Seven years ago, Wharton alum Matt Schneider helped to launch a “dads group” to highlight work-life issues of importance to fathers. The group has blossomed. 

Maybe it’s ironic that an organization that Matt Schneider W97 started while being a stay-at-home dad has become a full-time pursuit— a job even by some definitions of the word.

If you recall, we last spoke with Schneider in 2012 (for “Life {Wharton} Style”), at which time his NYC Dads Meetup Group was just beginning to gain traction. He launched the group as an informal way for him to meet dads wearing similar shoes, and to do cool stuff with his two sons. It was just then transitioning from a “passion project” to a formal group with 600 members, planned activities (everything from museums to soccer, music classes for the kids to lectures for the dad), a PR program to raise awareness of workplace issues for fathers and a blog.

Now let’s get caught up with Schneider. The transition to a business is complete for City Dads Group. It is not something that Schneider can earn a living off of, he says, but he has realized how to charge for his time and effort. He has developed partnerships with sponsors for City Dads Group events and digital content, and brands have hired Schneider to consult on marketing campaigns that feature fathers.

As for the Meetup Group, they went from just New York City to Los Angeles and Chicago two years ago, to overseeing groups in 18 cities, with each group sharing the same branding and ethos.

The local groups, however, can rely on themselves to organize and promote their activities. In New York City, Schneider has help as well. Contractors provide social media and content development support and volunteers help to organize and man events. Schneider can step away when he needs to.

“That was very intentional,” he says. “That’s the best thing about it; it’s something I can grow and kind of regulate so I can still have the life that I am looking for, in terms of being able to take care of my boys.”

“I would still call myself a work-at-home dad at this point,” he adds.

A City Dads Group meet-up in New York City.

A City Dads Group meet-up in New York City.

Note: he didn’t say “stay at home.” Nowadays, between the time he drops his children off at school and when he picks them up, he spends nearly every free minute on his organization.

We’re not here to poke fun at Schneider and his seemingly ever-increasing at-home workload. We’re here to laud him for it—not just for the growth of City Dads Group and how he sets a high-bar example for work-from-home dads everywhere, but how he’s pushing the issues that matter to fathers in all life settings.

He champions issues that affect the lives of dads, their children and families, such as paid family and sick leave. Organizations and brands from the White House to Huggies to SiriusXM Business Radio Powered by the Wharton School have interviewed him and invited him to participate in parenting and fatherhood summits. He and City Dads Group have worked with corporate America to ensure fathers are better represented and understood—not as better than moms, but as active members of the household … “as we are,” Schneider explains.

“We have had a positive impact on the way [corporate America is] thinking of dads from a sales standpoint, from a marketing standpoint,” he says.

He sees his efforts as part of a larger cultural movement. Men and women are seeking greater control over how their work and life interact, how they define “work,” and how they expect their employers to treat them with such topics as sick time and family and medical leave. See the #RealStrength campaign by Dove Men+Care. Consider how Silicon Valley firms are using paid paternity leave as a hiring sell. Read the new book by Anne-Marie Slaughter, which very much includes men in her conversation about work-life balance. Note the growing attention that Wharton Practice Professor of Management Stew Friedman is garnering for his research on work-life integration.

So Schneider’s successes are not so much about irony as they are about defining what work could mean for fathers in 21st century America.