In A Work From Home World, It’s What Your Kids See, Not What You Say, That Matters

A year ago, my final column ran in The New York Times after an unimaginably great 13-year run. On the one-year anniversary, I was sitting in New York with my middle daughter for her 10th birthday present – a Broadway show of her choice (she picked Aladdin – The Musical). Eating brunch, seeing the NYT building in the distance, I asked if she had noticed anything different about me in the past year. What she said shocked me:

“You’re less stressed and uptight. You’re more, well, let loose. You go on more walks with mom. You’re not so clenched up and whenever we’re going somewhere you’re not, let’s go, let’s go, let’s go. You’re more, we can go in 5 minutes or 10 minutes or 20 minutes.”

If anything I feel way more stressed since ending my column and starting The Company of Dads in February. All startups are stressful but I’m creating a media company and community platform for Lead Dads – those men who are the go-to parents whether they work full time, part time or devote all their time to their families. My audience is fathers who are Lead Dads, working mothers in search of more balance at home, and HR executives who realize the world of work has changed and companies need to adapt.

However important the work I’m doing is, it can’t be so all consuming that I become one of those founders who doesn’t see his family for three years. I’m a Lead Dad – that’s who I was for 13 years as a Times columnist and who I remain while starting a company. But I’m also a founder trying to create something that will make life better for the estimated 30 million families in America that have or could have a Lead Dad in them. Neglecting my own family in the process? It can’t and won’t happen.

Which brings me back to my middle daughter. As I thought about what she said about me being less stressed, I was reminded of something I often tell people: kids watch what you do, they don’t listen to what you say. For 13 years, I had a weekly deadline – Wednesday at 5:30pm, no matter what – and I had to meet it. That was outwardly, obviously stressful – and my kids and wife saw it.

I still have deadlines to meet around weekly content – podcasts on Tuesday, Lead Dad of the Week on Wednesday and our subscriber newsletter done by Friday so it goes out on Sunday – not to mention a whole fundraising campaign this fall. But my middle daughter now sees me working consistently throughout the week – not peaking with stress on a single day!

Or maybe she’s seeing something else. I loved every single minute of being a New York Times columnist; I have no complaints and am grateful for everything. But as the founder of The Company of Dads, it’s different: I feel like with my small but growing team we can change the way companies as well as fathers and mothers think about parenting, work, living, relaxing, and most of all, managing the joys, struggles, and logistics of raising kids while working and living in 2022. Kudos to my daughter for, well, keeping me on brand!

This post originally appeared on Paul Sullivan’s LinkedIn page. Follow Paul for more posts like this in your LinkedIn feed!