One Conversation Starter For a Holiday Weekend

When your wife thanks you as publicly as mine did this week, it’s wonderful. I am in awe of what she has built over the past decade – and was thrilled to read comments from people in her industry.

But at the same time, as I read her post, I thought: Why would I have done anything other than support her dream?

My wife is a respected recruiter in the asset management business. She’s also a former Division I runner. The two have similar traits: tenacious, determined and focused on winning – or in the work world, doing your absolute best, always.

Over the past decade she’s built a remarkable and respected firm, Third Street Partners. She wanted to push retained executive search in a different direction, in a way that valued relationships more. She wanted to move it to partnerships, not transactions, with clients. And she wanted to make sure all candidates – men and women – were judged based on objective criteria for a given role.

Back in 2013 this was her dream. And I wanted to support her just as she had encouraged me in my career. I was fortunate to be doing exactly what I had dreamed of doing as a kid. I had published my first book and had been a The New York Times business columnist for several years. I knew I could continue doing what I was doing at a high level while also covering a lot of what has come to be called the “second shift”: kids, home, planning – aka the logistics of life.

What I did for my wife and our family didn’t seem extraordinary. It seemed, well, normal and, frankly, not all that hard – as long as I kept my calendar organized. We work as a team and sometimes that means changing things up. So, having a lead role in the family was not exactly crazy when you think about it.

For sure, I had several advantages. I had a schedule that was known and fairly fixed. I could work many work calls around our family’s needs. And I was also early into working from home a couple of days a week. I was also happy to do this.

Some research on men paints a different picture. One study in particular shows that men whose wives earn more, as mine does, do less at home, and as a consequence their wives have to take on that second shift alone. It leads to exhaustion, fatigue and – no surprise – resentment.

That surely happens. But one thing I know from research we’ve done at The Company of Dads is that this doesn’t have to continue this way. There are already some 25 million men in America who are or could be Lead Dads (out of 75 million fathers overall.) Some are dads who are divorced, widowed or separated. But the majority are married men who work full time, part time or devote all their time to their families, while also supporting their spouse’s career. In other words, they help the family fulfill its full potential.

For working parents, consider Lead Dadding as a Thanksgiving conversation. You might be surprised that opening up a discussion on who does what could lead to positive change.