Exploring the At-Home Dads Convention in Raleigh


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Jon Goguen (at left) and Josh Goguen are at-home dads who have their own popcast.

Photos courtesy of Odile Fredericks

When I heard the At-Home Dads Convention was coming to Raleigh, Oct. 7-9, I knew I wanted to be there. As a former full-time mom, I was curious about the issues that full-time fathers face, and quite frankly, sick of media stereotypes portrayed of dads — those bungling, incompetent idiots ignorant about parenting to the point where they couldn’t even change a diaper.

Who were these dads, and how did they come to forge this nontraditional path? I entered the convention hall Oct. 9 at Marbles Kids Museum with the trepidation of a woman entering an all-male club. Once inside, I was pleasantly surprised: Everyone I met was friendly and willing to talk frankly with me. According to convention organizer Austin Dowd, who greeted me, 134 men registered for the convention, but due to Hurricane Matthew and HB2 concerns, eight to 10 were no-shows, and three speakers were unable to attend.

Of the three-day event — which featured breakout sessions on various topics and keynote speakers — I chose to attend the Dad Expo, a new feature of the national convention this year, where exhibitors promoted niche areas of growing interests to dads. As I looked around the room, I saw fathers of varying ages chatting or lining up to meet exhibitors. They offered information that included divorce and coparenting, coaching kids, LGBT issues, babywearing (how to carry a baby in a scarf-like sling) and how to start your own Father's Eve (a pre-Father's Day night for dads).

I asked Dan Wilkerson, who lives in Cary, why he came. “It’s a great experience to get out with people that do the same thing I do and learn from them and from the breakout [sessions]. There’s camaraderie. They understand you.”

Wilkerson said he learned some techniques he’s planning to try out on his 5-year-old daughter to help her eat a wider variety of healthy foods. “My daughter doesn’t really have a large palate,” he said.

In another corner of the room, Josh Goguen and Jon Goguen, two brothers who are both fathers, were promoting their Dad Bros Show, a podcast live-streamed on Beam and also available on iTunes and Stitcher.

“We describe it as a guy talk show with a dad slant,” said Josh, who moved to North Carolina to be closer to family, then started the show with Jon. “We don’t talk about dads all the time. We usually start with banter and talking about something in our day, whether it’s taking the kids to the playground or pediatrician, and some of the challenges we encounter.”

The show is just “guys being guys,” Jon said. “It’s taken the shape of guys being out at a bar. We joke … We are a little more rough around the edges, a little more bravado.”

The brothers aim to turn Dad Bros into a self-sustaining business, to help dads connect with each other and their children, and to change the face of fatherhood. “Our tagline is ‘our goal is to connect fatherhood with manhood.’ Being a good father doesn’t mean you have to give up being a man,” Jon said.

In another area, people stood waiting to talk with Wes Swain, a Cary resident whose 2-year-old startup, geeksmithing.com, is built around Swain’s talent for creating things. Swain does woodworking, sculpture and painting, and his Mario Kart-themed nursery — his latest three-dimensional sculpted mural — is unlike anything I’ve ever seen in a child’s room. You can view it here. Swain created the mural when his wife was expecting their daughter. “It was my nesting,” he said, smiling. “The challenge for myself was to put it on the ceiling.”

(In case you’re wondering—like me—if it can fall off, Swain said went into the attic to bolt it to the ceiling.)

A changing table Swain made and posted on online went viral with 1.1 million views, and he also has made chocolate action figures for friends, he said.  Swain gets his creative work done from 10 p.m. to midnight or 1 a.m., but he also has a podcast with three other at-home dads http://makinggeeks.com/, aptly called, “Making Geeks.” “We are geeks that are making things, but we are also making geeks,” he said, with a grin.

CharltonTrader speaks with West Swain at the Dads Expo

At the next table, Micah Adams, father to a 2- and 5-year-old, was promoting his blog, “Big Boned Biker,”  where he writes about his efforts to lose weight. Once 450 pounds, he said he has lost a total of 200 pounds, although he has regained about 80 pounds. “I started a blog for it to be a journal for myself, to look back and keep balanced,” he said. “People started reading it, and it inspired people to lose weight and it helped other people.”

Charlton Trader said he came in from Omaha, Neb., looking for training to excel at parenting his 7- and 3-year-olds. When he worked as a facilities director, he went for training, so now that he’s a full-time father, he’s also seeking training. His day these days often means working 12 to 14 hour shifts. “It gets stressful,” he said, adding that the convention was a good way to sit back and relax.

