The Lack of 'Dad' at DaddyCon
About a month ago, I entered in a raffle to win tickets to an event called DaddyCon in Chicago. I was relatively excited because, as my son is nearing two, I've found precious few events or groups which are focused on dads who find themselves filling more traditional roles. While I was initially worried that DaddyCon would be another event focused on fathers who are full-time parents, I looked through the speakers and found an entire session titled "Making the Most of the Witching Hour" which focused on how to maximize the small windows of time you get to spend with your children when you work full-time outside the home.
I'd won four tickets and decided that, since this was DaddyCon after all, I'd take my own father on day one and return the next day so that my wife could attend some of the speakers at the concurrently running MommyCon. We packed up the car, the diaper bag, and the kiddo and headed off for our day of adventure.
We arrived fairly early in the morning and were instructed to follow signs for MommyCon since they were "in the same location." What we found when we arrived was that MommyCon was in full swing and that the DaddyCon speakers could be found in a room located near the back. All we would have to do is navigate our way through the halls of more than 6 MommyCon breakout session rooms and then we could have a place to meet with and learn from other fathers.
Unfortunately, like the rest of the convention, the DaddyCon breakout sessions were pulled together from the best that could be found after everything for MommyCon was properly set up. The session I look forward to most turned out to be a panel discussion with speakers from the other sessions, many of whom were stay-at-home dads who would start each statement with "Well, how I would approach things if I only saw my child in the evening..." We stayed for the whole session and we both learned a great deal; you can always learn from people who have walked a different path from you. The problem was that there was nowhere at DaddyCon for two fairly traditional dads. Merchandise was geared toward new and expectant mothers, speakers were geared toward full-time parents, and, outside of a play area that my son absolutely adored, there wasn't really anywhere for us to feel the brotherhood of fathers that I've sought since my son first screamed his way into the world.
The main reason I wanted to discuss DaddyCon wasn't to barrage the event with my complaints (even though it seems that's exactly what I've done.) but instead to bring to light a disturbing trend I've been noticing throughout the world of parenting; an absence of dedicated resources for fathers. In terms of any event geared toward family or parenting in general, it's becoming clear to me that dads are an afterthought. This is especially true for fathers who work full-time outside of the home.
Fathers play a critical role in parenting. We are often asked to be providers, vanguards against the terrors of the world, and statues of stoic control. We are asked to do these things while remaining emotionally available to our partners and our children and we're given almost no resources regarding how this could be accomplished. The cigar-chewing cowboys we grew up watching can't guide us to be the men we need to be today and the world seems largely uninterested in helping us to discover the way for ourselves.
DaddyCon was in no way a failure of an event. It was a sound attempt at providing the exact type of thing I'm looking for, but there need to be more resources for fathers. More community. More brotherhood. More acknowledgement and respect. We are not babysitters, we are not an afterthought in the world of parenting, and we are not a punchline. If the boys of yesterday are going to evolve into the men and fathers the world needs us to be today, we are going to need each other's help every step of the way.