“One of the greatest barriers to connection is the cultural importance we place on ‘going it alone.’ Somehow we’ve come to equate success with not needing anyone. Many of us are willing to extend a helping hand, but we’re very reluctant to reach out for help when we need it ourselves. It’s as if we’ve divided the world into ‘those who offer help’ and ‘those who need help.’ The truth is that we are both.” –Brené Brown
Brené Brown is an American professor, lecturer, author, and podcast host. Brené is known for her research on shame, vulnerability, and leadership and for her TEDx talk in 2010.
From the first moment Jonathan Chambers began working for the Cherokee Office of Economic Development [COED], his willingness to extend a helping hand has been one of the most recognized and celebrated things about him. Now he’s extended those helping hands to fathers everywhere to connect them, make them feel comfortable in their role, and share tips and advice through his online community called Homedad.
These days Jonathan spends much of his time as brand manager for Reformation Brewery. You may find him collaborating with his team at the Woodstock location, but if you spot him behind the bar, he’ll offer you his kind smile, maybe a “Hiya, friend,” and a pint of whatever you’ve selected from the tap list. His new role is ideally suited to his penchant for storytelling and strong sense of community, but how did Jonathan’s journey of creating connection within the community of Cherokee County start?
Jonathan started as the community manager of entrepreneurship for the COED in 2017, where he took charge of entrepreneurship initiatives. He helped launch 1 Million Cups and the North Atlanta Venture Mentorship Service, grow The Circuit, and develop other community-building initiatives to spark interest in growth opportunities throughout the county.
After two years of bringing people together for COED, Jonathan then had to rely on the community to come together for him and his family in the spring of 2019. Jonathan’s wife, Allison “Allie” Chambers, was diagnosed with breast cancer a second time after having fought the disease in 2016. This time Allie and Jonathan chose to take a different path through her recovery journey through natural, alternative methods not recognized by traditional health insurance.
The community rallied around Jonathan, Allie, and their three daughters, creating a series of events to raise money and awareness for the family and their journey. Five public events at locations and cities around the county and several others orchestrated by private businesses helped Allie and Jonathan pursue a better alternative for her care.
Pulling at the Threads of Connection
In early 2020 the pandemic raced through our community and tore at the threads of connection that many had worked hard to build. Jonathan was still working his role with COED but with the flexibility of working from home. The summer of 2020 was compounded by difficult national events, which prompted Jonathan to flex his writing muscles and explore tough but necessary conversations.
Jonathan and Allie faced more struggles too. Allie was fighting new cancer spots in her body, so she and Jonathan worked together to determine an updated treatment protocol. The couple also planned a family vacation to Cape Canaveral, Florida, which they took in August. Just months later, in early December 2020, Allie lost her battle, and Jonathan’s family was changed forever.
Jonathan returned to work in January 2021 and realized something had to change. “There’s no way I could repeatedly retell my public grief story, so I finished my projects and ended my time with COED in February 2021.”
After several attempts to return to work, Jonathan quickly realized that work was not a good or healthy substitute for grief work. “You have to know what your heart can handle,” he shares.
In April he pulled back from all projects and took the rest of the year off. “So much of my identity is in my work, which was difficult. I wasn’t at peace with that decision until early summer of 2021.”
Jonathan spent the rest of the year traveling with his daughters. They camped, enjoyed trips to the mountains, beach, and Airbnbs, and created new memories as they learned to navigate life without Allie.
The Vision Begins
Jonathan always felt he wanted to support other dads. He shares that his vision for Homedad began in 2021. “My heart for dads goes back years,” he says. “We’re wired differently. Why do men struggle to seek and pursue friendships with other men? Finding the answer to that question is where Homedad came from.”
In January 2022 Jonathan began feeling the pull back into work. Most of his efforts were poured into Homedad, an online community offering support and advice for fathers in every stage of “Dadhood.” These fathers are intentionally trying to build their homes, care about their relationships with their spouse and kids, and hold to specific values. Building that idea and branding it pushed Jonathan to create the core of Homedad: fathers seeking help, friendship, and perspective.
Jonathan contacted friend and designer Scott Fuller of The Studio Temporary to create Homedad’s logo. Scott shares: “Every single logo, every design has a personal aspect to it. This project was no different. The house, chimney, and open door all portray the openness that Jonathan has always had. It reflects what he’s trying to do and what he’s going to do in the future. He’s building relationships between families that will last, and it makes sense that I built him an identity that will outlast him.”
Building the Homedad Community
Jonathan’s initial vision for Homedad was to share content on Instagram, followed by a blog series. The most significant medium, however, would be the Dadhood Podcast by Homedad, intended to discuss ideas affecting dads, and allowing them to connect in person and locally.
