Handshakes, Hugs, and Honesty: My First At Home Dads Convention Experience

Recently, I have been thinking about how my identity has evolved since birth. Some pieces have always been a part of me: black, male, son. I have added others: educator, administrator, SPOUSE! Then, I became a father and soon after that, an at home father. Although being black has come with its fair share of challenges, I have been surprised at how society remains reluctant to fully accept fathers who stay home with their children.

This video from the recent At Home Dads Convention touches on this subject. Despite new successes, there is still a long way to go. (By the way, that is me in one of those clips in a CBS News report from last year.)

Unlike that Onion segment in the above video, some folks in the mainstream are real in their mockery of at home dads.

So, I feel lucky to have connected with the NYC Dads Group. What Lance Somerfeld and Matt Schneider have done in not just creating this group but helping it thrive and become the model for groups like it across the country is nothing short of remarkable. They have welcomed many of us with open arms and no judgment. I have developed meaningful connections with other at home fathers and received genuine support in my new venture as a blogger. It has meant so much to me to find a home where my experience has been validated and my efforts supported. Needless to say, due to my experience with the NYC Dads Group, I was very excited to be able to attend this year's At Home Dads Convention in Denver. (Thanks to City Dads Group, the new national dads network spawned from NYC Dads, for their support of the Convention.) 

What was my experience like you might ask? Quite lovely, thank you very much. My first moment at the conference involved meeting about a dozen or so men for the first time on our way to a service event. It was a motley crew to say the least, and our mode of transportation less than ideal, but everyone was excited to be in each other's conpany. I partnered with a dad from Delaware, and we made boxes to be used to transport food to those in need. We made a ton of boxes. We were pretty much box making dynamos. I was pleased to have made a connection. All the dads at the event certainly felt a sense of satisfaction by the end. It was a true pleasure to help the Food Bank of the Rockies and do some good with these fellow dads. 

That night, 80+ at home dads made their way to Coors Field for a Rockies/Diamondbacks game. However, we were not really there to watch this game. We were there to make new friends, reconnect with old friends, and take selfies for a contest. What I loved most about that night was although I was able to spend some quality time with pals from the NYC Dads Group, I was able to meet other dads who were tremendously friendly. Oh, speaking of those selfies . . .  check this out! Your Brown Gothamite represented.

There were some great speakers, like Barbara Coloroso, author of Kids Are Worth It;  and breakout sessions focusing on topics ranging from faith to photography. As valuable as some of these workshops were, what I needed most at my first convention was the interaction with other at home fathers. 

I could not have been more pleased with my first AHD Convention experience. It meant a lot to spend time with other dads who deal with so many of the same day to day concerns. Most of us have dealt with dissipating energy, ridiculous ridicule, and unsolicited advice. Although I didn't connect with every attendee, I felt a kinship among us. Dare I say we are a brotherhood. People hugged participants who showed bravery in something they shared. People scratched and clawed and slept uncomfortably just to attend. People showed great generosity. When you do all of that, and witness what I saw, it is easy to see the impact and value of this convention. Many return home with new friends, skills, and energy for their challenging job at home. I return with a renewed sense of purpose and affirmation. What I have chosen to do is good and important. And I am not alone in doing this. 

Attendees of the 19th Annual At Home Dad Convention -  National At-Home Dad Network

Attendees of the 19th Annual At Home Dad Convention - National At-Home Dad Network

Much thanks to companies like Dove Men+Care, Animal Jam, Huggies, Britax, and Farm Rich for supporting this convention and the concept of at home fathers. Dad 2.0 Summit also supported the convention and will be the next time many of us will see each other again. 

Let's end on a better video note. Here is what we viewed when we wrapped up our final session. All the best to my brothers-in-at home-arms.

Posted on September 24, 2014 .