The Work-Life Equation: Paul Sullivan, Founder of the Company of Dads

Paul Sullivan, Founder of the Company of Dads

Paul Sullivan, a former New York Times columnist, embarked on a quest to build the leading platform for Lead Dads, challenging the traditional notion of what defines being a father and parent.

In this episode, you will learn how to:

1. Embrace fatherhood by breaking free from traditional gender roles
2. Discover balance in juggling work and caregiving tasks to become a modern dad
3. Redefine success in parenting through a new lens of work-life integration 4. Enhance your communication, teamwork, and self-care strategies for more purposeful parenting

Paul is the founder of The Company of Dads, the first platform dedicated to creating a community for Lead Dads. Its mission is to help Lead Dads feel less isolated and more confident that they have made the correct choice to take on the bulk of the parenting and family duties - or at the very least not embrace stereotypes around who does what at home.

As a Lead Dad himself, Paul understands intimately the joys, frustrations, isolation and reticence around talking about being a Lead Dad. It’s a role that is growing in numbers but is far from normalized.

Before starting The Company of Dads in 2021, Paul wrote the Wealth Matters column in The New York Times for 13 years. He also created the Money Game column in GOLF Magazine.

Read the full transcript

 00:00:11 - Christine Michel Carter

Hello everyone, and welcome to the Work Life Equation, a Bright Horizons podcast. The only podcast featuring candid conversations, stories and strategies from corporate leaders, public figures and everyday people who are putting the pieces together to make life work. I am one of your hosts, Christine Michel Carter.


00:00:31 - Priya Krishnan

And I'm Bright Horizons. And I'm the Chief Digital and Transformation Officer at Bright Horizons.


00:00:35 - Christine Michel Carter

How have you been this week?


00:00:36 - Priya Krishnan

I've been great, thank you. How have you been?


00:00:39 - Christine Michel Carter

I've been hanging in there. We are in beautiful LA. So, a trip from Baltimore to LA definitely tired me out. Your flight was delayed, right?


00:00:47 - Priya Krishnan

Yeah, it was. And it felt like seven and a half hours. You can get to London quicker than you can get to LA. Was my takeaway from you, can you?


00:00:57 - Christine Michel Carter

Absolutely can. I remember being on a seven hour to London my whole trip probably was about 8 hours too. From Baltimore? Yeah, with layovers and eating at Chili's in the airport. But we are here very excited to talk with our next guest for this podcast episode. Our guest for the male listeners is a dad too. So we are thinking about the male listeners. He's all about Elevating dads and he created the first platform dedicated to creating a community for lead dads or for those who have taken on the bulk of parenting and family duties. But before we announce our guest, I think that we should get into this week's here we go conversation with your kids. For those who are just listening with us for the first time, our Here we go conversations are dinner table conversations. But we know that parents really don't have time to sit around a dinner table and have very serious conversations with their kids. So they're the moment where you might be in the pickup line, they might be when you're out at Target. And it's just that moment where your kid asks a question that makes you say, oh, jeez, here we go. How am I supposed to have this conversation? What was your here we go moment this week?


00:02:14 - Priya Krishnan

Mine was around expressing emotion and talking about things that are going on in their lives. I have two boys. One is a junior, 11th grader because I still can't get around the names for each of the grades and the younger ones are sophomore. And we've just started college tours. And I was asking him, do you want to go to college? And this was expected of me. Is this something you want to do? And he was talking about a friend of his who was having this exact same conversation at home and how they are a brother and sister. And the expectation of the boy was that he would go on and complete his college degree, whereas his sister had a little bit more freedom and he was very envious of that situation. And Arjun, my older one's take on, was like, one, it is expectation. Two, he feels like his sister got it off easy. But the reality is she felt very betrayed about the fact that wasn't an expectation of her. And so we got talking about how you both thinking about this, and they see both Sanjay and I come from a household of really emancipated women. My father in law used to say, all the women in this house are more educated than the men. And there's a sense of pride in that because women who are educated go on to invest in education subsequently in the household. But it was interesting for me that their takes this is his best friend. One felt like this was unfair, and he felt it was unfair on the girl, and his friend thought it was unfair on him.


00:03:53 - Christine Michel Carter

Yeah, I could see that my here we go moment was related to him and just how he connects with other classmates, especially girls, because I'll see him see certain posters or TV shows or commercials that say, it's the year of the girl advocate for women. And I'm like, well, what did Wes do wrong? And he kind of has that look on his face like, well, what did I do wrong? I feel like the younger generation gets a little they have to pick up the slack of the older generation and not even all of the mistakes of the older generation. I can see him trying to navigate between I want to be an ally, but I want to be true to myself, and I want to be empathetic, and I want to be soft as well. It's a lot men have to deal with quite a bit.


