Armed with a degree from NYU, Chris Pegula began his career in pursuit of his dream of acting. But parenthood shifted Pegula’s perspective and family life became his main focus. The father of three is the creator of the hip line of Diaper Dude gear for cool dads and author of the newly released book, “Diaper Dude, The Ultimate Dad’s Guide to Surviving the First Two Years.” In the book, he offers practical advice on a wide range of topics, from bonding and baby proofing to potty training and nurturing your relationship with your partner. I recently chatted with Pegula – who lives in Los Angeles with his wife, Meredith, and teenage kids, Kai, Juliette and Cole – about being a voice for today’s dads.
What was your biggest struggle as a new dad?
Feeling confident in my own ability to be a “good” dad. I can be a control freak, and I wanted to make sure everything was perfect. My wife was an amazing support for me and she taught me a lot. I had to learn that being a “good” dad is not fixing everything but more about me showing up and being involved in the every day and doing what needed to be done, like driving my son up and down San Vicente [Boulevard] to help him fall asleep.
Tell us how your dad has influenced your views on fatherhood.
I come from a big family – five siblings. My dad had lost his dad when he was 16, and for him, family is everything. He has a successful business in sales and he works hard with long hours, but his focus is always on family. I reflect a lot on those routine moments that later on mean a lot, like when I had poison ivy in college and he came and stayed with me. I remember him staying up in the middle of the night when we were sick as kids. My wife says that I’m a lot like my dad. For me, family is the main focus of everything I do in my life.
You talk about being a “true dude.” Tell us about that.
As parents, we have a responsibility to the people we are raising. A “true dude” is about the type of person you are in all your interactions. It’s about being involved, being honest and genuine. It’s about living by example.
Your oldest son is 17. What lessons have you learned on your fatherhood journey?
It’s so important to partner up with your wife. Having a child changes everything, and it’s inevitable that you will disagree and you will argue. But, you have to be able to compromise and communicate your feelings. You will have exhausting days, but remember that nothing else matters but this moment. A lot of dads feel clueless about taking care of a baby, but you have to trust your instincts and believe that you are completely capable of taking care of your child.
How can new dads feel more confident during those early months?
You have to find your community. Those first few months are challenging, and you have to find support through other parents. When my oldest son was born, there wasn’t much out there for dads. But that has changed a lot. More dads are now staying home with their babies and dad groups are forming. You have to find your tribe, share your experiences and learn from each other.
What does family fun involve for the Pegulas?
We love the beach. You’ll find us there a lot. We love to hike in Santa Monica, Malibu and the Hollywood Hills. We love being home, making dinner and having the kids and their friends over. My wife and I met in New York City when we were in college, and we love to take our kids back and just appreciate the city for a few days.