If You’re a Lead Dad, Embrace It

Here’s some weekend advice for dads: err on the side of honesty and embrace what you’re doing.

In this chopped-up week of work, relax, work, I couldn’t stop thinking of an interaction I had at a town fireworks display. I ran into a dad who’s been a summer swim friend for years – in that band of parents who spend hours in the hot sun to watch out kids swim for a few minutes.

He works in finance and has been supportive of the work we’re doing at The Company of Dads.

But as we chatted, he said it.

“I don’t think I could call myself a Lead Dad. I do a lot, probably 40 or 50 percent or more. But my wife is doing a lot too.”

Positive take: kudos for not trying to overstate what he does. He’s working mostly at home and can be there more for his kids and wife. He’s certainly doing more than in those pre-Covid days of hours spent commuting.

Negative take: is he being modest or is he reluctant to label himself as a Lead Dad? I have another good friend who insists that he’s Mr. Mom. He needles me when he gets a chance, even though he’s a poster dad for The Company of Dads. I ignore him: this is a movement, not a moment.

But talking about parenting for men in their 40s and 50s who worked for men in their 60s and 70s who mocked parental leave, who bragged about how little time they took off when their kids were born, is not easy. A lot’s changed in three years, but there’s a lot of residual damage. And these antiquated leaders are holding firm.

I get it, but I don’t like it.

My fireworks friend was persuadable. I told him that most of the men who waives on whether they were Lead Dads or not Lead Dads should embrace the label. Not a single Event Dad I’ve spoken to has tried to fit themselves into the Lead Dad role. They’ve mostly been silent of dismissive, like the hedge fund p.m. who congratulated me on my retirement when I ended my The New York Times column – in my 40s! (I pointed out that only hedge fund p.m.s can retire in theirs 40s.)

I want to encourage the 25 million men in the United States who are or could be Lead Dads to embrace and be proud of what we’re doing. It’s good for you. It’s good for your spouse, if you have one, and for working moms in general. But it’s really great for your family, your community and, yes, your company where you’re bringing your full self and supporting other working parents.

Please tag a Lead Dad that you know – whether he embraces what he does or hesitates to go all in.