A fatherhood community for modern dads

We speak to Han-Son Lee, founder of dads’ website Daddilife.com about his transition to parenthood, work life balance and his reasons for starting the website.

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What is your day job?

I work in digital marketing by day, working with a number of organisations to improve their digital marketing efforts – whether that be social media, CRM or other key touchpoints.

How did you find the whole transition to parenthood?

Haha, definitely not a smooth ride. I’m not sure anyone really does.

I went to a number of NCT classes and bought a number of dad books, and generally tried to get as ready as possible (though our home purchase falling through when my partner was six months pregnant definitely didn’t help!)

But to be honest, I’d say I’m still learning every day about parenthood!

Do you struggle with the whole work life balance thing?

Yes. I’m lucky that I have a great employer who totally understands the need to work more flexibly on occasion, especially as my partner works away a lot too, but I do feel the pressure of trying to do as well at work as possible with the need to be at home and to be a much more present father.

I try and make sure that where I get to spend time with my son, that it is genuine time where I’m present. I’ve been known to put the phone away in a place I can’t reach it while I’m with him so there are literally no distractions.

I wouldn’t say I’ve got work/life balance cracked by any means though.

Do you share parenting responsibilities with your partner?

Yes. We definitely co-parent. We share the school drop-offs, the pick-ups, the cleaning, and pretty much all the parenting areas. I’d say my partner still does more cooking, but I’m trying to cook a lot more – especially for my son in the never-ending battle to get him to eat his vegetables!

When and why did you set up DaddiLife?

Going back to the transition to parenthood – one thing to note is that I was raised solely by my mother – an amazing woman who made sure I never missed a father.

One of our earliest interviews with DaddiLife was with author Dr Peter West, whose study of generational fatherhood concluded that this generation of fathers were increasingly a by-product of divorced parents themselves, and that a lot of their own fatherhood triggers are trying to make up for what they feel they didn’t have growing up.

Even though I never ‘missed’ a father in my life growing up, a lot of what he said chimed with me. In a strange way I’ve actually been thinking about fatherhood for over 30 years!

So when I became a dad for the first time a few years ago I had a lot of questions about being a dad, and everything I read, with the exception of a book or two, was telling me about mums, and even how to be better for mum rather than answering questions I had as a dad.

DaddiLife is the platform for the modern-day dad, and is now a community of over 100,000 dads, a growing content platform and much more than that – it captures the attitude of the modern-day dad.

Have you been surprised by its success?

In some ways yes, in some ways no.

The need is clearly there, but it’s not necessarily an obvious need because if there is one thing I’ve learned over the last two years it is how deep that feeling of being a dad is for many.

It covers many areas of modern fatherhood –  sometimes good, sometimes not so good, and sometimes thought-provoking.

To be honest, I always say that even if it helps one dad I will feel it has done its job.

How has it evolved since it was set up in terms of content and partnerships?

Hugely. We’ve worked with a number of brands to bring the dad audience to life for them, and have plans for many more moving forwards.

Some of those have been reviews, some campaigns and some research.

What topics come up most often in the blog posts?

Work/Life balance is a popular area alongside things that dads can do more creatively with their children.

This Lego post is one I always go back to as a good example – it takes a classically popular item and subject and makes it totally dad.

You’ve recently done work on dads as consumers. What has been the response from companies?

Yes, the dad index was the first time the Millennial dad has been analysed in depth – and it looked specifically at dads’ involvement across different parenting areas and how this is starting to impact their consumer behaviour too.

We interviewed over 1,200 dads between the ages of 24-40 from every region of Great Britain, and some of the results have been astonishing, with a vast majority now heavily involved in day to day parenting and taking on more and more of the ‘parental spend’ across all the key parental consumer areas.

It’s had a great response, and we’re finding a lot more organisations are willing to engage with this vital audience.

What is your view on Shared Parental Leave? How can uptake be best increased?

I think it is an important step towards better leave equality, but it has some way to go yet.

With more fathers wanting to spend more time with their babies, the policy has the opportunity to create those opportunities for fathers across the land.

But take-up has been small, with estimates of only 2% of eligible dads taking up the scheme. There are a few reasons around this.

Firstly, the levels of compensation are reduced during this time for many, and at a time where a number of dads are even struggling to take two weeks’ paternity leave, it should be no surprise that until we can equalise the pay here take-up will continue to stutter.

The second reason is a basic level of awareness. It’s very encouraging to see the Government Equalities Office invest in campaigns around the policy, but it needs even more investment and focus.

When I speak to dads in Sweden about the scheme (where new parents have 18 months to split equally), they always remind me that it took a generation for their own parental leave scheme to become common place.

We have some way to go, but we’re on the right track.

Surveys show dads want flexible working but are worried about asking it for fear of the impact on their career. What can employers do to address this? How can we get more dads in the room for events on family-related topics in the workplace?

Employers need to start to see the significant tensions that dads have in the workplace and how that’s soon going to be a serious asset problem for them if not managed appropriately.

I’ve personally heard some horror stories from dads with different employers about the perceptions of ‘those flexible working dads’, and how company cultures are not set up to even have the conversation. For me, HR needs to own this conversation and needs to:

Set up more parent groups that also involve dads in a proactive basis

Start to question the retention of key talent that may be physically present, but mentally elsewhere

Have far more open 360 conversations around what work/life balance really needs to look like in different organisations.

What plans do you have for developing DaddiLife over the next year?

Last year we developed a few key campaigns around important areas like e-safety and this year we’ll be building out even more, with even more scale.

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