Reflections From a Trailblazer

It had been years since attending the annual Stay-at-Home Dad Convention, now called HomeDadCon (but I can honestly say it didn’t take me long last weekend at the 22nd annual convention to feel right at home with all the guys that have chosen to do what I have being doing as my primary career for over 20 years – function as the primary caregiver and family manager.

I remember walking into my first At-Home Dad convention, the fifth annual one in Chicago. I felt trepidation, wondering what we would talk about and if I would feel accepted within this group. There weren’t too many of us “back in the day," and I didn’t know what to expect or if cliques has formed before my time. Ironically, all those feeling welled as I walked in again this year for the first time in years. Even though it was my first trip to Portland, Oregon, I felt home among the Home Dads.

As I mentioned in my last blog this one was a little different because my wife attended with me. We sponsored the Trailblazer panel and participated in other events. As part of our support, we gave each attendee a copy of our book ZagZig Parenting: (Mis)Adventures of a Career-Driven Mom and Stay-At-Home Dad. A portion of the proceeds from our book sales goes to the National At Home Dad Network, as a way to pay-it-forward for a group that helped me be successful as an at-home dad. The book does not contain “answers” but hopefully is full of relatable stories to make someone laugh and feel they are no alone.

We were among three couples on the Breadwinning Mom and Caregiving Dad panel, hosted by P&G, Albertsons and the Network of Executive Women (NEW).

This is the first time the conference included the voice of the career moms, and I hope it continues. Panelists discussed how and why each couple decided this was the best arrangement for the family, navigating the ins and outs, the impacts and any advice as the other panelist has also been in this “role-reversal” for more than ten years. One of the women raised the issue of the pressure the breadwinner feels, regardless of gender, to deliver for the family; and breadwinning mom said the arrangement helped her say YES more in her career which lead to other opportunities.

ZagZig Parenting, our passion, served as the presenting sponsor for Trailblazing Dads panel, including long-time at-home dads and their grown children, as well as a 17-year at-home dad of six children (five girls and one boy) and me (dad of four -- two boys, two girls.) I have never thought of myself as a trailblazer, as I just did what needed to be done, but the conference organizers had an insight that I had not thought of before then; when I started as an at-home dad 20 years ago, we did not have social media networking that is available today. Today, there are more support tools available to connect people across the country to “discuss” pertinent issues and deal with isolation.

Two of the panelists included the 26-year-old sons who were raised from the younger years in an at-home dad house. It was really neat to hear from these fine young men that they did not think about the differences as much as we do as parents. It was inspiring to hear the men say a lot of positive thing about the influence of their dads. It reminded me that, even on a hard day at home, my tombstone will hopefully say, a devoted, loving, involved dad.

For my wife and I, the convention reinforced for us that our decision to have me be a stay-at-home dad for my family was the best decision we ever made. We have made mistakes along the way and it wasn’t always sunshine and lollipops, but I wouldn’t change it. In the words of our now near 20-year old child, it is a fun fact to share when she gets to know new people.

Although at first, I allowed my ego to get in the way, delaying my time at home with our first born, but when I finally took the plunge to be full time dad to our two girls and later to our two boys, I felt a fulfillment I never expected.

I want to meet more dads and build relationships with dads that value the same thing I do, raising our kids and taking care of our families as the breadwinner or the caregiver or even both. HomeDadCon18 will be in Orlando. Hope to see you there!

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