Drew and Jonathan have done nearly everything together since they were born. (Even though Jonathan did arrive four minutes earlier.) Whether it was launching their first business selling decorative hangers or embarking on their HGTV careers, these two have always been by each other’s side. And now, they’ve taken on their next challenge together: becoming dads.
But even though they’re navigating fatherhood at the same time, their experiences are unique. Drew and his wife Linda are parents to their 1-year-old son, Parker, while Jonathan is a proud stepdad to his and partner Zooey’s children, Elsie, 7, and Charlie, 5. With Father’s Day around the corner, we thought this was a great time to catch up with the brothers and talk all things parenthood, including the highs, the lows, and one genius cleaning hack that may change your playroom forever.
Why don’t we start with sharing what being a dad means to you?
Drew: I don’t want to be the dad who’s off filming and works all the time. The traditional stereotypes are not of interest to me. Linda and I both want to be impactful in Parker’s growth.
Jonathan: For me, fatherhood is recognizing that there are all different kinds of dads in the world, and I don’t think any one is better than the other. It’s really been the joy of my life to dive into these stepdad duties headfirst. I’ve hit the ground running and love every minute of it.
Drew: I agree. There’s no perfect parent or perfect dad and families look different for everyone. As long as you’re someone who’s giving your all, giving a lot of love, showing love, and encouraging your kids to be kind, you’re doing the job.
Jonathan, you mentioned diving in headfirst with the kids. How did you approach the relationship with them when you first met them?
Jonathan: Well, the kids were really young when we first met, they barely just turned 2 and 4. The little one, Charlie, doesn’t actually remember a time before me. The big thing for me was them wondering, “Who is this giant guy who’s all of a sudden showing up around us?” But I’m pretty good at engaging and connecting with kids. I was a professional clown for years and I can perform magic. I wasn’t going to force anything on anybody, I just wanted to let it happen naturally.
Definitely. What was one thing you had to all figure out together?
Jonathan: Something that was really a struggle was what they were going to call me. They have their dad and they have a great relationship with him, so he’s daddy. I couldn’t say papa because that’s what they call their grandpa (though at one point we tried to change the narrative and get them to call me papa instead, but they were’t having it). Eventually they came up with “my Jonathan.” So, whenever they tell a story they say, “There’s daddy, there’s mommy, and he’s my Jonathan.”
What about Parker, has he started calling you anything yet, Drew?
Drew: He babbles a little bit! We don’t know exactly what he’s saying yet, but if he wants to be held, he says, “mamama,” if he wants to play around, he says, “dadada” and when he looks at our dad [Parker’s grandpa] he says, “papapa.”
Too cute! So, how have your priorities changed since becoming dads?
Jonathan: I’ll tell you a quick story because it explains how much they’ve shifted: Years ago, we were filming a season of Property Brothers and we had a wrap party with a psychic who was doing tarot card readings. The reader had said to me, “Ah, yes this card means you’re going to have children within the year.” I laughed because I didn’t even have a girlfriend at the time. Low and behold, six months later I met Zooey. We started dating, moved in together, and before the end of the year I had kids. I never even thought about being an “Instant Dad,” or an “Insta Dad” and it changed everything for me. It changes your perspective on everything.
Now I want to be home for dinner every single night. I want to take them to school when I can and make the time to go to their events. And that can be challenging with our schedules, but I read something a long time ago that was along the lines of, “On your deathbed nobody ever says, ‘I wish I had time for one more meeting at work.’” No, you think about the moments that you missed in your children’s lives. So my goal is making sure any time the kids look out into the audience that they can see my big head sitting there. And it’ll probably be blocking the people behind me, too.
Drew: How could it not? It eclipses the moon! But it’s nice because Jonathan is a little ahead of me, since Parker is only a year old. It’s great to see the things he’s done to make sure he’s there to show that support. He makes them a priority and even though work stuff can pop up, Jonathan now says, “No, I have to be home for dinner with the kids.” I like having someone in my corner because this is something I’m also trying to establish to make sure I’m home with Parker and Linda. Being in the same position is helpful.
