A couple months ago, I participated in my first At-Home Dad Convention. For those of you shaking your head, yes, we have a national convention. It reminded me of the very thing I had been lacking since I moved to Denver from New York City almost a year ago: community.
A little history: a few months after my son was born I took over as the at-home parent. It was a remarkably easy job, mostly consisting of diaper changes, feedings, old movies on Netflix, and naps. (The old movies were for me and were “research” for a script I was … not writing.) It was also extremely isolating.
My wife stumbled upon a group of at-home fathers at the NY Baby Expo and came home with the contact info for NYC Dads Group and their facilitators, Lance Somerfeld and Matt Schneider. I attended my first event, a CPR training course, and then began hitting meetups all over the city.
Turtle was less than a year old so he wasn’t exactly “playing” with other kids. We, as fathers, weren’t having hour-long conversations about the hazards of fatherhood. Often we were silent. We’d sit back and have coffee and enjoy the sense of community. Soon, though, we began sharing.
Suddenly, I’m the expert in the room on cloth diapering and another guy has been through potty training with three kids and another has a bead on free events and yet another has remarkably insightful advice on lactation and breast-feeding. We were experts in several fields dealing with children and we were all sharing with each other, not as “dads” but as fully involved parents.
But now, here in the exurbs of the Midwest, the dynamic of parents on the playground is very different. Perhaps it’s the difference between driving to a park a couple miles away and walking to the park a mere block from your home; seeing the same people everyday versus an ever evolving circle of acquaintances.
I missed my dad community.
I have been trying to create a new one, and Turtle has wonderful new friends with the most amazing, generous parents (including some NYC expats), but there was still a void. I missed hanging out with at-home dads.
I’d seen them in the grocery store, but most were reticent to admit they were full-time at-home parents. There was a shame and embarrassment associated with it. While I fully embrace the role, most of these men saw it as a temporary situation they were forced into by unfortunate circumstances.
And then a wonderful blogger in Portland put me in touch with the Denver Dads. The local group is spread far and wide over an area that encompasses Fort Collins, Denver, Boulder and Colorado Springs. As timing would have it, the Denver Dads were hosting the 18th Annual At-Home Dad’s Convention this year. So I plugged in.
Not knowing what to expect, I was surprised to find the fathers who attended had created an incubator for ideas on parenting, an advocacy group for fathers.
And not just fathers who are primary care givers – all fathers.
All of the speakers at the convention gave us practical, useful tips on how to be the kind of parents we aspire to be. But we gave them something in return: We brought them into our dad community.
None of them had heard of dads’ groups before.. They didn’t know that there are advocacy and education groups dedicated to fatherhood.
But they do now, and they are part of our ever-growing dad community.
In the weeks following the convention, I found myself wearing my National At-Home Dad Network shirt in the grocery store, at the gym (any other CrossFitters with Huggies logos on their gear? I think not!), and I carried a handful of the network’s business cards with me. I began approaching dads shopping with their kids in the morning and handing them cards, striking up conversations, asking about their kids and play-dates in the exurbs of Denver.