How I Became a Lead Dad

How does one become a Lead Dad? For me, it was by accident.

My Lead Dad story began in 2012. I had a successful marketing career. I had built up a great reputation and a vast professional network. I was called a rising corporate star. I was the high earner in my house. Then I got caught in two corporate downsizings associated with the Great Recession and the decline of print media. So I began a consulting career, with one of my gigs concluding right before my twin daughters were born. Perfect timing! A short break. Or so I thought.

When those beautiful babies were born, I instantly fell in love with them. But something else happened that I did not anticipate. Several relationships changed in ways I didn’t yet understand – with my parents, with my in-laws and with my wife. They changed in good ways, but also in confusing ways. This must be common. Why didn’t anyone warn me?

I was forty years old, and I understood my adult relationships in a certain way. The only thing I could grasp about this new normal was that it centered around these two babies. Suddenly everyone had opinions about everything. My business was everybody’s business, and everyone wanted as much time with the babies as possible – including me.

The babies changed my outlook as well. I found myself in a position where taking a career pause would present less strife than going back to work. My wife and I saw the value in one of us staying home with the babies – something we hadn’t anticipated before they were born. Plus, the prospect of a nanny would only reduce the amount of time our extended families could spend with our girls.

To add to what is an adjustment for any family, my wife was going through terrible post-partum depression. Down was up, left was right, and with feedings every three hours, night was day. 

My wife went back to work after a lengthy maternity leave, and I became a Lead Dad who devoted all of his time to his family – my favorite job ever. 

But was it on purpose? Does a hitter know whether he’s going to swing before the 75 MPH knuckleball is thrown? 

I certainly didn’t anticipate being a primary caregiver when I was 8 years old. Or 18, or 28, or 38. Or even when I held my two-month-old daughters in my arms. It was never the plan. It was never even an option. Until it was.

A certain number of us Lead Dads become so by accident. That goes for Lead Dads who work full time and part time as well. Rare is the Lead Dad who was raised to be one.

You just got laid off? You’re now a Lead Dad! Your wife’s career is more successful than yours? Well, Lead Dadding is on the table. You’re the only parent who can work from home post pandemic? That alone could make you a Lead Dad. Or, tragically your wife passed away or you got divorced, turning you into a Lead Dad. These scenarios tend not to be anticipated or planned. On the contrary, the situations that lead to becoming a Lead Dad are often accidental.

What does it mean to be an accidental Lead Dad? 

For me, it meant making things up on the fly. It meant society didn’t know what to make of me. It meant I would experience copious amounts of shame and isolation. But it also meant that I couldn’t believe my own luck. The fact that becoming a Lead Dad was so accidental made me feel even luckier to be able to be so involved in my kids’ lives. 

My girls are now 10 years old, and I realize I am part of a brotherhood of men who should feel proud of the role they assumed. Accident or not, it’s been the most fulfilling job I have ever held.