Over the weekend, I had the chance to leave my family behind (very rare these days) and trek out to Omaha, Nebraska for the 15th annual National At-Home Dads Convention. This was my second time attending this meaningful event sponsored by daddyshome, inc., and I was glad to have Matt Schneider, another involved NYC father and friend, along for the ride. Although, nothing I can share via this blog will provide the actual “being there experience,” the aim is to share some things so you feel as close to that as possible.
First, I had a few primary goals for attending this At-Home Dads Convention:
1. With stay-at-home dads in attendance from over fifteen states, one of my goals was to meet many of these caring fathers, and learn about the dad-life & the dad-group life in those regions. How was it similar or different than my daddying experiences?
2. Reflect on my current practice of parenting, and learn some things that would enable me to be a better father & husband.
3. Have fun! Not necessarily in that order, but happy to say that my goals were met.
Next, the tight knit and devoted crew from the LinOma Dads group are awesome. These are the guys that were responsible for planning the entire weekend. Let me say this – aside from hooking up an affordable hotel rate with Marriott, lining up happy hours with so many perks that the only thing you had to fish out of your wallet were free drink tickets, developing an agenda on conference day with topics (more on this in the next few days) that speaks volumes to improving your craft of fathering, and being meticulous about every little detail so things ran smoothly…these guys are cool, down to earth and seasoned at-home dad veterans that I really enjoyed getting to know. Wish they lived a bit closer. Special mention to Phil Andrew – the convention is his “baby” – he knocked it out of the park.
Then, there is the dad-ternity from the Kansas City Dads Group who made this a 3-hour roadtrip from their home and brought over a dozen guys. The KC dads group meets twice a week, with one day in someone’s house and one day as an adventure to outdoor fields, hiking, or story hour at the local public library. Loved hearing about how these guys do weekend dad bonding experiences with overnight camping trips. Another cool crew of fellas that enjoy spending quality time with their kids during the day.
It’s funny, even though I have been an at-home dad for two years, which seems like forever … I was in the minority with my stay at home dad tenure among the 45 plus in attendance. In fact, most fathers I spoke with at this dads convention have been at home for 4 or 5 years … and some for plenty more years than that. True seasoned veterans that know how important their job is, are proud of their role, and are loving every minute of it. Believe me, it was impressive to see the confidence teeming out of these like minded at-home dads! I felt “at-home.”
Interestingly, when asked aloud during this at-home dads convention (let’s consider this an unscientific poll), how many of the dads in attendance were true stay-at-home dads – meaning they weren’t doing any external outside or part-time work – several hands flew up in the air…including me.
One noticeable difference this year was that several dads (including Matt & I) were exchanging business cards. Yep, you got that right. Blogging dads, dads organizing groups, and some part-time working dads were exchanging their cards to be able to connect in the future. For example, blogger guys like Joe Agro, “Poppy & Olive’s dad“, who I met as we scarfed down 14 ounce steaks at Omaha Prime, handed me his card. Ron Farrell – president of DenverDads.net – was promoting his new resource for dads in Denver, Colorado.
Did I get educated? Absolutely. From the get-go, as I sat glassy eyed (alcohol?) at 9 am in an auditorium about to listen to Dr. Frank Bowers launch into the topic that fatherhood is “the most important job in the world.” His passion, simplistic, yet relevant advice, and thought provoking parenting concepts wowed the crap out of me. Brian Reid, Rebel Dad, challenged me to think more critically about “social proof” and what impact it has on the number of stay at home dads. I got more than an earful about the importance of nutrition regarding our kids and how to apply some best practices that make it easier to implement. Do you know what a yuk list is? I didn’t. It’s the list of three foods that you allow your children to post on the fridge & you promise to always exempt them from eating those foods that they hate. This will decrease your arguments revolving around meals significantly!
Observations from the At-Home Dads Convention
- Of course, the topic of dads & the media surfaced during our convention discussions. Worst name an at-home-dad was called in the media …”domestic diva!”
- One dad remarked that taking karate with your child is the ultimate bonding experience-learning something and going through similar struggles – I agree. Not sure karate would be my choice, but I am willing to go all in with my little guy when the time is right – maybe guitar lessons?
- Mike Bonner- one of the great guys from LinOma Dads, shared a discussion he had with his 8-year old son – “if you ask my 8 year old what he wants to be when he grows up…he has a whole list of the more common things like baseball player,etc…but his number 1, he wants to be a dad.”
- At dinner (on the day of the conference), one dad shouted out, “how many of the dads in this room have received a call from your wife today regarding some kind of problems with your kid(s)?” The answer? Let’s put it this way, not only did the majority of the room raise their hands, but they also used their fingers to display the amount of calls they received. ha!
- The convention planning committee swore to me last year that they purposely moved the convention dates from November to October because October is one of the nicest times of the year to see Omaha. It snowed 3 inches last year on the day of the convention- the earliest snowfall n record in Omaha. Fortunately, this year I got to enjoy the true October in downtown Omaha – hordes of people dining outdoors in many of the restaurants, horse & carriage rides, serene landscapes, and a picturesque overlook of the Missouri river – the place really is worth seeing!
Over the course of the next few days, we will continue to share & disseminate more content from the 15th Annual At-home Dads Convention. Note: Those dads who are blogging about their experiences from the convention as well, please email me with your link so I can share it, or post it below as a comment.
Ok, this is the final note: The East Coast was underrepresented a this years convention. That should change next year! The 16th annual at-home dads convention will move to Washington, D.C. Mike Stillwell, president of Daddyshome, inc. and one of the top dogs with the DC Metro Dads Group is optimistic. He said the DC Metro Dads Group boasts approximately 400 dads, with six different geographical chapters. I have high expectations that next year’s at-home dads convention will exceed 150 participants including a decent representation from the NYC Dads Group…road trip!