20th annual at-home dad convention in Raleigh this fall
Posted June 21, 2015
Updated June 28, 2015
James Kline is busy.
The Apex dad spends his days chasing after his two kids as a stay-at-home dad. He also is organizing the 20th annual At-Home Dad Convention, which just happens to be slated for Raleigh this fall. The convention will return to Raleigh in fall 2016, as well.
The event will likely draw more than 150 dads from around the world. (One father from England already plans to attend). They come to learn more about parenting; take part in social events; and participate in a community service project. Plans call for a slate of speakers and activities like CPR training, an arena-style car seat installation challenge and a panel with moms.
So Kline is in the midst of lining up speakers, activities and sponsors and getting the word out to at-home dads that registration is open. The convention will take place Sept. 26 and Sept. 27 at Marbles Kids Museum in downtown Raleigh. (He'd love to hear from local business that are interested in being involved as an event sponsor or even sponsor a local dad so he can attend).
While the convention offers professional development for dads, it also gives them a chance to connect with others like them. It's hard to find exact numbers on just how many at-home dads there are. The National At-Home Dad Network, which is behind the convention, pegs the number at more than 1.4 million, based on 2009 research by Dr. Beth Latshaw at Appalachian State University. It's a number that has been growing over the last decade or more and continues to grow.
But Kline, convention committee chairman and network vice president, and other at-home dads, who gather several times a week through Triangle Stay At Home Dads, said they still get funny looks when people see them with their kids at the playground or store during normal working hours.
"We always get that. 'Oh? Daddy's Day Off?' No. It's Daddy's Day On," Kline said of interactions with strangers when he's out and about with this kids.
I met up with the Triangle group a few weeks ago at Lake Crabtree County Park, where at-home dads meet weekly with their kids. The dads who were there had been members for two to three years, taking advantage of playgroups, dads' nights out and family socials.
Members Wes Swain and Daniel Wilkerson, who met at the group, found out that they live less than a mile from each other. Now they help each other out when they need somebody to watch their kids and gather regularly so the kids can play and they can socialize.
"It helped provide a structure to my week," said Swain, a former video game tester, of the group. "Without that, I was in an abyss of days."
Kline said it's those friendships and that mutual understanding that draws at-home dads to the annual convention each year.
"The biggest thing is the brotherhood that's established," said Kline, who has attended several conventions, including last year's in Colorado. "These guys walk away planning the road trip for next year. It's that camaraderie that's really cool."
The National At-Home Dad Network's website has more information about the convention and its programs.
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