Are we all ‘smug dads’ now?

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Are us fathers guilty of being “smug dads”? Do we simply fill our Facebook pages, Instagram feeds etc. with staged-managed images of our supposedly perfect family lives?

man and baby.jpeg
An Instagram perfect image of father and child. Pic credit below.

This was an accusation that used to be thrown at mums. In an enlightening article in The Times newspaper last weekend, journalist Nick Curtis said us dads have well and truly caught up.

He spoke of the photographs he has to tolerate of the MAMIL; the Middle Aged Man in Lycra who can be spotted on the school run, the Papoose Dads with infants strapped to their front and the Touchline Dad who can be seen cheering from the sideline at every one of his offspring’s sports matches. As a blogger, I felt duty bound to feel a certain sense of rage at Curtis’s remarks. After all, it must be men like me that Curtis would like to ban from owning DSLR cameras and smart phones.

About 2.5 nano-seconds later, however, I had calmed down. I had to concede that I see a lot of self-congratulatory blog posts. It’s the kind of thing I generally stick away from in my own writings, but when I thought about it I realised that I have published pictures of my kids’ birthday celebrations, written blog posts about their success at swimming, how my eldest child settled into school and so on.

I’m not one of these people who tries to make out they live a perfect family life. The perfectly focused photographs of children wearing designer brands, smiling mummy and daddy walking wistfully hand in hand through grass meadows. Such an approach is incredibly transparent and has no appeal to me whatsoever.

For every blog post I write about the successes of my family, I must write at least two about our failings, in particular mine (accidentally allowing my child to enter a swimming competition beyond her capabilities; read about it here, getting myself locked out of a hire car and having to get my three-year-old to help me retrieve my possessions from the vehicle, yeah done that too and incorrectly treating mild medical conditions guilty as charged).

That’s merely a comment on the bloggers. If I think about parents I know in real life and what they post on social media, well, let’s just say there’s as good at the positivity game as the bloggers. In fact, I’d go so far as to say that many of them are even better.

Curtis is in a very good position to comment on all of this. The article itself was more of a comment on how he is treated as a 50-year-old married man with no children.

In the past, Curtis has been the subject of very insensitive remarks. I can but guess what Nick has had to tolerate. Men without kids are often portrayed as guys about town leading a party life-style, a woman in every port but no permanent mooring.

The reality, I think, is considerably harsher. In my experience, childless men frequently have their sexuality questioned in the cruelest way (…amongst other insults).

Whether male or female, I have always felt a certain sense of empathy, if empathy is the correct word, with those who don’t have children. Those of us with kids are forever demanding better rights; be it maternity or paternity rights, the right to change nappies in public places, more rights in the workplace and so on. It must be quite irritating to not only have us breeders demanding better rights but then shove loads of pictures of faux family perfection onto the internet for all to see.

Then again, I think Curtis is failing to see one point. Motherhood has long had a higher status than fatherhood. Yes, some of those photos posted online by Mamils, Papoose and Touchline Dads are irritating (as are some of the images posted by Mawils, Earth Mothers and Soccer Moms).

Things is, dads have a bit of catching up to do. There aren’t that many positive role models for fathers out there. Are some of these dads merely showing the world they’re as capable of caring for their kids as their female partners? Not better at it, but equals. I find such a sentiment difficult to criticise.

Pic credit; Josh Willink, sourced from Pexels.com and reproduced under Creative Commons agreement.

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23 thoughts on “Are we all ‘smug dads’ now?”

  1. Brilliant post John, you’ve absolutely nailed it, Your site and many others has brought equality not just to the workforce and home but also culturally, your voice matters (and insta pics-however perfect). It’s so important fathers are given the focus they deserve. In this house we bring up our children 50/50. It’s our duty but also our want and need. What I don’t agree with is the unspoken assumption by the media/society to some extent that was touched on with Jeniffer Aniston’s piece earlier in the week that you’re somehow less-than without kids, that you can’t be happy without them.

    Thanks John for such a thought-provoking post.

    1. I read what Jennifer Aniston said. I feel deeply for her and anyone in that situation where they can’t have a life without being quizzed about use of their reproductive organs. You are, of course, no less of a person without kids. It is a horrible thing to say. Glad you found it thought provoking and keep raising those kids of yours 50/50!

