Nobody loves a good dad story more than we do… except for maybe the entire internet. In the past year and a half, so many fathers made headlines for sharing how they help working moms that it became impossible to keep up with every single buzzworthy papa.
Why are their posts resonating so strongly? “Because this is what many men and women have been advocating for,” says Jill Yavorsky, Ph.D., assistant professor in the sociology and organizational sciences departments at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. “Women want more of an equal co-parent from their spouses, and fathers want to see their children and spend more time with their family…. The fact that these dads go public suggests they’re invested in changing the cultural stigmas associated with men taking time off work or rearranging their schedules around their kids.”
But what do the dads say? We invited some of them, many of whom went viral on our site, to tell us about internet fame, fatherhood and the future they’d like to see for working families like theirs.
Stay-at-home dad and founder of Squat for Change
In September 2018, a picture of Donte Palmer changing his son’s diaper on his lap in a public bathroom garnered more than 20,000 comments on Instagram. Soon, he was getting messages from parents all over the world also in uncomfortable changing positions. The experience inspired him to launch Squat for Change, a movement for more diaper stations in public restrooms.
How he hooked up with Pampers to install 5,000 changing tables in North American public restrooms
“During the Super Bowl, I saw the Pampers commercial featuring famous dads and their babies. I was like, I’ve been viral for three months, I have a lot of attention, I’m still getting energy—why didn’t they reach out to me to be in their commercial? That night I sent Pampers an Instagram message, and five minutes later, they replied to say, ‘You’re the dad we’re looking for.’”
How he eases the burden for his wife
“My wife works hard as the executive director of Teach for America. I clean the house with the boys before she gets home. I say: ‘Isaiah, go run her bathwater. Let’s have dinner on the table. Let’s make sure the house doesn’t smell like four boys playing football in the yard all day.’ We want her to be comfortable when she walks in, and have that sanctuary of peace and joy.”
On why he’s making a difference
“Seeing my three boys smiling and saying, ‘Dad, we want to be just like you when we get older.’ My oldest son wanted to be an athlete. Now if I ask him what he wants to be, he says: ‘I want to be a politician. I want to create change.’”
Founder of the Chronicles of Daddy Instagram page (@chroniclesofdaddy), where he shares life with his kids and advises other dads
Muhammed Nitoto’s Facebook post on practical, compassionate ways for dads to help breastfeeding moms blew up with almost 50,000 shares. Our favorite tip: Get up with Mom in the middle of the night during feedings to keep her company.
What he wants dads to know
“Men can play a role in every child-rearing experience. Talking about the parenting subjects that are typically just for moms will help us have more amazing dads, not just providers. When I became a father, I realized there were baby books on what to expect for moms, but there weren’t any tips on how I could help. I wanted to be that voice.”
Why bosses need to be more flexible
“Emergencies happen, and companies should make it easy for a parent to be there for their child, especially when they’re first born. When I was home taking care of my daughter while her mom was at work, I couldn’t get her to take the bottle. She was crying and crying. I called her mom and said, ‘I need you to come home; she won’t eat.’ But she couldn’t leave work. I remember feeling so defeated. I ended up putting on her night robe and hoping that the smell of her would soothe my daughter. She went to sleep but still didn’t eat. When Mom came home, my daughter ate from the bottle immediately.”
CEO of University Recruiters, a national recruiting firm
Jeff Martin’s LinkedIn post reminded recruiters why it’s crucial to give moms a fair chance in the hiring process, despite the resume gaps they might have after welcoming children. It flooded his inbox with 13,000 emails.
The motivation for his post
“One morning, I took three calls from women all over the country. They all said: ‘Jeff, I’m smart. I have a degree. I’ve done seven years in finance. I took two, maybe three years off, and no one will get back to me.’ So I was like, f-ck that. I wrote a post.”
What he wants to tell fellow recruiters about moms
“Recruiters need to feel comfortable saying: ‘Hey, listen, I’m submitting this [applicant] because she checks every box. Do yourself a favor [and consider her].’ If you’re judging a candidate because there’s [time] missing on a resume, shame on you. Why would you not take someone who’s more than qualified?”
The perils of going viral
“I lost a month of revenue because I felt like I had to respond to all messages, and then I did 100 calls. That’s two weeks’ worth. A ton of people asked, ‘Is there any way I can pick your brain?’ I felt like I couldn’t leave someone hanging if she asked for advice. I motivated them; I pumped them up. That’s what I do. Next thing you know, I’m like, ‘Oh, I didn’t get any work done this month.’
And the plus sides
“When Working Mother posted a picture of me and my youngest daughter together on Facebook, she thought it was the greatest thing in the world. She’s 7 and put on her Instagram, ‘Oh my God, I’m famous!’”
Chief Marketing Officer in tech
Dave Gerhardt makes his boundaries as a parent super clear. He declines speaking engagements and meetings before 9:30 a.m. and after 4 p.m. because they get in the way of daycare pickup and drop-off. More than 1.5 million people viewed his much-needed message on LinkedIn.
What inspired him to post
“The narrative in my industry and high-gross companies is that you have to pick one: You can be good at your job, but your family will suffer, or you can be a great dad, but you won’t be able to grow in your career. Being an executive with two young kids, I wanted to share on LinkedIn that it’s OK to say no to stuff in service of your family.
On leaving work early
“You should be treated as an adult who can manage your own schedule whether you have kids or not. A lot of people feel like they have to state their reason for why they’re leaving if it’s before 5, but you shouldn’t have to. I’ve heard people talk about me behind my back—‘Oh, he’s just phoning it in’—but until you’ve picked up kids in daycare, gotten dinner ready and gotten bath time in, you don’t realize it’s easier to stay at work until 7 p.m.!”
His biggest takeaway
“Thanks to technology, you can communicate and work with anyone, anywhere. It seems crazy that people aren’t able to be great for their kids and great in their career at the same time. I don’t know why those two things have to be opposed.”
Why his wife thinks it’s “ridiculous”
“My wife’s response was: ‘WTF? If I posted this, nobody would read it, and everyone would be like, “This is what you’re expected to do.”’ This is why I love her—she keeps it real and keeps me real. She thinks it’s important that I can be an advocate for the world I want to build.”
Central Region CEO of digital marketing company, Wunderman Thompson
Ian Sohn’s rousing LinkedIn post assured workers he “never needs to know” why they move things around at work to achieve balance in their personal lives. “I deeply resent how we’ve infantilized the workplace,” he wrote in the post, which has over 54,000 reactions, “how we feel we have to apologize for having lives.”
On the reason for his post
“I was in the midst of a fairly grueling run at work. I came home from a trip the day before and was leaving two days later for another. I wanted a weekend with my dog and kids. A colleague asked if I was free Sunday morning for a call. I found myself drafting and erasing excuse after excuse why I couldn’t do it. And then I realized, I never need to apologize for having a life.”
What he learned from going viral
“How desperate people are about their work-life situation; how much work needs to be done to fix institutional problems in how we treat people; and how privileged I am. Also, just hit post/send/tweet/publish. Whatever you’re writing will never be perfect. But if the intent is right and the words seem authentic, people will react positively.”
On life with his kids
“I’m always down for an adventure, or to endure their horrible music and YouTube videos. According to my 9-year-old, I make the best al dente pasta. I guess most important, I always show up—literally, of course, but also emotionally. I don’t always get it right. But I have to believe it means something to them.”
This story originally appeared in the April/May 2020 issue of Working Mother.