There are times when Paul Adelstein has a severe case of the Daddy Guilts.
“I look at my friends’ Instagram feeds and think, ‘How did they get home from work and make that beautiful dinner for their kids … and their house is so clean that it’s presentational,” griped the actor, who grew up in Glencoe.
“I’m lucky if I do a load of laundry. I even feel proud of myself if I do it — which isn’t really wrong.”
Adelstein, best known as the husband on Bravo’s “The Girlfriend’s Guide to Divorce,” has his reasons for not being able to caulk a tub or whip up a photogenic side dish while sneaking veggies into his 8-year-old daughter’s smoothie. In acting terms, it’s called employment.
He’s calling from the set of the new NBC series “I Feel Bad,” which debuts at 8:30 p.m. Thursday on WMAQ-Channel 5 after preview episodes aired last month.
Today he’s actually feeling pretty good as the character of David, who makes the idea of perfection gender-specific.
“There is a recurring bit in the show that the mother is expected to do all things where if the father changes a diaper, he gets maximum credit for it,” said Adelstein, 49.
“Come on!” he insisted. “It’s not right, but these days even the more enlightened guys get the bonus points when they do the messy stuff. That’s why we hold up that diaper like, ‘Look what I just did!’ ”
“I Feel Bad,” from executive producer Amy Poehler, stars Sarayu Blue as Emet Sweetzer. She and her husband (Adelstein) are trying to be the perfect parents, bosses, spouses, friends, daughter/son-in-law, but must learn to be fine with being imperfect.
The show “takes a funny look at how we set the bar so impossibly high — hence how we look at all those social media feeds and think, ‘I should just give it up.’ ”
As for his chemistry with Blue, he said, “We did the first chemistry read on set and it all just fell into place.”
Acting also just fell into place for Adelstein, whose father worked as a lawyer and mom was in the art world.
“We moved to Chicago [from Glencoe] right before I went to high school,” said the actor. “I went to Francis Parker, which was amazing. I was always in school plays. I just had an affinity for it.”
After graduating from Bowdoin College in Maine, Adelstein returned home and began his career working with New Crime Productions, the theater company founded by John Cusack.
“The kind of work they were doing made me know what I wanted to do with my life,” he said. “It was such a nurturing place — a world-class acting company, but small enough where you felt supported.”
It wasn’t long before Adelstein was working with Steppenwolf Theatre Company in shows including “A Clockwork Orange.”
Between jobs, he worked as a waiter with an aspiring actress named Kate Walsh at the Bucktown’s Café du Midi. (Years later, they would work with each other again on the series “Private Practice.”)
“I had already gotten fired from one waiting job downtown when I got to Café du Midi,” he said with a laugh. “I was just a terrible waiter. But I bumped into Kate and she said, ‘You should come meet the owner of this place.’ She got me the job at Café du Midi, where again I wasn’t so organized as a waiter. I was a nice guy, but it took a while to get your whole meal.”
His first TV break was a role in “Prison Break,” filmed in Chicago. He appeared in other locally filmed small-screen productions including the Jeremy Piven series “Cupid,” “Hack” and “E.R.”
On “Girlfriend’s Guide,” Adelstein was only set to guest star on the pilot but quickly was made a cast member and also a series writer and creative consultant. He played Jake, the ex-husband of main character Abby (Lisa Edelstein).
Fans hoped that Jake and Abby would somehow reconcile when the series ended earlier this year.
“If you titled the show differently, maybe,” Adelstein said. “The thing is Abby and Jake felt their lives were being held back by the other. Then they went off into the world without each other. It was bittersweet because they loved each other and grew up together while being married for 20 years. Given time, maybe they would have found their way back to each other.
“We left is a bit open at the end. Yes, she’s married again to our son’s baseball coach, but Abby is still kind of finding her way.”
Is it possible that there could be a new run of “Girlfriend’s Guide?”
“I would love that,” he said. “There are so many more stories to tell.”