Arts + Entertainment

Jason Good, Modern Family Guy

The ridiculous, amazing story of a daddy, a blogger, a book deal, and what it means to be a man.

Jason Good
Photo by Caitlin Abrams

Don’t call him a daddy blogger. “If you call me a daddy blogger, it’s just really going to bum me out,” says Minneapolis writer Jason Good. But it’s hard to explain Good without mentioning daddy blogs.

And it’s important to explain Good because he’s likely the next big thing in giving voice to the experience of masculine identity within a family. Good has a trio of books coming out this year and next. His book on fatherhood is called This Is Ridiculous This Is Amazing: Parenthood in 71 Lists. His book on boy children in the digital age is called Must. Push. Buttons! And his book on his own father is called Rock, Meet Window: A Story of a Father and a Son.

Minnesota has been the center of national pop culture redefinitions of masculinity before, most notably with Robert Bly’s Iron John. Good could well be our great state’s next redefiner of what it means to be a man. And, sorry Good, but it started with daddy blogging.

Three years ago, Good, who grew up in Ohio and married a Minnesotan, was living in New Jersey and enmeshed in a career on the business side of The New York Times, helping to work out the math for how a digital paywall might succeed. Good’s math was good: Today the Times has 800,000 digital subscribers. But he chucked it all for the dream of becoming a writer, maybe writing for Conan, or something.

After a few months he decided to find discipline through blogging, posting something every single day. On day 215 of this endeavor he threw together a post called “Approximately 3 Minutes Inside The Head of My 2 Year Old,” which went like this:

Each of these “emotions” lasts about 3 seconds.

  1. I wanna play with Daddy’s phone.
  2. I wanna put on Mommy’s shoes.
  4. I wanna open and close the thermostat.
  5. I wanna turn on and off the light on the microwave.
  6. Is there anyone here with a phone I haven’t played with yet?
  8. I wanna pick up the cat by its head.
  9. I wanna throw all the toothbrushes in the sink.
  13. I want out of my chair.
  14. I wanna play with the iPad.
  15. I wanna go outside. No, I wanna turn the heat on.
  16. I wanna take my pants off.
  17. I don’t like the shirt I’m wearing.
  18.  I wanna play with Mommy’s phone.
  20. I’m thirsty.
  21. No, not for that.

Good is funny. Really funny. The post went viral. Really viral. It was probably in your Facebook feed. Twice. It brought an agent. Good kept blogging. Another one of his posts, “46 Reasons My Three Year Old Might Be Freaking Out,” has been shared on Facebook more than 350,000 times. It, too, was probably in your Facebook feed. Thrice. The book deals came.

Good and his family—his wife, Lindsay, and his boys, now 4 and 6—moved near Lake Harriet in Minneapolis (blocks from his wife’s sister) because book deal money goes further here, and they wanted to be close to her family. Good kept blogging, because that’s what he does now, mostly about family life. His posts include “3 Minutes Inside My Head,” “Kids Party Hard,” and “Sunday Family Dinners.” His readers are more than 90 percent female, most coming to him through Facebook. He writes for Parenting magazine. And yet he despises the term daddy blogger.

“I never wanted; I never wanted to pigeonhole myself into that,” he explains as we meet for lunch at his favorite restaurant, Tilia. “I don’t just want to be the guy who writes funny lists.” And yet Good’s book This Is Ridiculous This Is Amazing is another 71 comic lists like his viral successes. They read like viral blog posts never given the chance to go wild in their natural environment. “Go Ahead and Camp” is my favorite list, especially because of number four: “Your kids will each find a special rock, and one will promptly lose it. The entire weekend will be spent searching for the special rock.”

If Good doesn’t want to be known as a blogger, what does he want to be known as? “Somebody who took a risk and quit his job and made it work,” he says. And it isn’t so much the blogging part that bugs Good; it’s the daddy part.

“I want to give a father’s perspective, but it’s not going to be that much different from my wife’s except that we’re different people. The gender division of labor is evaporating,” he says. “I’d say for the people I know, old roles of women do this, men do that are meaningless. There are dual-income families, and people are pulled in so many directions with so many commitments that society is going one way while culture wants to hold on to the past. Social scientists want to put our time in buckets, but there are too many buckets today for that to be meaningful. Too many types of families. Too many types of people,” he goes on, discounting the American Time Use Study and Pew Research findings that American women spend twice as much time with their children as their husbands do, that women do eight hours a week more housework, that men have three hours a week more free time.

“We’re too quick to pigeonhole men and women into these roles. I don’t think anything I do is consciously because I’m a man. I just happen to be writing about my day, and it catches on,” he says. “That’s why if you call me a daddy blogger it would really bum me out.”

So it is that Good finds himself in strange new territory, not unlike where Simone de Beauvoir found herself six decades ago, in which being stereotyped as a daddy limits his potential as a man.

How is it that this jibes with page 175 of This Is Ridiculous, in which Good writes a letter to his sons, beginning: “Call me ‘Daddy’ as long as you want. There’s no pressure at all to switch to ‘Dad’”?

Well, we’ll see. From the shores of Lake Harriet, a new territory defining men in our time is being mapped—and it might be messier, and funnier, than anything that came before.