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Here are a few of the lessons I learned: loop of diaper changings, feedings, and "baby TV" (that's what Heather and I called the hours we stared endlessly at Summit).

And baby TV was about as high-tech as it got: I had uninstalled my email service from my laptop and phone so I wouldn't be tempted to check it. I realized I constantly looked at my phone for "important messages"—they validated that I was important.

Earlier this year I took 12 weeks' leave from my company, Toms Shoes, to help my wife, Heather, care for our newborn son, Summit.

It's an experience I wish every new dad could have, but I realize how lucky I am.

" I must admit they played on my psyche, but Toms colleagues who'd taken leave were inspiring.

Our building operations manager, Travis, had gone on a family road trip during his paternity leave and returned with a renewed sense of purpose—for work, for life, for everything.

His attitude was infectious, and I wanted to set the same example for other guys at Toms.

Responses ranged from "You're going to get real bored, real quick" to "How are you supposed to lead a company while changing diapers?

But I soon found that the best validation came from Heather, who kept commenting on how present I was.

Going off the grid made it clear: Being fully unplugged is really the greatest offering we can make to the people we care about.

As the company founder, I've been able to establish 8 weeks' paid leave for our new parents, and a flexible schedule as they return to work.

Sadly, though, we're an exception: Only 12 percent of all American workers have access to formal paid parental leave, and the vast majority of men take off less than a when their children are born.

Becoming a new parent is hard—especially the first time around, when you're not used to sharing your partner's love and attention with another human.


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