’s kind of rare that something will come back to me at the end of the day that I have to deal with immediately. Because of the time change, if something does come back, I can work on it in the morning before they get into the office and have it ready when they get there.
How do you reconnect with your kid when you get home from work each day?
I try very, very hard — and do not always succeed — to put my phone in another room so that I’m not tempted by it. I work from home usually 2 days a week, sometimes more. There it’s easy. He’s home and I’m home at 6 o’clock, and we can all have dinner together. If I’m in the office, I’ll get home around 7:15, and he’s usually already had dinner. Maybe I’ll eat something quickly, or I’ll wait to eat after he goes to bed. I will get him in his pajamas, brush his teeth, and get him in bed. Then we always read together every night when I’ve been working.
Does your wife stay at home or work?
We are very fortunate that she is not working right now, as of about 6 months ago. We moved from the West Coast to the East Coast about 6 months ago — from San Francisco in the city to Montclair, New Jersey. One of the reasons we moved back was because our lifestyle was getting really hard on the family. Both my wife and I were working and both getting home really late. Our son had this really grueling day: going to kindergarten, then getting picked up by a nanny, then walking home. He was really shuttling around a lot, and one of the major reasons we moved back was because it was going to be easier to be there for him.
“One of our great joys is forcing our musical tastes upon our son in little bitty ways, and we’re doing it with streaming media.”
What services do you pay for (cooking, cleaning, yard maintenance, oil changes, etc.)?
We’ve bounced back and forth between New Jersey and San Francisco a couple of times, so we are merely back to New Jersey in our home. We had rented it out. And one of the things I’ve learned is that I should not be responsible for the yard work. It just took out so much time from our entire weekend. So yes, we pay a guy to mow the lawn. We also pay for a cleaning woman, not all of the time, but every couple of weeks. Other than that, we do all of our shopping, cook all of our meals, all of that stuff.
What’s the one piece of kid-related gear that you can’t live without?
Streaming music services. We had a Spotify account. We had a Beats account. And now we have Apple Music. One of our great joys is forcing our musical tastes upon our son in little bitty ways, and we’re doing it with streaming media. It’s all right there anytime we want to indoctrinate him.
We actually had to back off a bit. He had these friends over, these older girls who were the neighbors. They were having this dance party. They put on Katy Perry, and they were all dancing. And then my son wanted to put on Tom Waits, and he was dancing around and doing this weird Tom Waits voice. And I could just see his whole horrible, lonely future in high school spilling out ahead of him, and I had to call an audible and stop. I had to back off a bit.
How many times a week do you get home for dinner and do you ever cook?
When we’re both working, I cook the majority of the time; I say this to excuse myself for what I’m about to say. Since my wife is not working, I cook very rarely. I get home consistently at 7:15 when I work, and that’s usually 2 or 3 days a week, so I’m home for dinner probably 3 days a week.What’s your go-to when you need work-related inspiration?
I have a couple of books by great writers, great journalists who I read when I need to get inspired to write. Suzanne Orelean is a big one for me. I have a book called Literary Journalism — this all sounds very pretentious — Literary Journalism has a profile of the filmmaker Errol Morris by Mark Singer, which is always amusing. I also have magazines around all the time filled with good stuff. I’m at WIRED, of course, so whenever I need a little spark, I keep those close at hand.
What’s your go-to when you need to completely turn your brain off?
Bob’s Burgers — I love to watch Bob’s Burgers. I watch Always Sunny a lot. I was watching Kroll Show for a while; it was on Amazon Prime.
What’s the longest you’ve ever played with your kid without looking at your phone?
That’s a great question. I don’t have the answer to that, mostly because I wasn’t finding it on my phone. I would like to think that I’ve gone hours and hours, but it’s an act of will, for sure.
How much exercise do you get in a given week and what kind?
I try to exercise 3 times a week. I was jogging. I’ve been diversifying a little bit. I have some weights up in the attic I try to use every once in a while. And I play tennis as well.
“My son decided he really wanted to get a job performing music for our neighbors, so we actually formed a band.”
How often do you travel for work and do you look forward to it or dread it?
When I moved back east, I took on a new role as a writer, so I travel a lot for reporting purposes. I would say at least once a month, and twice a month is not out of the ordinary. I often look forward to it, but when I’m actually experiencing it, it’s never as exciting. I’ll think, “Ah, I’m away from my family, and I’m alone, and I can do whatever I want.” And I do watch a lot of movies and things like that. But I forget, when you’re alone and away from your family, there’s that nagging loneliness and existential despairing that you still have time to indulge. So, it’s never quite as romantic and exciting as I think it’s going to be.
How’s your attendance record at your kid’s events/games/milestone moments?
I’ve been pretty good at that, because I can work at home when I need to. I was there when he had a play. He had a weeklong drama camp. I was there for his graduation.
What’s your kid’s favorite book at the moment?
He and my wife are reading Charlotte’s Web together. He also recently read Henry And The Paper Route. I don’t know if you’ve heard of this one. It’s a very old book by Beverly Cleary. My son became obsessed with the idea of having a job and decided what he really wanted to do was get a job performing music for our neighbors. So, we actually formed a band, and he played the harmonica.
He was the bandleader. He would point at us when he wanted us to play and stop. And we had a couple of songs he made. He made a poster for us. We were called Moon Strike. Anyway, he had that kind of inspiration.
What’s your kid’s favorite toy at the moment?
For his birthday recently, he got one of those plastic baseball games where you pull the lever, and it has the ball bearing. When we were in San Francisco, he was following the Giants very closely. Everybody at his school was crazy about the Giants. We went to a bunch of games. He was still getting over the fact that Pablo Sandoval left for the Red Sox, so this is a way returning him to some of his Giants fandom.