Behind The Scenes
Behind The Scenes With Ben Aaron
"There should be some kind of budget in the government that should pay stay-at-home parents $150-200,000 a year. It is a nonstop, thankless profession."
Ben Aaron is the type of dad you want to meet at the playground. He’s funny, unpretentious, and isn’t afraid to bare-all about the day-to-day of modern parenthood.
The four-time Emmy winner and NBC features reporter is a stay-at-home-ish dad and husband to Good Morning America’s beloved Chief Meteorologist Ginger Zee, and he couldn’t be happier. Married with two kids in the suburbs of New York City may make other men nervous, but Ben is thriving. Thriving because he’s in it for every aspect of fatherhood, and knows that taking care of his sons Miles and Adrian is something he truly loves—even when they drive him crazy.
IT CAN BE A THANKLESS PROFESSION
Ben last hosted Pickler & Ben before settling into his role as a stay-at-home dad. Because the show filmed in Nashville, he frequently flew back and forth. This kept him away from where he wanted to be most: home.
Now he’s taking on a much harder gig, one without a salary, benefits, or paid time off: stay-at-home parenting.
He confesses, “Now I apologize to my mom once a week for things that I did.” Laughing, he adds, “There should be some kind of budget in the government that should pay stay-at-home parents $150-200,000 a year. It is a nonstop, thankless profession.”
We can all agree that the work is underrated and underappreciated (preach!). Traditionally, the work has fallen on mothers, but a new generation of stay-at-home dads like Ben are in the thick of it. He stresses, “It’s an absolute impossibility to find balance. When you want to be a good parent, patient and understanding, you have no time for anything else but them. I have such an unbelievable respect for stay-at-home parents.”
DAY IN DAY OUT
It can also get monotonous, which can be especially tough for those who went from their own schedule to the often repetitive schedule of childcare. We’re fluent in baby talk, but it’s also nice to talk to humans our own age. Ben recommends using play dates to your advantage, and to consider yourself as much a part of the equation as your kid. Human interaction nourishes us, and creating a community of fellow parents can be a lifesaver.
“It’s that, the diversity of meeting different people with playdates is huge. It’s not just a playdate for your kid, it’s a playdate for you as well. Just make sure that the other parents are people you can actually stand, and not just other children your kid loves.”
How else does Ben break through the repetition? By playing music he loves with the boys. It’s not the most radical idea, but we forget that we don’t have to listen to ‘If You’re Happy And You Know It’ a million times over. Your kids can learn to love Beyoncé as much as you do. Ben’s raising his sons on artists like The Cure, Paul Simon, and Led Zeppelin. He says that it “helps the sanity. If you are alone doing the same thing every day and singing Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, you will lose your mind. You’ll just end up in a psychiatric ward.”
BE PROACTIVE ABOUT MENTAL ILLNESS
Earlier this year, Ben wrote a personal essay about his long-standing struggle with obsessive-compulsive disorder. His wife Ginger has also shared her mental health issues in the memoir Natural Disaster: I Cover Them. I am One. It’s an understatement to say they’ve been through a lot, and Ben even has a name for them, “the Avengers of mental illness.”
As parents, he says that they are mindful that it could possibly be passed down to their sons genetically, which worries them because “you never want them to experience the pain that you went through.”
Ben and Ginger are taking a different approach on addressing mental illness in their household by looking for signs of struggle and treating it with thoughtfulness, not shame. Ben offers, “…it’s a balance between stepping back and just observing, and also being proactive and helping them if they do need help. We’re just being cautiously aware. I think that’s the best perspective at this point.”
TWO HEADS ARE BETTER THAN ONE, SOMETIMES
Remember those wild, out-of-control parties from college? Kids are like that, every single day. With three-and-a-half year old Adrian and one-and-a-half year old Miles, Ben says he “never experienced anything more difficult than going from one to two.” He puts it bluntly, “Adrian’s the sweetest kid in the world, Miles will punch you in the face. So getting that dynamic, it’s like…It’s so difficult to make them both happy at the same time.”
Sibling rivalry is to be expected, but between the screams and cries, Ben is enamored by the moments where he sees them being brothers. He gushes, “That is the most special thing on the planet. I love seeing it. It’s better than any TV show on the planet, because you see that they fight like brothers, but they also love like brothers.”
IT'S WORTH IT TO KEEP THE ROMANCE ALIVE
Kids demand our attention 24/7. And they aren’t going to stop demanding your attention because you ask them nicely to give you some time with your partner. Transitioning from a couple to a couple with kids is hard, and Ben says putting in the effort to maintain a husband-wife relationship is important to Ginger and himself.
He affirms, “To this day, that’s the hardest thing about our family dynamic. We have to work to maintain it. We’re married, let’s not become roommates, let’s not become best friends, or just friends. We’re lovers, we’re husband and wife. We have to maintain that romance. We have to maintain that, the affection and everything.”
Communication is essential to their relationship. Ben says that they “don’t really let anything slide by without being like, let’s nip this before it gets into a big deal. Plus,” he adds, “I miss her. I mean I hate not hanging out with her. It sucks. It really sucks.” To keep the spark alive, it doesn’t hurt to be a little lovey dovey, too.