Finding A Balance

Fun with Family and Friends Can Be Fraught for Lead Dads

Matt, an executive coach whose wife runs a Fortune 1000 company, goes water skiing with his children every Friday after Thanksgiving. It’s a family tradition, with siblings and cousins joining in. There’s no way he’d miss it.

Water skiing in late November is not for his wife. They live outside of San Francisco, so that day is never going to be balmy and warm. In fact, it’s more likely to be overcast and in the 50s.

But there’s a bigger issue. Water skiing is not something his wife likes to do – and she wouldn’t be happy doing it in Hawaii or Florida with beautiful sunny weather.

So, it’s become and remains an area of tension – one that recurs year after year, even though the water-skiing tradition dates to Matt’s childhood.

“She feels resentful that she doesn’t get to experience this,” he said. “So, we find other things for her to do, something that can be just as rewarding.”

It’s a good compromise for sure. But what’s really at stake here isn’t an activity. It’s time – time with their kids and who gets it and on what terms. It’s not a tension that’s even verbalized but it’s there, year after year. And if it was verbalized? Well…

Lead Dads can lead too much. They need to know when to lead less, to let their spouse set the agenda. Weekends are prime time for this. But it can be hard sometimes to step back.

Moments of tension like this are not unique to partnerships of Lead Dads and Working Moms. It’s a problem that doesn’t age well. It’s something that would benefit simply by talking about it.

But talking about it is hard. How silly is it to argue about – or even mention – a father getting to do something really fun with children? It’s the definition of an engaged parent.

It’s also a moment when a Working Mom can feel left out or excluded from something fun.

One thing is true. Not talking about this, not naming this, isn’t going to make it better.

But how do you deal with the disconnect?

There’s a flipside to this: any Lead Dad knows his own relaxation is most likely going to come during the week, around his own work and parenting duties. Drink on Tuesday? Golf on Thursday?

I don’t have a quick fix. Talking is at the heart of it. But that can be hard with children interrupting and work emails coming in until after bedtime.
What are some of the things you’ve done to sort this out? How have you avoided arguments or at least avoided having the same one over and over again? Please email me at