One of Homedad’s podcast guests, Kevin Monroe, a gratitude coach and curator of the Grateful app, cites the positive change surrounding connection and gratitude for fatherhood: “As fathers, or as parents—in those moments when our kids or life are just driving us to our wits’ end and we’re pulling our hair out—what if you could just stop at that moment and ask, ‘What is it about this child that I could appreciate and celebrate?'”
Another guest, Nick Carberry, father and vice president of operations for the nonprofit organization Circle of Friends, shares that Jonathan asked him to be part of an Instagram live discussion. During it, the pair conversed about the expectations of working dads. On this topic Jonathan notes, “Dads especially get into the performance trap—do better, work harder, go further. All the language of ‘not-enoughness’ is built on performance, a trap that gets them stuck, and they move in circles rather than forward.”
What started as a conversation on careers and navigating the performance trap shifted into mental health, which opened up another topic that Jonathan has been transparently shedding light on to create more open, honest conversations for fathers and men in general.
The topics Jonathan speaks on and shares online are resonating with dads near and far. Ed Miller of Marietta shared on LinkedIn, “Homedad, I commend you for what you are doing, having been a ‘girldad’ [times two] and now [having] two granddaughters. The work you’re doing is noble.”
In response to a Homedad post titled “It’s Okay to Not Be Okay,” on the topic of leaning into emotions, allowing oneself grace, and permission to not be okay sometimes, Stephen Wiggins of Lexington, Kentucky, commented, “Thank you for posting this. As a stay-at-home dad it is great to be a part of a community that can talk about these things.”
Jonathan’s encouraging reply to Stephen included a reminder that “You are not alone. We need each other.”
“We believe that dads need to change and grow through every season alongside the growth, development, and change of their children.”
— excerpt from the Homedad manifesto by Jonathan Chambers
Breaking through generational stereotypes has been one of the biggest struggles for Jonathan. His open, emotional approach to dadhood can be difficult for some dads to approach as a new idea. Jonathan, however, earnestly accepts his role as a guide for other fathers, embracing the struggle. He says, “Guiding dads uphill to get in touch with a side they didn’t know they could, or didn’t have permission to access, feels more human than gender-specific.”
Another concept Jonathan shares is the idea to “flip the script” in an effort to combat pessimistic perspectives. He gives an example of a sink full of dirty dishes. Rather than focusing on the negative, Jonathan suggests a mindset of “This is evidence of yet another family meal together.” On Facebook, Gabriel Arronte of Canton commented, “I love this! I constantly have this mindset and definitely need to learn to flip the script.”
For Jonathan, Homedad is two sides of the same coin. One side pours into dads, encouraging them to pursue friendships with other dads. The other side is helping the same fathers become better parents to their kids. “So much of being a better dad is learning to be in tune with your kids, be present, show up, and pay attention.”
Hustle culture and stereotypes can obstruct fathers’ abilities to connect with their kids, and many resort to the mindset of “I’ll just let my wife or spouse have the hard conversations.” Jonathan’s goal, though, is to encourage dads to have those hard conversations and lean into the initial discomfort to break through and create stronger connections with their children.
One way Jonathan creates these conversations at home with his three girls—now ages five, twelve, and fifteen—is with an exercise called “High, Low, Buffalo.”
“During the week we assess our day, and everyone shares their high for the day, a low, and a buffalo, which is a hard thing you had to face that day but got through.” Jonathan notes that this practice forces them to think through their day and give it purpose, wording, and a framework that illustrates how adulthood also has highs and lows—and plenty of buffaloes.
The Next Steps for Homedad
Jonathan has an earnest question to dads out there: “Who are you as a dad?” He explains further, “You are a dad because you have kids, [but] I think a lot of times, that doesn’t feel like enough.”
“Jonathan, simply put, is the kind of human being I think many of us are aspiring to be. The kind that, when life challenged him so unexpectedly, he chose to find ways to show up rather than give up. Again and again. For his family, himself and his community. Jonathan is a committed, compassionate, loving and comforting soul who finds such intentional ways to let you know that you are loved. Jonathan has shown me as a father, a spouse, an entrepreneur and a human being how to show up when grief and challenge threaten to overwhelm you. I am grateful to call him both peer and friend.”
— Dr. Jerome Lubbe, Thrive Neuro Health – Atlanta, Homedad Podcast Guest
Homedad is both a community and a movement that instills in fathers that they’re already a parent without having to prove that identity. Instead Jonathan’s goal is to help dads focus on navigating through life’s tough and beautiful moments—learning to apologize, ask for forgiveness, and allow their kids to see them as human. Perhaps then fathers and their children can experience more joy—something everyone should create and explore in all of life’s moments: the wild, the precious, and the once-in-a-lifetime chances.
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Ashley Velez is a marketer and writer dedicated to sharing authentic brand stories. She delights in the power of creating community through connection, and is an impassioned volunteer and supporter of the greater good. She’s a proud Woodstock resident, where she lives with her husband and two boys.