Editor’s Note: The 20th annual National At-Home Dads Convention took place in Raleigh, N.C. recently. NYC Dads Group member Niel Vuolo attended it for the first time, and here’s his report.
I was lucky enough to be awarded a scholarship to the 2015 National At-Home Dads Convention. I had heard about the convention through the NYC Dads Group and a dad bloggers Facebook group. I knew that we probably couldn’t afford to go. Eeven if I could, I would feel so awkward spending that money on myself. So I applied for the Brian Dickson scholarship. And I won, but would not have been able to take this adventure without the full support of my wife.
After a few weeks of logistical stuff, I was on my way to North Carolina. Like many of us, my flight was delayed. But eventually I arrived. There was an issue with my room, and the guy who could handle it was still on a plane. I managed to find one of my roommates by the bar where he had found a bunch of other dads. And soon I was doing the the At-Home Dads Convention equivalent of NAME/RANK/SERIAL NUMBER — Niel; from New York; two kids: 7-year-old girl, 5-year-old boy; been home four years. I got into the fringes of lively conversations with guys from all over the country who had at the very least one thing in common with me — they are all stay-at-home dads.
Beyond the introductions at At-Home Dads Convention
My first full day at the At-Home Dads Convention consisted of more intros, a huge breakfast at this place the ladies at the Marriott said they would eat at (if they wanted the best breakfast excluding the restaurant at the hotel). We took a tour of the town, which was really cool. The first official event was a meet-and-greet which was OK, the food could have been more plentiful. But whatever. I ended looking for some food and a mob of dads saw me wandering and invited me to find food with them. About half of them I had met during the day or previous night the rest were also first timers at the convention. It was a great way to cap the day, but I never expected what the next day would be like.
Coming into the event, I knew two of the dads well. And I had been corresponding with the guy setting up the trip and my roommates. But as I got ready to leave, I made buddies from all across the country, some with nearly grown kids some with newborns and some (like me) with kids somewhere in the middle.
The main day of the convention I found myself tearing up as dads spoke about their own struggles and the way they dealt with it. Issues about themselves and their kids. When one dad whose kids are in college and beyond talked about his kids when they were my kids age, I nearly lost it. It goes so fast, he said.
I think the overarching theme of the event was, we aren’t special because we are dads. We are involved parents who want to be respected as any other parent would be — man or woman. There is so much to bring home with me that will make me a better father, husband and independent social media dude, who is more willing to be equally strong and vulnerable.
I don’t think this weekend would have been as good with the two best roommates someone could ask for: Joel and John. You guys were so honest and open with me and let me be open and honest with you.
I hope I am fortunate enough to be able to return next year.
A version of this first appeared on Great Moments in Bad Parenting.