00:04:37 - Priya Krishnan

I agree. And I think male teachers these days also have this challenge of, what do I do in this environment? But male role models are so important for boys. Awesome.


00:04:47 - Christine Michel Carter

Well, today's guest was a journalist for 25 years. He started as a reporter at Bloomberg and an institutional investor and was an editor, reporter, and columnist at the Financial Times. He created the Money Game column in Golf Magazine. And when he wasn't just sitting around doing nothing, he decided that he was going to create a platform, the first platform ever dedicated to creating a community for lead dads who have taken on the bulk of parenting and family duties with three areas of concentration a media company, a community platform, and corporate training. Welcome, Paul Sullivan, to The Work-Life Equation.


00:05:33 - Paul Sullivan

Thank you very much for having me on today. I'm thrilled to be here.


00:05:35 - Christine Michel Carter

We are thrilled to have you. What encouraged you to start The Company of Dads?


00:05:40 - Paul Sullivan

Well, I spent the bulk of my career those are all wonderful places I work. I spent the bulk of my career at The New York Times, where I was fortunate enough to create a column to be a business columnist. I wrote over a million words for The New York Times, and I was super fortunate that early on, I was able to sort of work remotely. I work three days a week for my office that you see behind me and the other two days in the city. And in 2013, when our daughters were four and one, they're now 510 and 13, my wife started her own firm. She started her own financial services firm. And it happened very quickly. She had this horrible split with her then partner, said a whole bunch of crummy things, and she had to instead of waiting three months, she had to start immediately. And the point of the story is, she says to me, what are we going to do? And I said, Well, I think you should probably start it now, not three months. Yeah, that makes sense, but what are we going to do about the kids? And I said, well, I'll become the lead dad. And she said, what does that mean? And I said, I have no idea, but it sounds a lot better than me panicking. And I joke that I wrote a couple of books. One of them was called Clutch. It was all about why some people did well under pressure and others didn't. And I said, I'm going to channel all the research, everything I learned from writing Clutch into this. But what happened was I had this schedule that was super rigid. Because, as I joke, if you work for the New York Times, people either want to talk to you and will move their schedule around to talk to. Someone from The New York Times or they think you're the cause of all the evil in the world and they'll never talk to you. So either way, you really have a lot of control over your schedule. And so this went along great. But I live in a town in suburban Connecticut outside of New York City, where most of the caregiving is done by moms or caregivers, and seeing a dad do these roles is unique, to say the least, and I just didn't care. I loved it. I had all kinds of funny stories of interviewing high ranking officials from the passenger seat of my car outside of a ballet studio, and nobody knew, and it was fine. But why I started is we got into COVID, and I started saying, this is strange. That's an understatement of all time being in lockdown. But I said to myself, I was like, Look, I don't have a community anymore. Like, I'm a super social guy. I have my friends around town I get coffee with, meet people for lunch, and my colleagues at The Times. And I said, There must be something for men like me, men who are lead dads. And lead dad is that guy who devotes, who's the go to parent, whether he works full time, part time, or devotes all this time to his children. And there wasn't everything that said parents, for the most part, was geared toward women, toward mothers, and everything that said fathers for the most part was geared toward fathers trying to solve a problem. Dads who were divorced, dads suffering from depression. Super important stuff, but not what I wanted to do. And at the same time, I was watching how my wife was working. I was watching how I was working. And I said, I think we're going to come back from this much more differently than we went into it. And I had no idea what that would be. And so that was the genesis for it. But I did some research and said, I wonder how many guys are there in the United States who would qualify as lead dads? And we've probably undercounted it, but using real data. I am a journalist by training US Census Bureau of Labor Statistics, there are about 20 million men in America who are or would qualify as lead dads. Now, there are 75 million dads in America, 125,000,000 men overall. So it's still about 20%, but it's not an insignificant number. And then I thought, okay, well, that's the number, but any journalist knows you need the story. And I was pretty sure that men like me weren't going to be honest, because I never walked around my town saying, hello, Paul Sullivan Lead Dad I walked around my town saying, Paul Sullivan New York Times Columnist and that was my voice that my wife would always make fun of me for. She's like you're using your New York Times voice again. So instead, I asked women that I knew who sort of fulfilled three categories. They were senior in whatever role they had, they were married, and they had children. And the reason for that was, if they had children, they knew what the juggle was like. If they were still married, they had a husband who was helping out at least some of the time, or at least they not a total dope who ended up getting divorced. And three, if they're a senior, they've been working and striving really hard to achieve whatever it was that they wanted to achieve. And when I talked to this group, they got the idea immediately. Many of them had husbands who they would call lead dads. And one of them in particular stood out. And I always give her credit. Her name is Lee Lebren. And she said, this is exactly my husband. This is a great idea. However, I know what you're thinking. You're a New York Times guy. You're going to write a book. I said, yeah, I'm going to write a book. I love books. I write books all the time. And she says, that's the worst possible idea. And I said, Why? She says, the moment is now. You write a book, it's going to take you two years, and the moment is going to pass you. And that's really how the company of Dazz became what it is, which is a media company and community platform where we also do workplace development. And it started I was super lucky. The Times let me write a final column in 2021 that announced that this is what I was doing. I couldn't believe it. Imagine leaving any of your jobs and your employer saying, hey, on your way out the door, tell people how they can find you. So that was great. And we launched in February 2022, and we've been off to the races, and it's been immensely rewarding.


