Ambassadors of Involved Fatherhood
The ambassadors of involved fatherhood of the National At-Home Dad Network
Say it with me: “Almost every dad I know is putting in the work to be a loving, hands-on, involved dad.”
Last week, I was honored to be the opening keynote speaker at the 20th Annual National At-Home Dad Network Convention. It was an amazing experience: I met so many fantastic dads, learned a lot, and made many new friends.
More than any other group, this network of at-home dads represents the front lines of changing the way society looks at involved fatherhood and modern masculinity. Of course, being on the front lines means that these at-home dads face a lot of scrutiny and stigma, and that they get A LOT of really dumb things said to them. Things like:
Discussing involved fatherhood during my opening keynote address at the NAHDN Convention
Oh, so you’re babysitting?
What do you mean you don’t work? What do you do all day?
What are you doing at this playground?
You’re *such* a good dad
In my address, I discussed how, as positive ambassadors for involved fatherhood, at-home dads need to resist the urge to take offense and instead use these thoughtless comments as “teaching moments.” In this way, they can be more effective and positive as they change the out-of-date attitudes of those around them. I came up with a phrase for this very purpose:
“Almost every dad I know is putting in the work to be a loving, hands-on, involved dad”
“I loved that movie from 1983, too (“Mr. Mom”), but that’s not what most dads or at-home dads do today. In fact, almost every dad I know is putting in the work to be a loving, hands-on, involved dad.“
“I know you mean no offense, but I don’t babysit my kids, I’m just being their father. And, you know, almost every dad I know is putting in the work to be a loving, hands-on, involved dad.”
“Almost every dad I know is putting in the work to be a loving, hands-on, involved dad. I just happen to do it full-time, as it made more sense for my family that my wife works. All families should arrange things the best way for them, don’t you think?”
“I’m here with my kids. More and more dads are doing things like this. After all, almost every dad I know is putting in the work to be a loving, hands-on, involved dad. Which are your kids, maybe they can join mine on the monkey bars?”
“I know you mean that (“great dad”) as a compliment, and thank you. But, you know, almost every dad I know is putting in the work to be a loving, hands-on, involved dad. I’m not doing anything more than most dads- or moms- do.”
Awesome t-shirts at the NAHDN Convention
Honestly, I’m not sure I could restrain the urge to say something rude if faced with such thoughtless comments. But rising above thoughtlessness is the key to being a positive ambassador. The dads at this convention seemed to like the phrase and, in fact, a few told me they used some variant of it during their flights back home when fellow passengers saw them wearing their “At-Home Dad Convention” and “Dads Don’t Babysit” t-shirts.
Progress can come one conversation at a time. I’m very confident that the awesome guys I met at the convention will more than do their part.
My experience at this convention also led me to think about working dads, and what we can do to be ambassadors of involved fatherhood at our workplaces. Here are a few ideas:
Talk about family while at work and make it easier for others in your sphere of influence to do so. For instance, ask them about what they did with their families on weekends, or have family pictures prominently displayed at your workstation.
Gather a group of fellow working dads and go out to lunch or a happy-hour together every few weeks. Combine this with a mom’s group if you’d like.
The NAHDN Convention was an amazing learning experience and lots of fun
When you need to, leave early and take work home. Don’t apologize for it. Your continued work performance will win over initial skeptics.
Ask management and HR about what policies they offer. Share with them the news of what leading companies offer.
Take paternity leave when it’s offered. Be visible about it. Share your experiences on social media.
Especially if you are a manager, you play an especially important role. If your employees see you adjust your schedule for family, occasionally work from home, and even take paternity leave, you send a strong signal that it is ok for others to do so. Your actions speak much louder than your words.
Push the need for leave and flexibility policies with HR and top management. Make the business case in terms of attracting and retaining employees, as well as improving engagement.
Beyond paternity leave or workplace flexibility, talk with your employees, coworkers and bosses about the importance of time for life.
After all, almost every dad I know is putting in the work to be a loving, hands-on, involved dad.
Whether we work outside the home or have made parenting our full-time job, we need to be ambassadors for involved fatherhood. That’s how society and workplaces will finally catch on to what most of us do every day.
(I’ll post next week with a photo gallery and what I learned at the National At-Home Dad Network Convention)
What do you think about being ambassadors for involved fatherhood at home, in your community or at work? Any stories to share? Let’s discuss in the comments.
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