Paul’s alumni profile on the University of Minnesota Alumni Association by Sarah Barker:
It’s a Dad’s Life
Paul Banas (B.A. ’79) ricocheted around in the field of international marketing for 20 years before he and his wife had two children—and an epiphany. “My children are, quite simply, the most important things on the planet,” says the 50-year-old Banas. “My parents were divorced and my mom worked full-time while I was growing up. I just wasn’t aware of the level of involvement parenting requires, or how great it can be if you are there with your kids.”
As opposed to a couple generations ago, says Banas, “dads are expected to be more involved with their kids. There is no free pass.” But in searching for an instruction manual on the prosaic and sublime aspects of fatherhood, Banas came up empty. “There’s this sorority of moms out there, with tons of information written by women for women. The little bit that was available for dads was obviously written by women.” And so it was that necessity became the father of invention. Banas left his job, created GreatDad.com, and now works from the family’s San Francisco home.
The unique Web site—its tagline is “Because dads don’t always think like moms”—offers parenting and relationship advice, a forum for connecting with other dads, a “Gadget of the Day” column, and a “By Dads for Dads” area that focuses on kids’ products created by involved dads. Banas writes the often humorous GreatDad blog after his son and daughter, ages 3 and 7, have gone to bed. He knows that not all, or even most, dads will follow the path he’s chosen. “Obviously not all dads can or should quit their jobs,” says Banas, whose wife works in international marketing and travels frequently. “We’re just giving them ways they can be involved, things to consider.” GreatDad.com struck a chord with a world of dads who are challenged by their evolving role. Traffic to the site has tripled since it was launched in 2005.
Banas has a habit of following his heart. He majored in French at the University of Minnesota after a series of infatuations with high school French teachers. “Even as I was signing up for classes in French literature, I realized I did not want a life of penury. The dark side was calling.” And by dark side, he meant the business world: the yang to his liberal arts yin. Banas found a balance between creativity and economic viability in international marketing, working for Unilever, Visa International, Alibris.com, and Yahoo! before founding GreatDad.com.
And the French major? It got him three years in Paris with Unilever and has now resurfaced as a father-daughter bond— his daughter attends a French immersion school. In between parent-teacher conferences, piano lessons, and trips to the park, Banas blogs and manages real estate investments. But mostly, he’s a dad who follows his own advice to other dads. “You don’t have to be Superman,” he says. “Just be there as much as you can and love your kids.”
– Sarah Barker