00:10:55 - Christine Michel Carter



00:10:56 - Priya Krishnan

So how did this come about, though, Paul, and your wife, as she was starting up her asset management company, read up on both of you. Did you decide these were the roles or did that sort of naturally evolve the roles?


00:11:11 - Paul Sullivan

I guess my superpower and my Kryptonite rolled into one is that I am hyper rational. And so I looked at it and masculinity and money is intertwined in the United States, around the world. And my wife always earned more money than me from when we met 18 years ago. I was a journalist. She worked in finance. I mean, that's just the way it works. And it didn't bother me and it didn't really bother her. And so I looked at it when she really had this was at this inflection point, she had to start a firm. I said, well, this doesn't make any sense for me to protest. I'm pretty sure that I can move things around at The Times. I can move things. Books take years to write. You never are told to give a keynote talk the next day. They're planned out months in advance. I was pretty sure I could balance my schedule so that I could be there for and look, I had weird calls. Like, I'd pick up a child at like, 345. And so I'd talk to somebody at like, can you talk to me at 310? And they said, really? 310? Please. It didn't always work. I mean, there's a story that I tell in the final column in The Times where I was talking to a former head of the Council of Economic Advisors in the Bright Horizons who was then the dean of the HOF School of Business. And she and I were talking, and I saw on the other line that my dad was calling from the pediatrician's office. Now my dad was calling Grandpa. He's really capable at driving our kids to the pediatrician, but he's like old school, like the OG OG. And I don't know if he's ever changed a diaper correctly. He's tried, but I don't know. And so I said, I cannot let Grampy talk to the pediatrician. He won't ask him. But here I am talking to this former Bright Horizons official, runs Bright Horizons. What am I going to do? And this is 2015. This is like, way I didn't feel like it's a woman. Laurie Tyson. Laura Tyson is her name. I did not feel like I could tell her, I need to take this call because it's my child's pediatrician. I'm the lead dad. My wife is in New York City. And so I just started asking a question and said, well, you know, Dr. Seizer, that's a really wonderful point, and it reminds me and midway through, I hung up on her. I hung up on her so I could take the pediatrician's call, figured everything out that the child was okay, but now she's calling me back because nobody hangs up on a former Bright Horizons official who's now running a leading business call. And so I was like, okay, fine. So I take her, bro. I was like, all right, I can't lie. I can't lie. I'm a New York Times columnist. I can't lie. We don't do that. And so I answered the phone. I said, okay, I am very sorry about that. The cell phone service in my town is horrible. Where were we? And I always say the two things that I said were true. I was sorry I had to drop the call on her, and the cell phone service in my town is horrible. I happened to not be moving. I happened to be sitting in the passenger seat in my car. But that's and so it was moments like that where I kept a sense of humor about it. I knew I could plan around it, because I knew at the end of the day, my wife didn't have any control over her calendar. She was starting a business. She was dependent upon clients. This is not a time when a lot of the people on Wall Street are men. They didn't understand that a senior female executive had to balance work and life and home. So if somebody wanted to talk to her at 06:00 A.m., she took the call. If somebody wanted to talk to her at 09:00 at night, she took the call. She wanted to show that she was always available for them. And I hopefully it's changing now, but it's unfortunate. It's what she had to do at the time. And for me, I could literally move my schedule around, and I could be there to pick the kids up and do whatever we need to do.


00:14:48 - Christine Michel Carter

So when you leave the house and you turn into Michael Keaton as Batman.


00:14:53 - Paul Sullivan

As Batman, right. From Mr. Mom to Batman, is that it?


00:14:57 - Christine Michel Carter

Because he played both those roles, right? When you turn into Paul Sullivan lead dad, as you said, what surprises you? Have you had any type of feedback from friends who knew you as the journalist and now have changed into being a thought leader around working fatherhood?


