When Do You Become a Lead Dad?

Ten years ago today, I became a Lead Dad.

It wasn’t a role I anticipated taking on, but it came at a moment of urgency for my family.

On Oct 2, 2013, my wife went to her boss and told him she was going to start her own firm. I had worried that he would react badly, that perhaps she should collect her bonus at the end of the year and start then. But she wanted to be completely above-board and transparent.

So she told him that she was going to start her own firm at the start of the new year, that she was going to put their clients first, that she had an orderly plan to split the clients they had each brought to the firm so there would be no poaching on either side. She came home spent but confident.

The next day she woke to an email telling her not to return to the office. A letter from his lawyer followed swiftly. He wasn’t going to pay her the money he owed her.

My wife resolved to start the firm that day, in the attic of our house. She began calling her clients, knowing he was calling them as well.

At the end of that first day – today 10 years ago – she asked: “What are we going to do with the kids?”

“I’ll become the Lead Dad,” I said.

“What does that mean?”

“Hell, if I know but this isn’t a time to panic,” I joked, and she smiled.

She knew she had to be head down to get her business off the ground but at the time we had two daughters who were 4 and 1. (They’re now 14, 11 and have another sister who is 6.)

I knew I had control over my time. I could schedule pretty much everything in my work life – writing a weekly column, working on a second book, giving talks, going into the city on specific days – and that allowed me to be the Lead Dad, which I define now as the go-to parent whether he works full time, part time or devotes all of his time to his family, while in many cases supporting his wife in her career.

Until then, we had been a 50/50 partnership in the Brené Brown sense of the phrase. That meant sometimes it was 70/30, sometimes 40/60, sometimes 15/85. It depended on what we had to give.

What am I most proud of when I look back? That my wife had the grit and determination to make her idea work. She sacrificed time with our young daughters to make her dream a reality. She’s used her success to help other women in her industry but she’s also shown our daughters that a mom can run a company and a dad can be the go-to parent. That’s still a big thing.

So here’s to my wife and to all the Working Moms – entrepreneurs or not – and to the Lead Dads who step up as the go-to parent at home and ally at work. Let’s do this!