You both also became dads technically “later” in life. What have been the pros and cons of that for you?
Drew: Did you just call us old!? My mom and dad met when she was in her late teens and he was in his 20s. They had so many adventures before kids, whether it was overseas in Scotland or in the Rocky Mountains, which is similar to Linda and me. I think it can actually be a good thing to spend a lot of years truly connecting with and getting to know your partner, and that makes us stronger parents. I also feel I have more patience now that I’m a little older, which is something you definitely need. And on top of that, too, I got to live out all my young goals and young passions. I didn’t give up a part of me to become a parent. There are still things I want to do and I want to be a present parent, but I can be more effective with both because I’m a bit more mature.
Jonathan: I think the same way. And one thing that’s exciting is that I’m at a point where I can really appreciate family and what family means. When I was younger, I was so focused on work and so focused on growing our brand, and that doesn’t lend toward a healthy relationship or having the time to parent. The greatest joy is: I’m comfortable in who I am, I’m comfortable in what I’m doing for a living and where I am, and I have the control as to what I can do now, which I wouldn’t necessarily have had when I was younger.
Drew: It’s the difference in philosophy, too. For example when I was younger, I was a basketball nut and I used to say, “When my kid is old enough, they’re going to be on the basketball team and I’ll coach them.” I was putting the things I love onto them. But now it’s different. I remember Linda and I were having conversations about who Parker might be one day and how exciting it’ll be to figure it out, and not once did I say Parker will play basketball. Because now I realize if he does, great. But in reality, I want to support him whether he does dance, music, anything. So, to me that’s kind of funny. There were a lot of selfish motivations when I was younger. I just hope he’s a kind, caring kid and adult.
Jonathan: Exactly. With our kids, all we want, all the effort we put in, I just don’t want them to be assholes. Haha. As long as they’re kind and sweet and considerate, they’re going to be just fine.
What would you say your roles are in your respective households?
Drew: I’m the “take charge” kind of person and Linda is that thoughtful and methodical person, which we think is going to rub off on Parker in a great way. I’m also the bath time guy; that’s my domain. Linda does the cooking, she’s a great cook and she’s very creative, so she takes that on. But bath time is fun because he’s so silly and it just brings out these quirky, fun personality traits.
Jonathan: For me, I think back to our childhood. Our parents supported us in the most incredible way and encouraged us to find our own interests, while also creating guidelines and rules. So, similarly, I’m the follow-through guy in our house, but I’m also the clown. I love being silly and making the kids laugh. I think if we can create a safe environment and make them giggle as much as possible, we’re doing a pretty good job.
Laughter is the best medicine! But obviously there are challenging parts to fatherhood, too. What have been some of the tough times in this journey and how did you get through them?
Jonathan: One thing that was a struggle early on was that the kids didn’t necessarily run up and jump in my arms and give me a big hug. I also remember several times when they’d be out with other kids and someone would say, “Oh your daddy’s so funny,” and they’d be like, “That’s not my daddy, he’s my Jonathan.” So that would hurt a little bit. But then I realized that in their mind, that’s not a mean thing to say—it’s how they know me. Over time, I worked on expressing my feelings to them, and the things that make me sad and happy. I think it’s good for kids to know that grownups have feelings, too. Having that dialogue with them is so important because as they get older, they’ll continue to keep those lines open. Anyways, now when they see me, they scream my name and they come running and want a big hug. So, you go through these different phases and adapt, but I think as long as that communication and sincerity is there, they’ll know they can trust you and that you have feelings, too.
Drew: Early on, I was back in school finishing my Executive MBA and I had to fly out to Boston two months after Parker was born for two weeks. The early stages of being born is a tough time to leave a parent solo. She was good at letting me know what she needed to tackle everything, but after doing that it made me understand how easy it could be to just let Linda take the reins on everything Parker. I’m at work all day and she’s with him, so it’s easy for me to forget that I’m a parent here, too, and I have certain responsibilities. The real, open dialogue between Linda and me is a huge part of me being a better dad because she’ll give me a slight reminder if I’m not doing something I promised to do. It’s not just about the baby, it’s also about your communication with your partner.