00:15:18 - Paul Sullivan

Yeah, look, this could have gone one or two ways, and I'm super happy that it's gone in the positive direction. And I thought I lived in a town, in an area where there are not a lot of lead dads based on just looking around. And what I found is, while it's a national community, there are a lot of people in the US. And a lot of people in Canada who are part of The Company of Dads. I have found dozens and dozens of people within 15, 20 miles of me, and many of them are reaching out. And they say, hey, I've seen this. I have no idea who they are. And I've seen this, and I want to be a part of it. I just talked to this guy yesterday, expat British guy. His wife got a big job at Estee Lauder. They moved from the UK to Greenwich, Connecticut, and he is the lead dad. And he had a senior marketing role, and he's doing some other part time work now, but he reached out because he's like, there's nothing like this for a guy like me. If we can get that 2020, 5 million men who we know are lead dads, who want to have this role, who also are allies of working moms, that's going to be a success. We're not going to hit every dad in America right out of the gate. But if we can go deep into our niche, I think we can help affect some change.


00:16:35 - Priya Krishnan

The reality is you're creating a community for dads who are taking on this initiative. Is it a moment in time? Is it a phase in time? Or is it a pronounced decision? Yours seems to have been all three, right? There were moments at which you were a lead dad, and then you took that on as your wife was starting, and now you've taken it on. Is that a transition? Do you get to be lead dad at different stages?


00:17:05 - Paul Sullivan

Not my personal story, but yeah. Other people I've had many people on the podcast, lead dad of the Week. Just me, just emailing with me who've been a lead dad for a particular moment in time because their career was doing one thing and their spouse's career was doing another thing, and that's 100% possible. We talked to this probably three or four months ago, this fellow who was a doctor, who was an endocrinologist. He's a super specialized, and for a moment in his career, he became an emergency room doctor. And if you think, like, an endocrinologist is a super cerebral role, an Er doctor is reactive. It's like, who's going to come in through that door? We don't know. But he did that for seven or eight years, even though it wasn't something that was in his DNA, because his wife had a chance in her career and had less flexibility. And his wife eventually rose up to be the chief human resource officer at CVS. But for that moment, those six, seven, eight years, he switched. For me. On a personal side, it does seem like, and honestly, like a culmination of so many things that I was doing. One, I was a lead dad myself. Two, I have all this experience in media, so I'm a better than average communicator. Three, with all the books that I wrote and being at the Times. I gave a lot of keynote talks. I did moderate a lot of panels. So when I talk about doing the workplace development, this is all stuff that I've done before, and now it's actually coming together with something. And not to say that I wasn't super passionate about what I was doing before, but something that I have this sort of white hat passion for. But could I have done this in 2019? Absolutely not. It would have been a ridiculous idea. Was it needed in 2019 100%? Would anybody have cared? No, because 2020 and lockdown, it allowed us to reset. I mean, for all the horrendous things that happened, the people who suffered all of this, but so many people who had jobs, and not just white collar jobs, plenty of blue collar jobs, people are like, wow, I want to be more involved. Life is short. I want to be more involved. My kids life, how do I do that? It gave us this collective reset that we wouldn't have had otherwise. And I tell many stories. I was joking about people in my town who work in finance, but for years they would say, like, we have to go in the office. We work in finance. We have computers, and we trade billions of dollars. Well, guess what? They just took those computers. They unplugged them, they brought them home, plugged them in in their home. They still made billions of dollars. Nothing changed. And they were at home. And my middle daughter's best friend, my middle best friend, both of her parents are doctors at Memorial Sloan Kettering, So, one of the premier cancer hospitals in America, if not the world. And they both found a way to work differently. And in particular, the dad is literally on the cutting edge of curing this type of cancer right now. And I always say, like when people say, well, you got to be in the office all the time, I think people, this guy is curing cancer from his living room. None of us are curing cancer. And he's able to do this remotely and be more involved in his chosen now, does he still go into the office two or three days a week? 100% he is, but there are certain things that he learned. I think we also became more efficient, some of us, with our time and COVID so that we could carve out more of those moments to be with our children and our spouses.


00:20:27 - Christine Michel Carter

So related to your children and your spouses, what is the dynamic of you being a lead dad look like at home? How do the girls feel about it? How does it affect your relationship with your wife?


00:20:39 - Priya Krishnan

Did you just “spouses”?


00:20:41 - Christine Michel Carter

I know, right? I'm sorry. I did.


00:20:48 - Paul Sullivan

The best part is it's what they know, and they don't know anything differently. My oldest daughter is 13 and a half and plenty of friends struggling with their teenage daughters. Poor teenagers is the butt of every joke, but I have a really good relationship with my teenager. But where it's really affected me is if you're the founder of something called The Company of Dads, you cannot suddenly work 24 7365 and become the world's worst husband and father. So I have to sort of check my ambition in a way that it may take me longer to get where I want The Company of Dads to be. But how else could I do it?


00:21:32 - Priya Krishnan

Can I go back to the conversation you were on and you hung up to take the pediatrician school? Why didn't you, at that moment, choose to say, I was a parent, I was a lead dad? This is more out of curiosity.


