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It’s been 20 years since the formation of the National At Home Dad Network’s annual convention. To celebrate this milestone we will be counting down to our convention in Raleigh by featuring past and present attendees, who will share why this gathering of modern fathers is so important.

If you have been following our #RoadToRaleigh posts, you know that our feature of 20 dads in 20 weeks is almost at a close. Our 20th Annual Convention in Raleigh promises to be our biggest ever and will be filled with new dads and veterans alike learning all they can about how to be better fathers. This week’s post features Carlos Alden, a stay at home dad for 16 years give or take, who can remember these things? Look at the pictures of Carlos in the early years and the photos of his grown children now. It’s a reminder that what we do as the primary caregiver is going to have a lasting impact on our children’s growth now and in their future.

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Week 2 – Carlos Alden, Spokane, WA

1.       Who is in your house? Tell us about your spouse, kids etc.

Me, spouse, two kids, about 2 years apart.   Kids out of the house now, 24 and 26 years old.   We are happy empty nesters, kids are happy to come home to visit.  Eldest works in a zoo with a biology degree, youngest did a couple of gap years (“If you are not going to be in school you have to move out and get a job!”) and will graduate in a year and a half, with a degree in philosophy and Italian, also plays jazz bass pretty seriously.My spouse teaches at a local university.  I am now back working, as a family and marriage therapist. I also coordinate and direct a support program for fathers of young children.  I have done music and radio throughout my At Home Dad tenure, and continue now. One of these days I’ll retire, but I wanted to get back into my professional field for at least 5 years if not more.   

2.       How long were you, or have been a stay at home dad?

I can’t remember, something like 16 years, but the neurons, they are frail and not working so well, n’est-pas? I knew only ONE stay home dad locally (Spokane, Washington.) I stumbled into the email support group (on Yahoogroups, I think)

It felt strange to be at home.  At the very first (1995 or so) I wouldn’t go food shopping in the daytime because I didn’t want to be seen as “unemployed.” How’s that for a fragile male ego at work?!  But I liked thinking up stuff to do with the kids.  When I’d take them out in our Burley bike stroller I was THE ONLY DAD in the neighborhood who walked kids.

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3.       What city/ cities and year(s) did you attend the convention?

Chicago, don’t recall the years, sometime in the last 30 years.  See response to question #2. Being a stay home parent really mucks with memory and timelines.

4.       What is your best memory from a convention that you attended?

Playing guitar for Chad’s vasectomy song. Oh yes.

5. What sort of friendships did you build with other dads you met at the convention?

I made great friendships with other SAHDs.  Let me tell you a specific story…

My daughter was diagnosed with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder in high school.  (Please note that OCD is not the wonderful, lighthearted, I-am-so-organized condition that popular media makes it out to be. It is painful and disruptive and can destroy the individual’s life and the lives of their family.)  She had to take medical leave from college to attend an inpatient treatment facility for 3 months. The only one in the country that we could find that was appropriate was halfway across the continent in Wisconsin.  Dropping her off and visiting her and picking her up were major emotional milestones for us, and my wife and I, and I am sure my daughter, felt extremely isolated and pretty despairing.   SAHD Dad friend Marty lived nearby in Milwaukee, and meeting up with him when I dropped my daughter off was incredibly helpful.

I just couldn’t talk to anyone else locally about this stuff, in part, because I was a SAHD and somehow felt if I had been more “normal” maybe this wouldn’t’ve happened.  But Marty was such incredible support just being willing to sit and chat with me.  I’ve told him thanks before for this, but… THANK YOU.  Now THAT’S friendship and fellowship.

6.       Why should someone attend the convention?

To argue with the young, childless PhD researchers who show up smugly claiming that “gender differences in children are completely environmental.” The convention was great – I felt like I was a kid in a candy store to be among other like-minded guys.  We were all talking about our kids and partners and also how weird we all were!  I left feeling tons of support and connection that carried me through the year.

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Follow #RoadToRaleigh and #AHDCon on Twitter and Instagram and read about our featured dads every Friday until the convention as we count down to the 20th Annual NAHDN Convention

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