How Do We Get Old Men To Understand This Dad Moment

I had great plans to relax during our post-school vacation, an annual week at the beach with our three daughters. I canceled my weekly meeting. And I got ready to relax – beach, pool, tennis, golf, walks, biking, afternoon cocktails, all on no schedule.

It didn’t work out that way. Work blew up for my wife who had similar hopes to do fun things. Fortunately, like those old Hair Club for Men ads, I’m not just the founder of The Company of Dads, I’m a Lead Dad too.

I took our three daughters and headed out, while my wife worked at the kitchen table. We swam at the beach and rode bikes. We played in the pool. Afternoon cocktails still arrived. There was an indoor trampoline park on a rainy day and more than our fair share of movies. (I highly recommend the Netflix series on Mer-People, which is a great story about community.)

But when our kids were playing together, I found myself thinking about a successful friend of 20 years who I thought would be an early investor in The Company of Dads but isn’t.

I explained the concept and the revenue model to him several times, but he couldn’t wrap his head around what a Lead Dad is.

“There are 25 million stay-at-home dads in America???”

“No,” I’d say. “There are 2-3 million Lead Dads who devote all their time to their children. The bigger number are Lead Dads who work full or part time and are still the go-to parent while supporting their wife in her career.”

It didn’t register. His wife had cared for their kids and his daughter is doing the same.

But of all the investor rejections, this is the one that hurts.

Why? As optimistic as I am in 1) men in their 20s, 30s and early 40s driving the growth of Lead Dads and 2) emerging leaders and direct managers at companies being the agents to implement more equitable policies at work, there are leaders – mostly men in their late 60s and early 70s – who stand in the way.

They don’t get what we’re talking about. Their lives were going to work early, coming home late, and rarely worrying about caregiving. They were Event Dads, and they succeeded in their careers without any of the juggling that Lead Dads and Working Moms do today. Even if they can work at home now, it’s not changing their views on work and life, on caregiving, company and community obligations. They succeeded in a different system – the one we’re trying to change.

I don’t know why this week, with more sun than rain, and lots of fun with my daughters, I thought of my friend.

I didn’t care what amount he invested. I figured he would be a sure believer in what we’re building. Frankly, I wish he had said no, flat out. The ghosting hurts; that he doesn’t get where the world is going is worse. We were friends after all.

I’ve come back from vacation recharged to talk not just to Lead Dads and Working Moms who embrace what we’re doing but to get the attention of the decision-makers in the old system who still need convincing.