21st Annual At-Home Dad Convention Comes to Raleigh
I grew up in a generation that never expected that openly gay men would become fathers.
My mother passed before we had our first child but I’m sure that somewhere or another, after my coming out to her, she had come to terms with the fact that she would never be a grandmother. Lord, how I wish she could be here to see the two loving boys my husband and I have. She would be so proud and undoubtedly, surprised.
There’s no doubt that the shift in marriage equality is what ushered in this beautiful tide that has made way for the gay community to start to create families in numbers that could never have been imagined.
But that’s another story.
What so many of us never fully realized is that there is a sense of isolation and loneliness that comes with being something different, something new. Even now, after nearly years of legal marriage and us proudly and openly raising our two sons, my husband and I can still count the number of two dad families, that we know of, on one hand.
That’s why shortly after our first son’s birth we founded an organization called DADsquared to help connect the gay dad community and make certain that our children met other families just like theirs. It’s not enough to just see a LGBTQ family on television, we need to connect on more human and personal levels. The mind watches television, the heart holds a hand.
But even this dad story is better left for another day.
Today I write about fatherhood on a broader and more universal level.
There is an amazing movement spreading across this land of dads standing up and joining forces to help end the stereotypes that seem to follow us around.
You know the ones I’m speaking of.
The distant or non-existent dads.
The bumbling dads that can’t change a diaper.
The sexist dads that don’t believe that changing a diaper is their job.
The dead-beat dads that leave an unsupported family behind.
The dads that need someone else to handle the nurturing.
I could go on and on but I’m sure you have already conjured up the images needed to at least understand where so many of these stereotypes originated. And some rightly so, the dad or husband you know may be one, if not more of those.
But the dads I write about are the ones that spend their days proving that they are not one of those fathers. Some do so silently, simply going about their days caring for their children often in ways that their fathers didn’t for them.
Photo courtesy of Lisa Rigby
Some are more vocal, advocating for advertisers to stop insinuating that only “moms” get it right. These dads challenge these companies to drop the gender-specific praise and finally agree that raising healthy, beautiful and well-rounded children is simply a “parents” responsibility.
Some of us, even take fatherhood to newer territories as stay-at-home dads, as the primary care takers of our children.
I’m one of those dads, and like so many others that assume this amazing role, I find myself in often precarious and humorous situations, like the time a lovely lady asked me if I wanted her to hold my screaming infant at a restaurant until my “wife” got back to the table, or at the park when the moms think it’s sweet of me to have given the boy’s mom some time to herself. I used to think of those experiences as teachable moments, but now I’m just too busy and quite frankly, too tired to bother. I just smile and nod.
And still other dads have taken those experiences and some of that loneliness that comes with being different and turned it into an amazing opportunity to connect and share and learn from one another in a way that compares to nothing else I have seen. The National At-Home Dad Network is hosting its 21st Annual At-Home Dad Convention. This year we are lucky enough to have it right here in Raleigh. Oct. 7-9. It’s three solid days of unbelievable programing and classes and breakout sessions and roundtable discussions and speakers and so, so much more.
No attendee has ever left this event not feeling stronger, more energized, more knowledgeable, more capable and more connected to dads just like them, than before arriving.
You could say it's a brotherhood on fatherhood.
This year, I will actually be sitting on panel discussing LGBTQ rights and the struggles that gay dads face. Once again, the convention has found another way of connecting the dad community in a fuller and more inclusive way.
After all, at our core we are fathers first. Working on becoming better versions of ourselves, for some of us better versions than what our fathers were, for others better versions than what society says we are. But most importantly, we want to be the best we can be for our families.
And isn’t that what being an awesome parent is really all about?
Henry Amador-Batten lives in Durham, where he writes and cares for his two sons. He and his husband are the founders of DADsquared, (www.dadsquared.org/) an international community offering support and resources to gay fathers. He can be contacted at email@example.com