Jeffrey Taggart said it was his fifth At-Home Dad convention. “I came because I’m trying to be the best dad I can be and it is a place of complete acceptance. There’s no place like this… There are good times and support. The best thing you can do for your children is to give them and your spouse some space. I come back and I am refreshed. It really makes a difference.”

And there’s another plus, Taggart said. “One major thing my spouse gets is a weekend to see what was like. He returns to hear, I really missed you and I really appreciate what you do.”

After the Dad Expo, I caught up with cartoonist Brian Gordon, father to a 5-year-old and 8-year old, who turned to producing his own comics after getting laid off an 18-year career at Hallmark. He had come in from Kansas City, Mo. to speak at the convention and was signing his book, “Fowl Language,” which draws inspiration from his experience in parenting, for convention-goers. "What's it about?" I asked him.

"It's just kind of an honest unvarnished look at parenting," he said. "I try and give an honest look at the struggles of raising kids and make it funny and let people know the struggles they are privately facing everyone who is parenting is going through." 

You are not alone: What a comforting message. Parenting can be a lonely place even when you're surrounded by your children. Being in a community, whether moms or dads, or both, makes it so much less stressful.

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Parenting news, opinions, family fun, free offers

About This Blog

Karen Shore lives in Holly Springs with her husband and two sons. By day, she works at the Holly Springs Chamber of Commerce and by night, she's a cook, chauffeur, tutor, secretary and amateur therapist for her family. She will blog about family fun in the Triangle — including freebies and news that matters to local parents. Check back here Mondays and Thursdays for her weekday and weekend fun blog posts. 

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Calendar

February 2018

Run Club meets every Sunday at 8 a.m. in Midtown Raleigh or Wake Forest. Stroller friendly; children invited. 

Cost: $10/run or $100/annual pass

Where:
Optimist Park Community Center/Greenways
5900 Whittier Drive
Raleigh, NC  27609
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Sponsor: FIT4MOM
Telephone: 919-348-0472
Contact Name: Missy Currin
Website »

More information

Join Mindful Families of Durham, a Buddhist-inspired spiritual community that supports area parents, caregivers, and their children in the practice of mindfulness and the understanding of the...

Cost: Free

Where:
Erwin Road
Durham, NC  27705
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Sponsor: Mindful Families of Durham
Contact Name: Adam, Laura, Josh, Sumi
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Celebrate Black and African-American artists and stories. Ages 5-11 and caregiver.

Cost: Free

Where:
N.C. Museum of Art
2110 Blue Ridge Rd.
Raleigh, NC  27607
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Website »

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Design, build and test a straw rocket that flies as far as possible, then scale it up to build your own stomp rocket. In partnership with NC State Engineering Ambassadors.

Cost: $7 ages 1 and older

Where:
Marbles Kids Museum
201 E. Hargett St.
Raleigh, NC  27601
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Participants develop their naturalist skills and understanding of local nature. Ages 5-8 with parent. Register online.

Cost: $8/resident, $10/nonresident

Where:
Stevens Nature Center/Hemlock Bluffs
2616 Kildaire Farm Rd.
Cary, NC
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Telephone: 919-387-5980
Website »

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Join New York Times bestselling author and distinguished scholar Carole Boston Weatherford in this celebration of the poetry of music and musicians — from North...

Cost: Free

Where:
North Carolina Museum of History
5 E. Edenton St
Raleigh, NC
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Discover how animals prepare for cold weather and which ones hibernate during the winter months. Play games and take a short hike around the pond to look for signs of wintering...

Cost: Free

Where:
Historic Yates Mill County Park
4620 Lake Wheeler Rd.
Raleigh, NC
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Telephone: 919-856-6675
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Learn about volunteer opportunities at the museum, meet current participants and ask questions about the application process.

Cost: Free

Where:
N.C. Museum of Natural Sciences
121 W. Jones St.
Raleigh, NC  27601
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Enjoy a performance from Chapel Hill's own Apple Chill Cloggers, a dance troupe dedicated to the performance, preservation and proliferation of music and dance from the southern Appalachian...

Cost: $3/person

Where:
Century Center
100 N. Green St.
Carrboro, NC  27510
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Chase away your family's winter blues on a winter scavenger hunt. Meet at the Bobby G. Wilder Visitor Center to receive a list of winter items that you'll need to find as fast as...

Cost: $15/member family; $20/nonmember family

Where:
JC Raulston Arboretum
4415 Beryl Rd.
Raleigh, NC  27606
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Sponsor: JC Raulston Arboretum
Telephone: (919)513-7011
Contact Name: Elizabeth Overcash
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Applause! Cary Youth Theatre presents the tale of Scraps, who intends to go her own way until she happens onto an adventure that broadens her understanding of herself and the world around....

