Last weekend I attended the Convention of the National At-Home Dad Network. Over 140 Dads from across the country met to take some time off, share parenting tips, and most of all get energized to advocate for Dads and parents everywhere. There’s a lot I could say, but let me raise four major take away messages from the event.
1. At-Home Dad describes who we are, but Dad Advocacy is what we do.
We shared plenty of parenting tips and gave each other support as primary caregivers. A major connection, however, is that we are all actively working to promote and inspire a new state of fatherhood. We stand in the face of stigma surrounding “Mr. Mom” and proudly demonstrate that fathers can be caring and nurturing parents. Two examples:
In the opening keynote, Dr. Scott Behson (@scottbehson), author of The Working Dad’s Survival Guide, repeated this mantra:
“Almost every dad I know is putting in the hard work to be a loving, hands on, involved father.”
Sounds like preaching to the choir. Unless the choir is a leading voice for improving the status and opportunities of fathers across the board, not just those who can be at home. The another component to his talk was on self care. He gave us some tools to create more time for ourselves that can help us recharge and relax to be a better father every day.
Closing keynote speaker Josh Levs (@joshlevs) is a CNN reporter who was denied paternity leave. He fought back, won, and wrote a book titled “All In: How Our Work-First Culture Fails Dads, Families and Businesses — And How We Can Fix It Together.” He electrified the audience with a call to arms to get back out there and fight the good fight.
Levs pointed out that the U.S. is one of only three countries in the world that doesn’t provide paid family leave benefits. And in the U.S., only California, New Jersey, and Rhode Island provide paid family leave benefits at the state level. Why is this?
“Workplace policies, structures, and stigmas are rooted in outdated 1950’s sexism,” says Levs. “It is based on the idea that women should stay home and men should keep working. If you believe a woman should stay home, why would she need paid leave? And if men should work, why would they need paternity leave?”
Myths that lead us to think that men are bad caregivers also fuel these sexist policies. Lies like “dads are lazy, focus on leisure, don’t help out at home, can’t change a diaper,” all support a false reality that men are bad at caregiving. They support the sexist notion that men should work while women should stay at home, because aren’t they better at the job? These images of fatherhood are not true. This also energized this choir to go back home and fight even harder for all Dads.
Sound like a bunch of homemakers sitting around and dishing on their spouses? Hell no. These are guys committed to making the opportunity to be a great father available to all.
2. Everyone at this conference loves his job and is doing it by choice.
This was the first work conference I have been to where no one complained about the company or was jockeying to find a new job. Each Dad present loved what he does. This year Yahoo released a marketing study that confirms 70% of At Home Dads are there by choice.
Its a job we are suited for and seek out. If we all worked in an office or a call center, I am sure we would all find each other as friends. Why? We have similar skills, interests, and work styles that make raising a family full time our dream job. “Isn’t being full time Dad all video games and naps?” some ask. Not in my world. But don’t take my word for it. Ask the other working Dads I encounter who clearly tell me there is no way they could do our job. We are in this by choice.
3. There is collaboration among all Dads and Dad groups.
This convention was hosted by the At Home Dad Network. Active leaders and panel members there this weekend were from Dad 2.0 Summit, City Dads Group, Life of Dad, and a number of other fatherhood organizations. Heck, a bunch in the audience were a blogger of some sort who could benefit from sponsor attention, right? Not at this convention. Everyone was working together for the big picture of building up Dads, demolishing stereotypes, and creating a new set of rules so a guy could do work he loves and have time for his family.
4. We are early adopters of a growing movement.
As our message gets out and more Dads make choices our numbers start to grow. It’s not only full time At Home Dads, but Dads changing jobs to align more with their desired lifestyle- freelancing, part time working, and other creative ways to earn a living in a way that incorporates family. I believe the future of this organization and our efforts is in diversity. We can benefit from reaching out to Dads of color, and Dads in the LGBTQI community. If you are out there reading this and have a voice on the issues of fatherhood I encourage you to reach out and speak out. This group of guys I am a part of is here for you, willing to listen, and ultimately open to learning from you. You will be welcomed with very large, and often hairy, open arms.
I will blog more about what I learned at this convention, but here are the main points from Tinkerbell Road. Thank you to everyone who played a role in putting together the convention. I look forward to staying in touch with everyone over the year.
Please let me know any specific questions you have about the conference and I will be glad to answer them!