Bits at the start and end first appeared on DadCentric, but the bulk is new and fleshed out for non-blogger mass consumption. If nothing else, the writer types among you may enjoy seeing the evolutionary twists, turns, adds, deletes and punching up done in the never-ending battle I wage on writing every time I sit in front of the keyboard. Cheers!
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The only adult male this at-home dad hangs with on a regular basis is his dog, though, if not for fences, my best friend would most likely spend all his time canoodling with the cute beagle next door.
Naturally then, I had some trepidation about being corralled for three days in Texas recently at a conference with 200 other fathers.
Were we going to the woods to beat drums? Do primal scream therapy? Whine endlessly about how our dads did or didn't treat us as kids? Not at all.
The inaugural Dad 2.0 Summit in Austin gathered bloggers of the paternal persuasion to discuss with each other, marketers and social media mavens the role of the modern father.
We also gathered to drink beer, a statement based not on stereotype but on my credit card receipts.
The conference sprung from similar events that have been geared toward mom bloggers (not "mommy blogger" unless you enjoy feeling the bitter wrath of centuries of gender oppression -- trust me). Those gatherings aimed to help women network professionally, build community and learn how to possibly make a buck off their presumed expertise in dirty diapers and cleaning products.
Note the word "presumed."
A good chunk of Dad 2.0 dedicated itself to the question of how to make the media, Hollywood and the business world recognize that 21st century fathers are capable and equal partners in parenting. The majority of the peers in paternity I know, for example, are every bit as able, sometimes even better, at all those things commercials, parenting magazines and most of our own parents would swear only moms can handle when it comes to child care.
Except breastfeeding. We'll spot the ladies that one.
Past generations of fatherly indifference and stale research studies (moms make the majority of household buying decisions, dads don't help as much around the house) plus endless reruns of Married with Children and Everybody Loves Raymond have given dads a bad rep. In addition, on top of proving we matter as parents, we also need to prove that we're still men.
Essentially, we tasked ourselves with finding a way to portray modern fatherhood with humane competence -- a middle ground between the archetypical macho doofus and wussy eunuch.
Did we resolve these issues in three days?
Heck, no. We're dads, not miracle workers.
We swapped stories about our children and trying to raise them to be good people.
We discussed battles against us as caregivers, such as employers who couldn't understand why guys wanted to participate in their children's upbringing rather than work late on another pointless PowerPoint presentation.
We shared our heartaches and our triumphs as fathers, husbands and human beings.
We also complained a lot about how all of us can change a flippin' diaper.
That was one concrete accomplishment of the conference, thanks in no small part to some of its more vocal attendees. Representatives from manufacturing giant Kimberly-Clark hightailed it to Austin to listen and commit to act on public criticism about the company's bizarre new Huggies campaign. In it, the diapers are, to quote one voiceover, "put ... to the toughest test imaginable: Dads, alone with their babies, in one house, for five days."
Babies alone with their fathers! The cruelty! You expected the ads to end with a disclaimer that no infants were harmed during the filming.
I believe most of us left Dad 2.0 feeling that this may have been the start of greater respect for us dads. I know I gained a great deal of respect for many of these men who, through words and actions, shatter the old images of fatherhood like a glass baby bottle -- by design, not accident.