Welcoming his second child in the middle of a global pandemic has given comedian Hasan Minhaj a lot to think about.
In addition to maintaining the weekly cadence of his show, "Patriot Act," he spends his days with his 2-year-old daughter while his wife, Beena Patel, cares for their 4-month-old son. Since the early days of his Netflix gig, he's made fatherhood a priority, creating a nursery in his office building and adding a work space for his wife to have built-in family time.
Still, it's rare that anyone asks the 34-year-old how he balances his career and raising kids, he told TODAY. The first time he got the question was when director and actress Bryce Dallas Howard posed it while filming the 2019 documentary, "Dads," released on Apple TV+ last month.
"(Bryce) goes, 'So how do you juggle being a dad and your work schedule?' Nobody ever asks guys that," he recalled. "It was really shocking and refreshing ... I was like, 'Thank you for asking because we're in production, and we're sleep-training baby girl. It's a nightmare.' ... It took me like two minutes to answer that question.
"It's almost expected that we just drop (our kids) off at day care or keep them with mommy ... when I think in reality, a lot of dads right now are trying to be more active participants in the lives of their children."
For Minhaj, one form that takes is reading books with his daughter, which he said is one of the "most painful" experiences, given the complicated state of the world.
"So many of the lessons that we're trying to teach (kids) is what the world should be," he explained. "It's about fairness, empathy and all of these virtuous values ... and the painful thing for me is when I watch the news ... so much of the world is not those things. ...
"The thing I'm trying to figure out is how do I teach my daughter both of those realities?" he mused. "The world is not fair for a lot of people, but I taught you that this is what the world should be ... I want them to have that optimism, but I also want them to understand what the world is."
He called it his "toughest challenge as a father," and it's certainly something many parents can relate to during this time.
One way Minhaj navigates these mixed messages? Humor, of course.
A recent Instagram video shows him explaining "The Giving Tree" to his toddler. (Spoiler alert: She's a little too young to understand that "human beings, when given any opportunity, destroy literally everything around them," as her dad succinctly put it.)
It's "such a sad, nihilistic book," Minhaj told TODAY Parents. "There's a ton of stories like that. We're reading 'Curious George,' and it has a lot of undertones of colonialism and imperialism. It's very loaded. We're reading 'Where the Wild Things Are,' and it's just absolutely nuts. Your entry point is this kid's being crazy, and then he decides to run away from home, and the only reason he comes back is he's feeling hungry.
"(Max) is a little bit of a sociopath."
Minhaj is quick to take down the classics, in part because he's so grateful there are other children's book options out there — with characters he never saw as a kid. One example is Matthew Cherry's "Hair Love" about a little girl with curly hair, just like Minhaj's daughter.
"A lot of times, in these princess and fairytale stories, the princesses don't look like her," he said. "She can see herself and the full humanity of herself in these other stories. I didn't have that choice.
"I applied my own logic to it. Arthur was an aardvark, and I'm aardvark-like, I guess. I tried to insert myself as the protagonist in these stories, but they never looked exactly like Hasan, so I'm glad that my daughter has that."
Over the past few months, he and his daughter have gotten "really, really close," he said, but at the same time, he's "still processing" the birth of his son in March in New York City.
"As the world was grappling with this global pandemic and front-line workers are dealing with (protective equipment) shortages, we were in there, in that delivery room. It was a really intense experience," he recalled.
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"Delivery is already one of the most humbling moments that you feel as a human being because you're feeling so much, but you also feel totally powerless, especially as a dad," he continued. "You're on the sidelines kind of coaching. You're there to witness this thing and be supportive. ...
"We felt so lucky that the delivery was smooth, the baby was healthy. It was just a really powerful moment (that) I'll never forget."
See more about the "Dads" documentary, produced by Imagine Entertainment in partnership with Dove Men+Care, here.