Cost: See website for fees

Where:
Cary Arts Center
101 Dry Ave.
Cary, NC
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Ages 6-10 create an animal puppet from a sock and learn simple ventriloquism techniques to make it talk. Register online using course code #215497.

Cost: $3

Where:
Wilkerson Nature Preserve
5229 Awls Haven Dr.
Raleigh, NC  21714
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Sponsor: City of Raleigh Parks, Recreation and Cultural Resources
Telephone: 919-996-6764
Contact Name: Wilkerson staff
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Take the family to this play that explores what led to the Greensboro Sit-ins in the 1960s. A brief question and answer session, led by Pastor/Professor Charles Brooks, follows the play...

Cost: Free

Where:
Poplar Springs Christian Church
6115 Old Stage Road
Raleigh, NC  27603
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Sponsor: Poplar Springs Christian Church
Telephone: 919-559-6018
Contact Name: Shalon Maxile

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Celebrate Tell a Fairytale Day by enjoying a nature-themed fairytale or two. Create a fairy to take home or leave in the sensory and nature play garden’s fairy village....

Cost: $4/person

Where:
Durant Nature Preserve
8305 Camp Durant Rd.
Raleigh, NC  27614
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Examine animal mounts, skulls, tracks, scat and more and observe animals in action on an around-the-pond hike. Ages7-14. Registration required online. 

Cost: $6/child

Where:
Historic Yates Mill County Park
4620 Lake Wheeler Rd.
Raleigh, AL
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Telephone: 919-856-6675
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See the play produced by students, who created the set design, stage make-up, choreography, costumes and masks, and more.

Cost: Free

Where:
The ArtsCenter
300-G E. Main St.
Carrboro, NC  27510
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See a screening of "Fattitude," a feature-length documentary that exposes how popular culture fosters fat prejudice, and then offers an alternative way of thinking. Lindsey Averill and...

Cost: $25/person

Where:
Mission Valley Cinema
2109 Avent Ferry Rd .
Raleigh, FL   27606
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Contact Name: Lindsey Averill
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Children delight in discoveries of shapes, colors and textures in nature. Ages 1 and older with parent. Registration required.

Cost: $8/resident, $10/nonresident

Where:
Stevens Nature Center/Hemlock Bluffs
2616 Kildaire Farm Rd.
Cary, NC
View map »


Telephone: 919-387-5980
Website »

More information

Children delight in discoveries of shapes, colors and textures in nature. Ages 1 and older with parent. Registration required.

Cost: $8/resident, $10/nonresident

Where:
Stevens Nature Center/Hemlock Bluffs
2616 Kildaire Farm Rd.
Cary, NC
View map »


Telephone: 919-387-5980
Website »

More information

Learn to prepare a meal inspired from Mexico. Register online. Choose course #109616.

Cost: $35/resident, $46/nonresident

Where:
Herbert C. Young Community Center
101 Wilkinson Ave.
Cary, NC
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Website »

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See the play produced by students, who created the set design, stage make-up, choreography, costumes and masks, and more.

Cost: Free

Where:
The ArtsCenter
300-G E. Main St.
Carrboro, NC  27510
View map »


Website »

More information

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Children delight in discoveries of shapes, colors and textures in nature. Ages 1 and older with parent. Registration required.

Cost: $8/resident, $10/nonresident

Where:
Stevens Nature Center/Hemlock Bluffs
2616 Kildaire Farm Rd.
Cary, NC
View map »


Telephone: 919-387-5980
Website »

More information

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A wonderfully kid-paced hour featuring music, play and dancing with toddler stars singing on the mic at Cotton's gently amplified & participatory music show. Children delight in...

Cost: Free with admission

Where:
Pump It Up Raleigh
10700 World Trade Blvd, #112
Raleigh, NC  27617
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Sponsor: Pump it Up
Telephone: 919-828-3344
Contact Name: Owner/manager Kellie Paterson McHugh
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Kids enjoy an hour of yoga connected to the movie, "Sing," pizza and fun while parents enjoy a night out.

Cost: $35/child, $20/additional child

Where:
Little Guru Kids Yoga and Creative Arts
215 Glenwood Ave., Suite A
Raleigh, NC  27603
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Sponsor: Little Guru Kids Yoga
Telephone: 919-720-4921
Contact Name: Jen Bluestone
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Learn about owls and take an evening hike in search of them and other nocturnal species. See what their homes looks like, and take home instructions on how to build an owl box....