00:21:47 - Paul Sullivan

Insecurity. This is 2015. We've talked a lot about this on my podcast, on some of the stuff that we've written. There is such a link between masculinity and money, and there's research. There's a professor named Jamie Ladge who's at Northeastern University in Boston who's done research on this, and there is a fatherhood penalty. And before anybody rolls their eyes, the motherhood penalty is way more documented, way more pronounced. But the fatherhood penalty was essentially men who wanted to be what I call lead dads, what other people might call full parents at work were penalized. They were seen as insufficiently committed to their careers. Now, there's also an upside. There's also research that says when men have children, they get a bump and pay, and women don't. So it goes both ways. But that, to me, the very notion that if you were putting up your hand to be a lead dad and not what I call an event dad, I mean, pretty much every company in America will let you be an event dad, which is I've got a soccer game. I've got a fifth grade graduation. Whatever. Yeah. Wasn't this great? He's going. No, but if you want to be a fully involved parent, pre pandemic. I'm sure some people were doing it, but it was risky. I mean, one of the big things we're trying to do with The Company of Dads is normalize this role of lead dad normalize the fact that you, as an owner of a company, as a CEO of a company you want to hire humans who are able, who are responsible and can do their work at a high level, but also be parents, be spouses, but also be people who have hobbies. I mean, when you have that outlet, when you bring your whole self to your job, you're obviously going to be a lot more productive day in and day out.


00:23:28 - Christine Michel Carter

I love you, Paul, because I feel like I'm very much into superheroes and obviously right, exactly. I feel like you're the bizarro to my Superman. Like, I love working moms, and you love working dads. And all the stats that you're sharing I know the flip side of it. It's so creepy. But I want to ask because I just did a piece for Forbes about advocating for yourself and what that looks like as a working mother in the workplace and how to do that. How do you think men should do that in the workplace?


00:24:01 - Paul Sullivan

So I think they should do it honestly, and I think it's so crucial. One of the things we talk about in our workplace development is that by empowering men to be lead dads, to be full parents at work, it's good for three different constituents. It's good for the men because they're full dads and they're saying, hey, this is what I got to do. I'm going to parent, I'm going to be honest. But it's also really good for the working moms because now suddenly people look around and say, wait a second, I guess a dad can leave early from work, or I guess a dad can do some of these parenting responsibilities so it doesn't always fall on the mom. Oh, okay, well that's interesting. And that then takes some of the burden off of working moms and then three, it really helps those emerging leaders. I say change starts in the middle. I don't know certain companies, particularly old companies here on the East Coast, it's going to be really hard to convince the CEO that this is how we're going to change. But if you can convince those people who instead of managing ten senior executives, manage 100 or 200 people who are closer to their age and experience that they have both working dads and working moms who are fully functioning employees, high level employees, but also parents, it's going to help. We had this guy on a podcast a couple of months ago. His name is Trevor, and Trevor works he's overachiever par excellence, went to Yale, went to Stanford Law School, and works in San Francisco as Assistant District Attorney in the office where Vice President Harris worked earlier in her career. Huge, huge job. Except his wife works for Apple and his wife is leading sort of international expansion for Apple and Apple, it's enabled us with all of our Bright Horizons, all of our technology, to sort of work wherever, and that's great for all the rest of us. It's not good if you're an employee of Apple because Apple famously wants all of its employees to be in the office, which is, again, bizarro and like, wait a second, but I have this thing here and I can go anywhere. And so his wife doesn't have the flexibility in her schedule that he does. And so literally as an Assistant district attorney, he's gone to his superiors and said, look, this is the deal. Unless I have a court date, I'm going to get everything done and I'm going to work this more flexible shift. I mean, one of the things we've advocated for Pisana on LinkedIn a couple of weeks ago was people pushing to work what we call a care shift. And a care shift would still be. Your typical eight-hour day, but it just would be broken up. So let's say, for example, you work 637, 30, set up your day, get everything, kids wake up, you do your thing, then you work again, 930 to 330, that's another 6 hours or 7 hours. Then you stop because life intervenes. And then you log on again when people are either asleep or doing their homework, about 08:00 for eight to nine. And some people say, well, you're working all day long, you're doing this. I think, yeah, but you're getting to do those things during the hours when your kids are there that are important. And then other people say, well, how's it going to work for a company? We need our employees in the office, this number of hours. Yeah, but all of your employees don't work in the same time zone. So somehow, you figured out to coordinate the person in London, the person in Chicago, and the person in Tokyo, and they're all able to work together. So that's why you get six full firm hours right in the middle, and then you kind of do stuff on the edges. And that's something that Trevor is on the podcast. He didn't call it a care shift, but that's funny. Essentially, what he's working, there's certain office work that he has to do at night, but a lot of being an attorney is reading, and so there's plenty of stuff that he can read in the evening at home that he doesn't have to sit in his office and work. But what did he do? What do we have here for he just was honest and just laid it out and made it in a non-controversial, non-confrontational way?


