The Lead Dad of the Week is my favorite feature on The Company of Dads. It highlights the incredible diversity of Lead Dads – men who are the go-to parents whether they work full time, part time, or devote all their time to their family, while also supporting their spouses’ careers.
But this week’s feature was special: I finally got to feature Lead Dad One.
As in, without this Lead Dad, The Company of Dads would have taken a very different – and probably less robust – form than it has.
The story begins in the summer of 2021. I had been working on the idea for The Company of Dads since the previous summer, when the massive changes Covid had brought to home and work life were becoming evident. As a journalist, I had been parsing data nights and weekends to quantify America’s population of Lead Dads.
In fundraising speak, I was identifying my total available market, or TAM. It was some 20 million men – out of 125 men in the U.S. – who were or could be Lead Dads. Who were they? Men who told the census they devoted all their time to their families and did not work for pay. Men who were divorced, widowed or separated. Men whose wives out-earned them – a number approaching half of all married couples in America – and were (or really should be) Lead Dads.
To modify a pandemic term that was bounced around a lot back then, I knew I was Lead Dad Zero. But I wanted to find Lead Dad One, that man confident enough in his role to emerge out of the data.
To get honest answers, I didn’t turn to men, who I feared wouldn’t be completely honest with me.
I sought out senior female executives who had children and were married. I wanted to know how they had managed it all. I hypothesized one of three scenarios: they earned so much that they could pay for a lot of help; they had parents who helped with childcare; or they had husbands who had more fixed or flexible schedules and took the lead. (Of course, there is an unfortunate fourth option I didn’t think of back then: working moms who are thriving at work but still have to do most of the work at home, because data shows some husbands do less the more their wives earn.)
The senior women I spoke to all had spouses who were Lead Dads. (This isn’t representative, for sure; it just happened to be true among the women I knew well enough to ask these questions.)
The call that changed everything for me was with Leela Brennan, who held a senior marketing role at PXG, a premium golf club company, and worked closely with Bob Parsons, its founder who became a billionaire with an earlier business, GoDaddy.
I pitched Leela the idea – which was going to start with a book back then – and she said two things I’ll never forget.
On taking two years to write a book about Lead Dads, she was blunt: “That’s a horrible idea. No one will read it and who knows what the world will be like when you finish it. This is a media company and a community platform. You need start it now.”
And: “I wouldn’t be able to do what I do without my husband Kevin. He’s our Lead Dad.”
As Bob Parsons says in his ads, “Kaboom baby!”
That conversation changed how I conceptualized The Company of Dads in all the right ways. By that fall, I had asked to end my column at The New York Times and went off to start The Company of Dads, a digital media company, community platform and training resource for companies trying to adapt to the post-pandemic world of work.
But it wasn’t until a recent trip to Scottsdale, Arizona, that I finally got to meet Leela’s husband: Kevin, a.k.a. Lead Dad One.
Not one to draw attention to what he’s doing, Kevin was reticent at first. But as we shared stories he warmed to the idea of being featured and opened up.
There are many types of Lead Dads in The Company of Dads community, and Kevin is a Lead Dad who devotes all of this time to his family. He loves being there for Leela, but he also relishes his role as the go-to parent for their sons, ages 14 and 4.
Is it all great for him? Of course not. Like many Lead Dads, he’s not always accepted by stay-at-home moms at school or at sports. This knee-jerk shunning is one of many things The Company of Dads is seeking to change through education and by normalizing the role of men as the go-to parents. There are 20 million of us, after all – and it’s not the 1960s!
The best part of this story, though, is I’ve made a new friend. On a follow-up trip to Scottsdale, Kevin and I met for coffee to catch up but also to talk about how he could contribute to what we’re building. Read more about him below.