Jonathan: That’s so important, because part of being a really great dad for me is being a really great partner. Doing thoughtful things… it doesn’t matter if it’s big or small, but spending time connecting and finding out what their needs are, even if those duties shift back and forth. For example, Zooey does all the cooking—she’s an incredible cook and loves food, and I couldn’t even attempt to do one percent of what she can in the kitchen. That being said, sometimes it’s helpful when I can come in and take over the meal duties for one day. Or I always do the cleaning. And even with the kids, too, making sure they take the dishes away.
On that note, how do you handle the chores with the kids?
Jonathan: I have the greatest trick to get kids to clean up messes and it works like a charm, but it requires follow through. So, we used to come into the playroom and it’d be like a grenade went off—it was a disaster zone. Which was crazy since it was clean that morning! One day I said to the kids, “Ok guys, anything you leave on the floor in your room or the playroom when you go to bed, that means you don’t want it and it’ll get thrown out or donated.” Well, they didn’t believe it until the very first time I did it. They cried and were upset, but ever since if I ever say to them, “I guess you don’t want all this stuff on the ground?”, they’ll run in and start putting things away. Now they do a great job.
Drew: That is one of the best tricks I’ve heard in a long time. I’ve made a list of things Jonathan says he’s invented and that’s a good one.
Another piece of advice a lot of “Insta Dads” may want to hear from you, Jonathan, is how do you handle coparenting?
Jonathan: I think people can get so caught up in stress or drama. But we just focus on letting go of all those other things and figuring out what’s most important, which is to make sure the kids have a healthy childhood. Communication is a big thing—I keep in good touch with the kids’ dad, and one of the things we always talk about is that I want to make sure we’re never competing. For example, I’ll always reach out if we’re going to see a movie or planning a trip to Disneyland to make sure he doesn’t have plans to see that movie with them or something else that may interfere. It’s worked out pretty great. Also, in our lifestyle, stuff comes up and the schedule changes and you can’t control that. So we always say if there’s ever a situation where we need to keep the kids longer, no problem at all. And same thing on his end as well. Sometimes things will pop up and there’s never any frustration. We’re pretty spoiled, we have a great relationship.
That’s great to hear. We’d love to know something silly or fun about both of your kids!
Jonathan: We’ve got a house full of performer personalities. Elsie plays violin, and does dance, and just performed in a local rendition of The Lion King. She gets nervous before she goes on stage just like anybody does, but she enjoys the energy of a crowd and the challenge. She told us she wants to work hard so that when she’s in 10th grade, she can play Dorothy in Wizard of Oz. And Charlie makes up movies all the time and he makes up the soundtracks for them, as well. It’s pretty funny. He’s also created all these streaming services; he created one called Eat Plus and it’s basically any movie that has eating in it.
Look at these little artists!
Drew: Parker loves a good peek-a-boo or copying. Like if I hit the counter once, he’ll hit the counter once, if I hit it twice, he’ll hit it twice. If I stick out my tongue, he’ll stick out his tongue. He’s a jokester already, too, and he’s got a good arm. He’s definitely looking like an athlete!
Last question: What do you love most about being a dad?
Drew: We’ve spent the last 25 years renovating houses for families. We’ve spent so much time trying to give them that feeling of home and that place where they can focus on raising the kids and bringing in that love. I love that I have that now. I have a son and Linda and I are raising him. It’s something I always dreamed of and now that it’s here, I can’t believe it’s here. Every day Parker does something new that blows my mind. And I 100% I agree with Jonathan. I can get caught up in work and I’m grateful to have Linda and Parker there as a beautiful reminder that those are the important moments.
Jonathan: What he said!
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