00:27:43 - Priya Krishnan

Yeah. So it's almost an opportunity to design around life, right. So the care shifts are around saying, what are those moments that matter, and how do you actually work around them? So as you're doing work with more and more employers, what is your message? And how can we as bright rides and talk about this with our employer clients? Because this is an active conversation we're having, which is, what is the design of work and how does that work around life centricity? So what would be those key messages? And how are you thinking about this as you're engaging in your work?


00:28:19 - Paul Sullivan

Yeah, you said right there, human centric design is something I think a lot about. But what I advocate for is nothing radical. It's something very simple that if you step back and you think about it, we can all accomplish it. And it's having a conversation. It's having an open conversation without this is one of the things I do. I go in, I help moderate these conversations. Because what happens? Like, the manager says, Well, I want this, and then the worker says, I want this. And there's tension. But having a conversation, what I don't want to see is companies that mandate five days a week in the office or four days a week in the office. The only thing stupider than five days a week in the office is four days in a week in the office because everybody goes into the office Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and then come Friday, nobody's working. On the flip side of that, I don't want employees saying, I'm going to quiet quit or I'm going to go and do something and not tell anybody. Another thing we've advocated for is something called care days. And we talk about care days as being separate from personal days, for sure bereavement days, sick days, obviously, vacation days. And a care day is a day when something comes up. Maybe you have emergency care from Bright Horizons. I was not paid to say that. I'm literally saying that. I've talked to many companies that have that, and you have emergency care when that comes up, but maybe you don't. Maybe your company doesn't have that. And you want to be able to be honest and say, I'm having a care day. And it's not just for kids. It's for I have a sick spouse, I have an aging parent, or I have something that came up. People say, well, why can't you just use a personal day for it? I said, Because a personal day would be dishonest. This isn't a mental health day for you to go out on a sunny day and take a walk or have a cup of coffee with your best friend. This is a care emergency came up, and you're doing something to deal with it. And when you make it honest, it changes things. And so, like I was saying, I don't want employees quiet quitting, and I don't want employers mandating a certain work schedule. I want them to come together and say, look, I understand. I employee understand that you have certain goals. I have to be a certain level of productive. There are certain deadlines I need to meet, and I will do that. And then I want the employer to say, okay, we understand that you are a human and you can get all of this stuff done if we allow you to also be a human. Because why you're hyper focused between if you work in a care shift between 930 and 330, you're hyper focused. And that's way better than you trying to juggle some stuff when you're being distracted, your five year old is interrupting you're trying to do this. That's not you know, that's not good for anybody because you're not being a good parent because you're not fully paying attention to that child, and you're not being a good worker because you're not fully paying attention. So again, what we advocate, what I do as a moderator is I come in and help people have this conversation that on the face of it is so simple, but is incredibly complicated, because if it wasn't incredibly complicated, companies would be having this conversation on their own.


00:31:09 - Christine Michel Carter

Yeah, I think I want to end on a light note. So I want to ask you a question about when you first had to figure out the kinks of the family dynamic with your wife. Was there ever a moment where you guys might have been stepping on each other's toes and you had gotten into a real groove and a way of working as a girl dad with your daughters? And your wife came in and you're like, ho ho ho. I said no goldfish after 06:00 p.m. Or something like that.


00:31:39 - Paul Sullivan

Look, I mean, life is a work in progress. I'm not saying as the leadiest, lead dad in America, I'm not perfect, and this still happens. We have very different styles. But what do we do? Again, I can't believe I'm sharing this secret. We have something called a conversation, and one of the things we advocate for The Company of Dads on sort of not the corporate side, but on the sort of community side is something we call the one page test. And people are like, oh, what's the one page test? It's going to be great. I will sell it to you in an app. I'll sell you the page for $19.99. And what is it? And I say, here's what you're going to do. You and your spouse are going to get together, not after a fight, not after a stressful night with your kids, not any you're going to like a Saturday afternoon, Sunday afternoon. If you like wine, have a glass of wine. If you like tea, have a cup of tea. And then the husband, he's going to write down everything on his piece of paper that he does, and then he's going to write down on that same piece of paper everything that he thinks his wife does. Now, she's going to take her piece of paper and she's going to write down everything that she does and everything she thinks her husband does. And people like listeners like, you had this guy on. This is what he's going to tell us. No, what happens is you then take those two pieces of paper and you look at them and you will 100% have multiple AHA moments. Because resentment doesn't build instantly. You meet somebody, you fall in love with that person. You make the crazy decision to have a child. Maybe you're delusional and you have three kids like me because you forget how crazy it is, and you keep going. But resentment doesn't happen on day one. Resentment is like the dust under the couch that you only see when you buy a new couch or you move to a different house. It's there, and you can't believe it's there until you look. And so what we try to do is to stave off this resentment by doing this one page test, because then people, anybody with kids has heard the phrase a gajillion times, that's not fair. Kids say this all the time. Like, that's not fair? Well, if you look at it as husband and wife or same sex partners, doesn't matter. You'll look at it and say, that's not fair. How do we remedy that? And my wife and I have been doing some version of this for 18 years. And so we'll sit down and I'll break that fourth wall and say, okay, you didn't really like when I said this, and here's why I said it, but you said the following, okay? And oftentimes we'll do it with our children there because we want our children to see like, okay, mom and dad are having a disagreement, and they're going to sort this out. So it's a learning moment. But yeah, I may be the leadest lead dad in America, but I'm not perfect. And we're always learning. But that's what the company dad did, is constant improvement. How do we get better? How do we normalize this role? And how do we help both working moms and working dads fulfill their full potential at working at home?


