Life doesn't get any more personal than writing publicly and authentically about the ups and downs, trials and tribulations in raising your own children.
Personal insights -- often reflecting the personalities of the writers -- help readers find value in shared experiences by listening, learning, teaching and even shedding an occasional tear.
Here are three dad bloggers living in the Tampa Bay region who provide a raw look into the thoughts and reflections that come from being a father.
Sometimes serious, other times humorous, their experiences run the gamut.
But at the end of the day, their writing conveys the best part of being a parent -- the meaningful experiences and lessons learned about ourselves and the world around us.
Carter Gaddis, DadScribe
With a background in sports news journalism, writing seems to come naturally to Carter Gaddis. Lutz resident and University of South Florida graduate, Gaddis's writing career spans across sports genres, from baseball, hockey and football to motor sports. Gaddis left the industry in 2008 and now focuses on corporate communications.
One thing he misses from his journalistic writing days is a creative outlet. To address this need, the DadScribe
blog was born in 2012.
Gaddis initially started the blog as way to chronicle his life experiences to later share with his sons, ages 7 and 5. Now just over a year later, he finds himself enjoying the experience more than he thought possible.
The blog has evolved to include weigh-ins on parenting experiences, both good and bad.
"I just like to tell stories, and that's what I do with the blog,'' says Gaddis.
With no predetermined topics, agenda or editorial schedule, the posts touch on real issues and experiences. Gaddis's authentic, creative writing style sparks both contemplation and reflection -- like "Poker Nights and Play Dates,'' about being disappointed by friends, or "The Art of the Story,'' about the simplicity and purity of a first grader's writing assignment.
All in all, Gaddis's posts are witty, insightful and real. Here's an excerpt from a post titled "Chaos is Compulsory,'' in which Gaddis describes the ever-challenging task of keeping the house clean:
"It is not a daily struggle; it is an hourly struggle. A clean floor abhors a vacuum. Chaos doesn't take naps. It is an unblinking specter, waiting to interrupt every adult conversation. Legos, apparently, spring spontaneously from the carpet -- no fertilization or kid premeditation required.
"That's just how it is. It is stressful. And MomScribe is too embarrassed about it to even let me post a photo here of Jay among the chaos. (Come on, it's not that bad. We're not candidates for the show Hoarders or anything.) But then -- life is stressful. You make choices, you lose track of small things, and you deal with it. I look at it like this. I know where the important things are. They are all under this roof. Somewhere.''
Gaddis is involved in the larger dad blogger community and was recently one of five people selected to be featured at the Dad 2.0 Summit in Houston, TX. Even after many years, experiences and accolades as a sports writer, Gaddis says being invited to read one of his blog postings at this summit was the highlight of his writing career.
"These are my stories, written in my voice, and to have that embraced by the community at large was mind-blowing to me,'' says Gaddis.
Through his blogging experience, Gaddis has come to genuinely love and respect the parent blogging community.
"The main reason I blog, as a dad, is I want to tell the story of what it's like to be a father in Tampa Bay in the early 21st century.''
Carlos Vazquez, Big Daddy Blogger
Carlos Vazquez describes himself as: "over 40, overjoyed, and in over my head.''
Vazquez started Big Daddy Blogger in May 2012, just after the sonogram that revealed the gender of his daughter Evie. Like Gaddis, his initial goal was to record his thoughts and experiences for his daughter to read at a future date. At the non-traditional age of 44, Vasquez's blog has evolved to include the many trials and tribulations of fatherhood; some typical, some unique to being a first time father at an older age.
"I'm always thinking about when my daughter graduates high school, I'll be 60 years old,'' laughs Vazquez. This thinking became all too real recently when he was mistaken for being Evie's grandfather.
Vazquez was hit with the reality of his age toward the end of his wife's pregnancy, when he learned he had a congenital heart defect.
"It's a cliche, but it's not about me,'' says Vazquez.
The experience caused him to take a closer look at his own health.