Cost: Free

Where:
Lake Crabtree County Park
1400 Aviation Pkwy.
Morrisville, NC  27560
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Sponsor: Lake Crabtree County Park
Telephone: 919-460-3355
Contact Name: Carol Cunningham
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Enjoy a contemporary spin on Shakespeare’s whimsical tale of fairies, lovers and woodland mischief. Purchase tickets online.

Cost: $10-$15

Where:
Kennedy Theatre
2 E. South St.
Raleigh, NC  27601
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Dr. Elliot Engel will examine the bizarre and turbulent life of Poe to uncover the roots of his unique genius. Using anecdotes, analysis, and large doses of humor, Professor Engel will bring to...

Cost: $27 general admission

Where:
Raleigh Moravian Church
1816 Ridge Rd.
Raleigh, NC  27607
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Sponsor: Joel Lane Museum House
Telephone: 919-616-8873
Contact Name: Lanie Hubbard
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Join Brier Creek Commons and the North Carolina Association of Educators to celebrate Read Across America with a Brier Creek Green Eggs & Ham Breakfast. Breakfast is $6 and begins at 9...

Cost: $6/person

Where:
Barnes & Noble, Brier Creek Commons
8431 Brier Creek Pkwy.
Raleigh, NC  27617
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Sponsor: American Asset Corporation
Contact Name: Erin Tharpe
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Participants develop their naturalist skills and understanding of local nature. Ages 5-8 with parent. Registration required.

Cost: $8/resident, $10/nonresident

Where:
Stevens Nature Center/Hemlock Bluffs
2616 Kildaire Farm Rd.
Cary, NC
View map »


Telephone: 919-387-5980
Website »

More information

Ages 13 and older with parent learn to navigate the college admissions process. Register online. Choose course #110862.

Cost: $5/resident, $6/nonresident

Where:
Middle Creek Community Center
123 Middle Creek Dr.
Apex, NC
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Website »

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Take the family for a variety of activities and games including two sledding hills and plenty of snow for all the action. Also enjoy cornhole and life-sized chess or enjoy the...

Cost: Free

Where:
Waverly Place
Cary, NC  27518


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Kite lovers can enjoy a day of kite flying, contests, music, concessions and more. All ages. Registration begins at 12:30 p.m. The rain date is March 4.

Cost: Free

Where:
Bond Park
801 High House Rd.
Cary, NC  27511
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Select Sitters provides an opportunity for parents to meet with and have short 4-5 minute interviews with 8-10 pre-screened babysitters. All sitters in attendance have been interviewed, have...

Cost: Free

Where:
Snickerdoodles
3721 Lynn Rd #112
Raleigh, NC  27613
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Sponsor: Select Sitters
Telephone: 919-561-6233
Contact Name: Kara Varnell
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Explore the historic heart of downtown Raleigh on a walking tour of Fayetteville Street. Tours highlight the people, places, architecture and political movements that have shaped...

Cost: Adults (18+) $10; Youth (7-17) $4; Children (6 & under) Free.

Where:
City of Raleigh Museum
220 Fayetteville St.
Raleigh, NC  27601
View map »


Website »

More information

Enjoy a contemporary spin on Shakespeare’s whimsical tale of fairies, lovers and woodland mischief. Purchase tickets online.

Cost: $10-$15

Where:
Kennedy Theatre
2 E. South St.
Raleigh, NC  27601
View map »


Website »

More information

Learn about outer space and extraterrestrial life. Ages 7-12 with family.

Cost: See website for fees

Where:
Morehead Planetarium & Science Center
250 E. Franklin St.
Chapel Hill, NC  27514
View map »


Website »

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Enjoy dance performances, community vocalists, a pre-show princess gathering, silent auction and more. Proceeds benefit the Me Fine Foundation, a local organization designed to provide...

Cost: $12/adult, $10/child

Where:
Stewart Theatre
2610 Cates Ave.
Raleigh, NC  27695
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Sponsor: Stage Door Dance Productions
Telephone: 919-720-3036
Contact Name: Chasta Hamilton
Website »

More information

Enjoy a contemporary spin on Shakespeare’s whimsical tale of fairies, lovers and woodland mischief. Purchase tickets online.

Cost: $10-$15

Where:
Kennedy Theatre
2 E. South St.
Raleigh, NC  27601
View map »


Website »

More information

Online registration opens for PAGE of Wake County's Super Saturday event on April 28, which features enrichment workshops for gifted students. Register for morning sessions, 10 a.m.-noon...

Cost: $20-$25/session

Where:
, NC


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