00:34:35 - Christine Michel Carter

Well, I think you got some community members in the room with us because our producer keeps nodding, saying, yes, I'm loving everything. I think you've gotten a fan for life.


00:34:45 - Paul Sullivan

Sign them up. Sign them up for the newsletter. Get them signed up right now.


00:34:48 - Christine Michel Carter

Oh, wait, we have a question.


00:34:50 - Paul Sullivan

Oh, a question for the audience.


00:34:51 - Christine Michel Carter

Are there any positive or interesting stats related to dads raising kids? What are some of the unexpected benefits? That's when you know you've got a good podcast Paul. People are asking questions, very interested in what you have to say.


00:35:08 - Paul Sullivan

They're a good gen stats. These are not my stats. But having a positive male role model in the life of children, whether those children are little girls or little boys, is wildly important. That's not me. This guy Richard Reeves just came out with a whole book about this. There are plenty of people who've talked about that. I mean, that's the science. But also, like, look, I used to write columns on philanthropists every so often, and every philanthropist I talked to, whether they were donating a million dollars, $10 million, or a jillion dollars, they talked about how they got so much more out of giving than the organization probably got from receiving their money. Now, I don't know if somebody gave me $10 million, I'd probably get an awful lot out of that, but I'm not on that end. And you think about it when you're a lead dad, when you're super involved, you suddenly realize, I'm still doing all the things that I want to do. I have my hobby, I have my work, I have my time. But I'm super involved in my kids life. And I'm not a bystander. I'm not saying, like, I wonder what they're doing, and nor am I an order taker. I mean, one of the things I know one of your guests coming up is Eve Rodsky, who's a good friend of mine, and she talks about ownership, ownership of different tasks and different jobs. And that's what you want to just nobody wants to be told what to do. You want to have it be more seamless. And the big benefit is your kids are seeing two parents being super involved and doing their best. And I think that last line is very important and doing their best. We're not perfect. We're going to make mistakes. But seeing that imperfection is so important. As kids develop. I mean, we all have kids. We know that. I can say to my John Bloom, my face to my daughters, like, you need to do the following. And if I show any hint of hypocrisy, they're going to say, well, you told me to do that, but you didn't. And I'll tell you this. My oldest house says this all the time. She says, dad, you always say, you're so nice to people. You're so nice to be able but remember the time we're in the Verizon store and you got so frustrated with that woman who was helping us? I was like, yes, I did, Virginia. I got very frustrated with it because it took an hour to get I don't even like technology, like and and so she remembers that. She remembers that moment of the 99 times when I was a decent human being, and the one time when I said, oh, my good God, where is my phone? I want to get out of here. She remembers that. And so that's why it's so important that when men are in that role of lead dad, the kids are watching them, and the kids are modeling, but your son is seeing, okay, he's watching the positive modeling, the positive role models that are out there. It's like, okay, this is the person I want to grow up to be. My daughters went to school at one point, and their tagline was, we want to raise the 30 year old you want to sit next to on the train. And I thought that was the greatest sales pitch of all time, because having ridden a train in and out of New York City next to some horrendous human beings, I'm like, I don't want my kid to be that. I want my kid to grow up to be the 30 year old I'd like to sit next to. But that only comes from modeling. And that's the ultimate benefit of lead dads, being fully immersed in their children's lives, but also being advocates at work for their female colleagues.


00:38:01 - Priya Krishnan

Yeah. And the fact that you're doing this and bringing it as a central community so that there are other 30 year olds on that train, and it's not only our children. And that's part of what all of us are collectively trying to do, is bring a voice to saying, let's raise our children with intention, but also not take it too seriously. So we love your work, Paul. I, as a female listener, will listen to each one of your podcasts as I have and will subscribe to the Dad's newsletter because I think your message is equally important in our marriage and how Sanjay and I navigate our respective moments. He's not a lead dad, but we have times where he is, and I would say I'm the number one lead mom in our relationship.


