Why Being A ‘Warrior Dad’ Is Bad For You

Contrary to what this photo might evoke, this is not a late April Fools’ joke.

It’s a call for a different model to inspire fathers to step up at home, be allies to mothers and caregivers in the workplace, and stand up as engaged parents everywhere. We call him a Lead Dad.

He’s the antithesis of a call to action that portends to lift up men but keeps them in a box. Not the Hollywood stereotypes of the dad who is bumbling, angry, absent and buffoonish. That, too, should go.

I’m talking about the call for men to tap into their inner Warrior as a way to be self-actualized. Warrior Worship isn’t going to set men on the path of connectedness and contentment. It’s going to give them weekends away to reflect and realize what they could do better. But like the relaxation of a vacation, that Warrior wisdom is going to wax, wane and wither.

Years ago, I went to the Navy Seal base on Coronado Island and was taken around by J. Patrick Berry, CFP QPFC QKA, a commander who looked every bit the part of a Navy Seal. Smart, sharp, tall, strong, direct. Afterwards we went to dinner – in his Toyota Prius. He was a father of three.

More recently I recorded a podcast with Jon Macaskill, a 20-year-veteran of the Seals and half the hosting team behind the Men Talking Mindfulness Podcast. I told him this story. He told me he drove his children in a minivan. (Sorry, Jon, if I blew your cover.)

These guys are true warriors who drive the most decidedly non-warrior cars – and don’t care. They know battle and they know caregiving.

What if instead of Warrior-ing up our Dad-selves, we embraced a different model? That of a Lead Dad.

A Lead Dad is the guy who navigates the grocery store parking lot in his minivan (or oversized pickup) because stuff needs to be bought and he’s fine doing it. He may grumble – who doesn’t – but whatever.

A Lead Dad leaves work loudly when his kids need him. He does this not to boast but so his colleagues – both subordinates and superiors – know being a parent is part of who he is, and if it’s okay for him to do it, it’s okay for them to do it, too. (Lead Dads take their full parental leave; if it wasn’t offered to them at the time, they push colleagues to take theirs – and never asks men returning how their vacation was.)

A Lead Dad goes into the most unaccepting spaces for men – PTAs, doctor and dentist offices, and toddler playgrounds – with grace and equanimity. He tries again and again to get his number to be the one who gets the call.

A Lead Dad supports his wife in what she does. He doesn’t crack jokes like a Dad in a sitcom.

Is he a Warrior? No, no he’s not. He’s a man wearing his responsibilities openly. But he’s fighting for gender equality at work, at home and, one day, on the playground.