'INSTADAD' SIMON HOOPER TALKS FATHERHOOD
What first prompted you to take to Instagram to document your experiences of fatherhood?
Having long been a bystander in the social media game, I became aware of the lack of fathers taking up the online gauntlet and sharing their lives – something mothers have been doing for years. I wanted to lift the lid on what it’s like to be a modern dad (after all, we do make up 50% of the parenting team) in an authentic, funny and unique way to reassure other parents that everyone has the same problems and issues – you are not alone in this struggle that we call life with children. I thought I also had something different to share as I’m surrounded and outnumbered by girls – my wife Clemmie, my eldest Anya, Marnie and our identical twins Ottilie and Delilah who are fast approaching a year old.
Your social media following has surged in popularity, mainly owing to the honesty of your posts. How does it feel to have such an extensive following?
I’m just glad that I can provide content that people can both relate to and find funny. If I think about just how many people follow me, it blows my mind a little, but the thing that I find really crazy is the spread of where all those people come from. I’ve got followers from every corner of the planet but one thing is consistent through all of them – the highs and lows of bringing up children are all the same, irrespective of where you live or your background. I’m just glad I can bring people together to share their experiences and laugh at mine.
What are the best and hardest parts of having four little ones?
The best part is that I get to help mould them into little women who know what a good man should be. I try and set the bar high so that when they get to the boyfriend stage (which I hope isn’t for a while) that they have high standards and don’t settle for just anyone.
The hardest part is dealing with the rollercoaster of emotions that flows through this like a river. I’ve a very chilled person – I very rarely get stressed and I would rather talk things through instead of being confrontational. The girls are hot heads (Clemmie included) and can be up one moment and then flip within seconds.
The other thing I find hard is to get any decent man time. Whether its DIY, watching sport or going out with my friends, the time I have to do this stuff is severally limited.
How does caring for twins compare to the early days with Anya and Marnie?
Of course, everyone struggles a little with their first. Babies don’t tend to come with a manual of any description and you can read all the books you want but each baby is different and comes with their own intricacies. Once we figured out the first one, Marnie was relatively easy as we’d had practice. Twins are something completely different. It’s not that the twins are badly behaved or particularly troublesome, it’s just the fact there are 2 of them so everything has to be done twice. You have to divide and conquer in order to succeed. I don’t know how we managed to get through 11 months already without a mental breakdown, but we did, and we’re stronger and better parents for it.
How does it feel being the only man in an all female household?
I’ve made my peace with it. People still ask me if we’re going to go for the boy, and my honest response is “Are you insane? No. I’m happy with my girls. I wouldn’t know what to do with a boy anyway.” that said, a bit more man time would be nice!
How does the division of labour work in your household?
We divide things pretty much down the middle when it comes to the girls. We have a routine that works for us, so I’m doing things in the morning to get everyone ready (milk, breakfast, hair brushing, teeth cleaning etc), Clemmie will get them all to school and in the evening we’ll share out the responsibilities to get everyone sorted for bed.
When it comes to the house, I’m the person that makes the mess from playing with the girls and doing DIY and Clemmie’s the person that cleans it up (She doesn’t have full blown OCD, but she’s definitely on the spectrum). Clemmie and I share the cooking duties but I think she’d tell you that she puts a lot more effort in than I do which is probably fair (I see food as fuel, she sees it as something to be enjoyed).
From a man’s perspective, what was it like witnessing labour and birth?
Well this is a bit of an unfair question as my wife is a midwife so birth has always been a topic of conversation for us, right from the moment we met, so I was well prepared for it and knew a lot before we even got near the thought of having children. That said, the hardest part for me to deal with was seeing the woman I love in pain and not being able to do anything about it. Despite all the classes and instructions I received, I still felt like a spare part some of the time but I got involved when I could, even if it was just as something to hang off as Clemmie got stuck into active birth. For me the most amazing part of the whole experience is that smell of new born baby and that moment I had skin to skin with little ones was so precious. It really brought it home to me that I was a father.
How has your relationship changed since having children?
We definitely have less ‘us’ time, but like anything, you adapt and change to the situation around you and it just becomes your life. We rely on each other heavily to make the family run smoothly (or as smoothly as it can) and we always talk together to plan out what we’re doing, where we need to be and who’s picking up and dropping off the kids at multiple places around South London. When we do have time without kids, we try and make the effort to go out for dinner and do other things normal people do. It’s important to remember who we are and not lose ourselves in just being parents.
What would be your advice to any expectant dads of twins out there?
Don’t go into it with too many expectations. The thought of twins can be very daunting (especially if you’re first time parents). Break everything that comes your way into small bite size chunks and do one job at a time. You’re going to need to work as a team more than ever to handle 2 babies at once so be prepared to roll up your sleeves and get stuck in. Just remember that your family and circumstances are unique so try not to compare yourself to other people. In reality, you will be tired and it will test you and your relationship, but as time goes by, things get easier and you find a rhythm that works for you and you’ll come out the other end stronger than you thought you could be.
Photot credit: Philippa James Photography
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