Countywide : Award-Winning Dad Glad He Switched Roles

Hogan Hilling knows just what stay-at-home parents go through.

Hilling gave up his business to be a full-time dad while his wife, Tina, worked and took financial responsibility for family.

"Reflecting on it, I feel like I traded it for something better," Hilling, 40, said of his career.

"Fathers are just as capable as mothers," he said of being the parent who stays home with kids. "No way was I trying to replace the role of a mother. That's why I hated that cliche of 'Mr. Mom.' "

For his dedication and for his work as a co-founder of Fathers Network of Orange County, Hogan was commended this week by Gov. Pete Wilson, who presented him with a Courage to Care Award at the "California Focus on Fathers Summit" in Burbank on Tuesday.

Hogan, one of only five California fathers so honored, was a panelist at Tuesday's gathering.

Hogan said the award validated his decision to give up his wallpaper business in 1991 to care for Grant, now 7, Wesley, 5, and Matthew, 2.

"It's given me some value because someone outside my family has recognized the importance of my presence at home," he said.

The Hogans' son Wesley has a rare condition called Angelman's syndrome, which disables its victims mentally and physically. Wesley's need for constant supervision was a factor in his parents' decision to reverse the traditional parental roles.

In 1992, Hilling co-founded Fathers Network, a support group for fathers of children with special needs.

Tina Hilling, 44, who has been a speech and language pathologist for 15 years with Irvine Unified School District, said the logical choice for the family was that she keep her job, which includes health insurance coverage.

Hilling said he is no perfect dad and doesn't try to do everything alone. "In our house, we have shared responsibilities," he said. "We work as a team--and that's what's missing in some families."

He has continued to be active in the community too. Last year he helped start Dads In Action at El Camino Real Elementary School, where his eldest son is a student and his wife teaches. The group promotes increased involvement of fathers in the home, school and neighborhood, Hilling said.

Hilling says his parenting skills and attitudes continue to evolve.

"I once felt embarrassed pushing a stroller or showing affection," he said, "Now I'm proud to push the stroller and to hug my kids in public."

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