A record-breaking attendance of more than 100 stay-at-home dads from around the U.S. and Canada gathered to share stories, take part in high quality parenting education sessions, shape society’s views about the capabilities of fathers as parents and make new friends with other dads who “just get it.”
“(Stay-At-Home Dads) want to be seen as capable and caring, despite a long history of attitudes and media portrayal that paint them as either bumbling or oblivious,” wrote John Wenzel of The Denver Post about the record-breaking 19th Annual At-Home Dads Convention held in Denver, Colo September 19-20.
Carl Wilke, returning attendee and father of six in Tacoma, Wash. explained:
“While having fun is an important part of this weekend away from our families, it is more an opportunity to strengthen the bond of the brotherhood of this remarkable group of guys. I’m a better husband, dad and man for knowing them.”
First-time attendee Micah Adams of Portage Ind. added that “(Attending the Convention) meant a chance to grow and learn as a father. It helped me build new relationships with other fathers, in an environment that I could feel ‘safe’ in.”
“The standard greeting questions for this group of men was definitely ‘where you from?’ followed immediately by ‘how old are your kids?’ which I found really cool,” said Dave Taylor of Boulder, Colo.
This year, the Convention kicked off with a service project provided by title sponsor Huggies®. Dads who arrived early on Thursday went to the Food Bank of the Rockies and packed up 10,325 lbs of food that would provide 8,260 meals for needy families in the Denver area. “I always love giving to the community that our convention is in; it is such a worthwhile cause to be a part of,” wrote one attendee on his survey.
After returning to the SpringHill Suites, the host hotel and meeting space for the Convention, the dads then gathered for the walk to Coors Field for a Dad’s Night Out provided generously by City Dads Group. Nearly 80 dads, more than attended the Convention last year, took in the game which turned out to be very exciting, ending in a walk-off home run for the Rockies!
Friday morning when the dads awoke, the sun was bright and so were their spirits. Some took advantage of the time before lunch to visit Voodo Donuts or tee off at one of Denver’s majestic golf courses. Many took advantage of the rare opportunity to just sleep in.
Registration and lunch began at noon at the SpringHill Suites with an impressive display of sandwiches. The dads munched and chatted until the programming started at 1pm with the first keynote, “Play is a Serious Buisness,” from returning presenter Alberto Pellicer of the Denver Public Library.
“Alberto was hilarious and knowledgeable,” wrote one attendee on his survey. “A compelling mix of hard neuro/developmental science and relatable anecdotes. He made for an excellent introductory speaker for my first, ever, convention.”
Following Pellicer’s presentation was a panel discussion featuring three wives of local stay-at-home dads. They spoke frankly about their feelings in this unique relationship, what works and what doesn’t for them as working moms, provided a lot of ideas on how the dads may strengthen their relationships at home and gave the dads validation to the importance of their role at home.
“Of all the decisions we made together,” said one of the wives, “my husband staying at home has been the best one we’ve made.”
Sarah Tilton, Child Passenger Safety Advocacy Manager with Britax, then provided an in-depth presentation on car seat safety which one of the attendees said was “the topic I took the most notes on.” Britax also gave away four of their car seats to four lucky dads.
Following the content for Friday afternoon was the ever-popular Meet & Greet social event provided by Dove Men+Care. Specialty craft beers and appealing appetizers were enjoyed as well as getting the book Dads Behaving DADLY, written by President of the National At-Home Dad Network, Al Watts, and 6-time parenting author, Hogan Hilling, signed by 12 of the contributing authors of the anthology on fatherhood.
Saturday programming started out with the highest-rated speaker to ever present at an annual at-home dads convention, Barbara Coloroso. Her presentation, “Kids Are Worth It” gave dads the information they needed to be better parents and gave them a lot of new parenting strategies they could take home to their families.
“Barb was the highlight presenter of the convention. I am always impressed with the quality of the keynote speakers you provide,” said one attendee.
“I could have listened to her for a couple more hours,” gushed another.
Following the annual business meeting of the organization where President Al Watts explained how the National At-Home Dad Network has grown from 42 convention attendees in 2009 to 106 in 2014 and an annual budget of under $5,000 in 2009 to a budget exceeding $30,000 in 2014, the attendees were treated to a wild lunch provided by Animal Jam. Animal Jam, an online game for kids that teaches them about animals and the environment, gave exclusive gifts to the dads as well as a short presentation on the game.
After a filling lunch of southwestern fajitas, the dads broke up into smaller groups for 4 hours of break-out sessions. The first group of sessions were all aged-based open forums where dads of infants and toddlers, pre-schoolers, elementary and middle schoolers got together to discuss any challenges they were having and get advice from each other.
The remainder of the afternoon consisted of three separate breakout sessions where dads could choose from a diverse range of topics in which to participate. Topics ranged from discussing money and family issues, to faith and parenting to online safety to photography tips. There were also subjects on literacy, cross-fit for kids and home schooling among many others.
The convention wrapped up with the popular post-convention dinner at the historic Denver ChopHouse & Brewery in the LoDo District of downtown Denver. Dads got one last chance to unwind at the full course dinner, included in their registration fee for the first time in the Convention’s 19-year history.
“It meant witnessing and being part of a societal shift,” explained first time attendee Paul Gilbride of St. Louis, Missouri on what the Convention experience meant to him. “These men were not just dads who stay at home with their kids. They were pioneers, fearless in facing gender bias, societal norms and traditional masculinity…… all in the name of doing was is best for their family. The first time I felt strength and support in a very long while.”
Another record- and stereotype-breaking Convention is being planned for the 20th Annual At-Home Dads Convention in Raleigh, NC in the early fall of 2015.