00:38:50 - Paul Sullivan

That's fantastic.


00:38:52 - Christine Michel Carter

Awesome. So plug the newsletter, please, and plug the podcast so people know where to find you, because I'm sure tons and tons of listeners are going to want to follow you now.


00:39:03 - Paul Sullivan

Thank you. Yes, I want to be found the website,, and to sign up for our newsletter. It's called The Dad. It only comes once a week. It's the go to place for all things around fatherhood, and that's easy as well. That's the, The Dad. And of course, the podcast is on Apple. It's on Spotify. Or you could go to Company Dads and listen to it there as well. But thank you very much.


00:39:30 - Christine Michel Carter

Well, my takeaway for today, it's always going to be Wes related because that's my baby. But it was the fact that he will recognize positive behavior from other men and not to worry so much about the negative behavior or the negative attention that he sees in the media that men get. So that was mine. What about you, Priya?


00:39:53 - Priya Krishnan

Mine was just the fact that I felt good about the fact that we are having these discussions as a family. You're right about the fact you're bringing up three girls, I'm bringing up two boys. As long as we're intentional about this, I think the world will turn out okay. So I'm walking away from this feeling good about the fact that each one of us as parents is thinking about this.


00:40:16 - Paul Sullivan

I'm just so thrilled that you asked me to be on this because I want more dads to be part of the work and caregiving conversation, because this is not a gendered role. I mean, giving birth is a gendered role. Breastfeeding is a gendered role, but everything else is dads can do it, moms can do it, and let's figure out what works for the family. And you obviously both get this. Like, what works for the family to help that family fulfill its potential, whatever that potential may be.


00:40:45 - Priya Krishnan

But thank you, Paul. We really appreciate you being here. Yours is a really important voice, and like I said, more power to you, more power to the 5 million dads who can come on and play this role and whatever part, the little part that we've played in bringing your voice to the world. We're thankful for that, and we're thankful for the conversation.


00:41:08 - Paul Sullivan

Thank you both. I'm really grateful to have it on your show today.


00:41:12 - Christine Michel Carter

Man, Priya, that guy Paul is a storyteller, is he not?


00:41:17 - Priya Krishnan

It was so incredible listening to him.


00:41:20 - Christine Michel Carter

I cannot believe I felt like that conversation was just so rich, and I'm glad that we got the male perspective on the show.


00:41:29 - Priya Krishnan

I absolutely agree. And like I said, as a woman, I would listen to him all day, because it also is about talking to your male employees, your male colleagues, your male bosses. So it was a really interesting perspective and a take on how to navigate day to day life.


00:41:44 - Christine Michel Carter

It really was. What resources does Bright Horizons have for lead, Dads?


00:41:50 - Priya Krishnan

We have plenty of resources. You can go and look for most resources on Bright, but three that I would specifically call out are “Modern Working Fathers in an Old-Fashioned World”. Second one is “Are You Ready for the New Dads?” And then the third, which is another podcast that Bright Horizons runs, which is called Teach.Play.Love. And I would call out episode 24 there, which talks about finding your parenting path. The podcast in itself is amazing, but this specific episode talks about the roles of both parents.


00:42:24 - Christine Michel Carter



00:42:25 - Priya Krishnan

Bright Horizons is the world's most trusted education and care company. We partner with employers to provide exceptional early learning, family care and workforce education that transforms lives and organizations because we believe education and care can change the world. One child, one family, one organization at a time.Are you looking for a job? Visit Careers at, where you can join our talent community and receive the most up to date news and events at Bright Horizons. And don't forget to subscribe to Teach. Play. Love, our parenting podcast, where you'll get expert advice from our education team and learn what really matters and what doesn't in your child's earliest years of learning, growth and develop. Follow us on our social media and stay up to date on company news. Join live events and see what's happening at our centers. Join us by following Bright Horizons on LinkedIn and at Bright Horizons on Instagram.


00:43:18 - Christine Michel Carter

Awesome. You've just listened to an episode of The Work-Life Equation with Christine Michel Carter, and Priya Krishnan. Until next time, guys. Take care.



Priya Krishnan, Senior Vice President, Client Relations and Growth Operations
About the Author
Chief Digital and Transformation Officer
Priya Krishnan comes to Bright Horizons after founding and running India's largest childcare business. She is the winner of many awards for her work in the space, including Woman Entrepreneur of the Year, Young Turk, FT1000 for Asia, and Red Herring Asia.
Paul Sullivan, Founder of the Company of Dads