"I've got to take an active role in taking care of myself so I can be there for her.''
On the positive side of becoming a parent later in life, Vazquez feels he has a much more developed sense of self and finds himself less stressed about some parenting issues than he may have been at a younger age. For example, he is able to very easily comfort his daughter when she is upset. Years ago, he would have had a harder time doing so.
"As you get older, the more opportunities there are for things to happen that are unpleasant, and you learn from them,'' says Vazquez.
He shares these life experiences with other parents through his blog. In a recent post, "Keeping the Wolves at Bay,'' Vazquez poses the question, "How do we keep our children from being bullies or being bullied?'' and even touches on his own childhood experience with bullies. Here's an excerpt from the post:
"I can't protect her from every instance of teasing or bullying, I just don't want the experience to define her life as it has mine. The process of self-actualization for me has included much work on dealing with the negative self-image I developed in my preteen and teen years when the teasing was at it's worst. It remains a work in progress.
"Then again, it doesn't have to be this way. Life doesn't have to be this hard.''
An ongoing series, "Things I Never Thought I'd Say,'' offers a humorous look at some of the surprising conversations involving kids.
All in all, Vazquez says he makes it up as he goes along. "It's about my journey as a father and sharing that with my daughter in the future.''
Mitchell Brown, Thoughtful Pop
Mitchell Brown tries to be thoughtful in many aspects of his life -- ever consciously aware of being proactive instead of reactive, thinking things through before acting on them. His blog, Thoughtful Pop, is an extension of that thinking, approaching parenting issues from a somewhat different perspective.
A former teacher, Brown has worked in a number of industries and is now a stay-at-home dad to his daughters, ages five and six. He has always focused on writing somewhere in his life, but the blog is the first time he has shared it in a public forum.
Started in 2010, the original intention of Thoughtful Pop was to chronicle Brown's parenting journey and process his thoughts. Through the blog community, Brown has found that and so much more.
"I like the interaction that comes with the community of parent bloggers,'' says Brown. "It's become a much bigger thing than I thought it was going to be in terms of people I've connected with.''
Brown collaborates with other parent bloggers on joint projects, both locally and nationally.
Stylistically, the blog bounces from humbly reflective, such as "Turning the Page,'' in which Brown describes the feeling of being alone in the house as his youngest started school for the first time. In an excerpt from the post, he reflects:
"The new chapter will look a lot like the last one -- it's not like we're sending them off to boarding school. I'll still be here, still cooking and cleaning and only occasionally showering. The new chapter, though, begins the part of the story where this odd but lovable protagonist will start creating his own path again. And what seems like a short amount of time each day will afford me a perspective on it all that I think I have been lacking.
"So, in this strangely quiet house, it's time to go to work. I'm excited to see how this chapter turns out, for all of us. I'm sure, though, I'll want to go back and re-read the last one soon -- it was hard, but it was sweet.
"And I wonder if I’ll cry everyday like I did today.''
Some of his posts are just plain silly, like "And in the Backseat, You will Receive Total Consciousness,'' describing the dubious process of cleaning out the backseat of his car.
But even with all of this conscious thoughtfulness, Brown says he's unprepared for some of the experiences that come with being a parent. The idea of being prepared (or lack therefore) is discussed in "On Unpreparedness,'' a heart-warming post in which Brown describes his daughter's reaction to learning that the family dog is reaching the end of its life.
To Brown, the best thing about the blog is the impact it has on others.
"I've gotten some emails that have really touched me -- moms and dads saying something I wrote helped them to process an experience they were having in a way they hadn't thought of before. I would easily say that's it the most rewarding part of all of this. Being able to connect with individual people and have them emotionally connect with what I'm processing myself.''
Megan Hendricks is a native Floridian and longtime Tampa Bay resident who loves the culture and diversity of the region. In her free time she enjoys local restaurants, thrift store shopping and spending time with her family. She earned her masters of business administration from USF Tampa. Comments? Contact 83 Degrees.