Simon Hooper’s Instagram account, which aims to offer an honest portrayal of what parenting is like from where he stands, has now reached nearly a million followers and counting — a number he never could have imagined when it first began. The father of four daughters (Anya, 14, Marnie, 11, and twins, Otilly & Delilah, 6) says he attributes the account’s success to being one of the first to offer an honest look at the behind the scenes of parenting on the platform.
“Once my interest switched from just scrolling through gorgeous photographs to wanting to see and hear from other parents — especially other dads — I couldn’t find anything,” he tells me.
It all felt sugar coated — all these happy pictures of families walking down the beach, holding hands at sunset, which is nice, sure, but nothing like the day to day reality.
Where were the photos and stories depicting all the challenges that come along with being a parent?” The desire to see the full story represented inspired Simon to give it a go himself. His goal for the account, he says, has always been to show that finding ways to have a little fun with some of life’s daily messes, even when you’ve had to learn something the hard way, is what ultimately creates stronger bonds within your family and more genuine connections on and offline.
And how do his daughters feel about him sharing so much of their lives on social media? “Anya’s 14 so everything’s embarrassing now, especially me.” he jokes, “So I don’t really share much about what’s going on with her at the moment. For Marnie, however, the platform has had a huge impact, as she was recently diagnosed with type 1 diabetes this year. Having built the following I allowed us to raise awareness around the disease, which has seen a notable spike in the last two years, and build a supportive community with other parents and children dealing with the disease around the world.”
The choice to share her story was hers alone, though, he makes clear; while he brought attention to how it could be helpful to connect with others in the same situation, it needed to be her decision if she felt comfortable openly discussing her diabetes. Her choice to do so, he says, has been an overwhelmingly positive one, including bringing her into contact with one of her now best friends, who was diagnosed on the same day, and in general reminding her she’s not alone with the challenges she’s facing. “And as far as the twins go, well, they’re six so naturally they’re much more interested in what’s on TV or playing in the garden for now than seeing my posts,” he laughs.
Simon admits that while he didn’t really give a thought as to who might follow him when he started his account, the hope was always that it would be a way to get more dads engaged with their parenting experience. While on a surface level, this hasn’t exactly worked as he’d imagined — his stats show about 90% of his followers are women — he does receive a lot of direct messages (DMs) from dads around the problems they’re facing, most of whom readily admit they don’t know who to talk to about it.
Dads seem more willing to talk privately to me as a stranger about it, then do to their partner, which surprised me at first.
“But also, I guess that’s what therapy is, right? When you talk to someone who’s a stranger, and you feel more free to say the unedited version of your experience. So it’s been rewarding to have a kind of behind – behind the scenes community for dads, even if it’s just a few words of advice or pointing someone in the right direction for help in the DMs.”
When I ask Simon how he juggles keeping up with his Father of Daughters page, in addition to being an attentive father to his four daughters, a husband, and a human being with a day job as a management consultant, he says for him, it’s all about staying relatively regimented and having clear boundaries. You need to separate the time you’re able to give to other people and things, and the time that you need for yourself — and be willing to protect that time.
“I know this is easier said than done, but if you can make half an hour a day even, for your own headspace, it will do wonders for how you show up for everything else,” he tells me.
I think one thing that we all overlook is our own kind of mental wellness. We keep thinking we can just keep going and going, but reality is you can’t.
For me, cycling is my release, I go and sit in the basement for an hour every night between 8:30 and 9:30. And that’s my time — I literally put my feet on the pedals, spin, sweat, and completely check out. And I really need that time. In the early years of parenting, I hadn’t realized how much I needed it and often spread myself too thin, which wasn’t good for anyone. You know the phrase ‘You can’t pour from an empty cup.’ If you’re empty, that’s it — you won’t be able to give even if you want to. So now one of my top priorities is making sure I’m always at least half full.”