When Lead Dads Graduate

Empty House, Full Memories

I reconnected with an old friend Pela who was headed to his son’s college graduation. He was elated that his son had done well and had a job lined up. He was equally pleased that his daughter was doing well at the same college. And he and his wife sold their home in our town at a hefty profit in the current real estate boom and are renting a condo until they figured out where they want to move for the next part of life.

Things were pretty good, so what’s the big deal?

Pela was a Lead Dad for six years when his children were in elementary school. He gave up a job in New York City and the commute that went with it to work at home – before work at home was a thing – for a start-up. He coached any sport his kids played. He drove them around. He knew their friends. He listened to what was going on. And then when they were at school or doing their homework, he worked. His wife continued her commute and the trade-off worked.

The start-up didn’t work out but those years certainly did. And when his children got to middle school, he and his wife found some after-school help and he took a different job that put him back on the train. His career was fine; his family was better.

When he got back from graduation, I asked him whether it was hard to see his son graduate and know that he was moving away.

“There weren’t any super-strong emotions about my son graduating other than obviously being very proud of everything that he has accomplished and how he used his four years,” he said. “And being super excited for his future.”

What was difficult was when he left the house four years ago and his sister left a few years later.

“It was a lot harder to drop him off four years ago – that was very emotional and a bit scary wondering how he would adjust.”

But personally as a Lead Dad that moment brought up an unexpected feeling: “I found it hard to walk by his bedroom after he left,” he said. “There was definitely a sense of emptiness.

“The house had always been loud, too loud,” he laughed. “Family homes aren’t good when they’re quiet.”

Like kids being in school, Lead Dads graduate to different roles.

Coincidentally, another Lead Dad in town walked by while we were talking. He had his teenage twins with him. He just took on the role a few years back when the pandemic shifted his and his wife’s careers – he could be home for work and she had to be away more. That other Lead Dad was loving being there for his high school sons and daughter.

But in 2022 parenting and work roles can be more fluid. A Lead Dad today can keep his career simmering, and with that support a working mom can pivot her career too.

It doesn’t always work out so seamlessly of course. But it’s good to know there are models of people who figured it out before Covid brought so much change and opportunity to how we work, parent and exist as a family.