  2. Really interesting post John although I wonder if I am one such type of dad now posting on social media it’s amazing that somebody who doesn’t have children makes such an observation I’m not having a go at him but he doesn’t realise that sometimes your children do something that you are proud of and yes you put it on social media and actually why not. I do wonder if a journalist who is also a father would of written such an article.
    Really great post mate

    1. Well, the argument is a bit one sided isn’t it? A childless guy having a go at those who do post about their children. In his article he does make the point that he refused to write something for a “self-congratulatory” organisation that celebrated the child free existence. But do us parents ever complain about what our childless friends post on social media? I doubt it.

  3. David Shaul - DadvWorld

    Another fantastic post John! Erm, I’ve read this and read it again. I feel I need to read that guys post too to fully understand. However from what I’ve had time to process, looking at dads posting pictures of happy times, their children’s achievements and memories they want to capture and keep forever, if it offends him in some way, maybe don’t look? I don’t like watching Britain’s got Talent so do you know what I do? I don’t watch it. As for staged photos etc, I think we all do it but why would I want to capture the moment my son is crying, or my daughter didn’t win her race at sports day? When my boy was in hospital having a horrendous time of it, should I start posting these images too? There are moments I don’t want to remember and I want to look back at my social media images and see positivity and joy. Personally I like leaving a few outtakes in my YouTube videos to show people the funny side of trying to get a 3 year old to stage a scene. There’s enough room in this world for dads to be positive, proud and share whatever the hell they like on their social media accounts as well as single men to share all of their activities and joys whatever they maybe.

    1. Actually, it’s a very good point. Although I have some sympathy with this guy, do you ever hear of anyone complaining about their childless friend’s social media posts? I have never heard of such a complaint.

  4. A thought provoking post John. Yet it will not change how and why I use social media.

    My personal page is still to keep in touch with friends, have a bit of fun, and share pictures of my kids so that family overseas can keep up to date with what the children are doing.

    I never stage photos, it’s hard enough to get them to look at the camera, never mind props and scenary and lighting.

    I’ve a similar attitude to back when I watched points of view and would wonder why people complained about a T.V. or radio programme. Turn it over.

    If someone doesn’t like my photo’s and status updates then unfollow me.

    Yes I’m sympathetic to others feelings, I’d never make a comment to anyone male or female about a lack of children, number of children etc etc.

    Seems the world we live in, normal decent humanity is being eroded. One status update at a time.

    I don’t think we’re all smug dads all the time.

    As I said to another blogger recently. If I wanted to see piles of washing, messy bedrooms and tantrums, I can look up from my phone.

  5. A good post. I think that dads do get a hard deal and don’t get as much praise as they deserve (plus they don’t need to be a SAHDad to get this!). Life is imperfect, that’s the way it is. So everyone experiences ups and downs at some point, they just choose not to talk about it. #brillblogposts

  6. Interesting post..of course people are entitled to portray whatever image they want of their family on social media, and we all like to look at pretty things..but anyone with a child knows its not like this 100% of the time (or even 50% perhaps!) so I do think its important to show the rough along with the smooth. As for dads doing it as well as mums..anything which pushes forward equality in any area is great in my book! #brillblogposts

    1. I think we ALL know when something has been stage managed! As you say though, if it pushes forward the equality agenda then let’s not complain too much.

  7. I think that unless it’s a funny story or has some other point, people aren’t going to post pics or write about the more “normal” moments because they simply aren’t that interesting. If my daughter climbs a wall at the park, I’m proud of her, and might take a pic. If she tries three times and gives up, no pic. I think this applies to other things besides parenting also. I share date nights out with the wife, but not sitting on the couch in our PJs nights. I think this is coming up now because more dads now have a voice and a willingness to talk about our lives as dads than they ever did before, and its being noticed. Nothing wrong with that #brilliantblogposts

    1. That’s exactly the point I was trying to make Jeremy. It’s coming up more because dads are getting more vocal. Mums have been doing this stuff for ages! If you are bothered by it, it is primarily your problem.

  8. I actually have a bit of a soft spot for dads posting stuff about their kids, especially when it’s the really loving stuff – I find it heart warming. I guess some dads can get a bit braggy but then so can some mums and so can some childless people about other aspects of their lives. We all know social media is where truth and storytelling collide and I think it’s good to have men telling the parenting story too. We want our next generation to know that being a loving parent can be a wonderful part of life regardless of gender. Thought-provoking post, John. #thetruthabout

    1. There’s a great deal in what you say Maddy. Of course some guys post too much but so do some mums. Whether mums or dads, many are simply proud of their kids and it is in the eye of the beholder whether they are offended by this or not. If, however, it sets a good example to the next generation then it’s not bad thing.

  9. I think this is social media in general nowadays isn’t it? This definitely puts me in mind of the post I wrote recently about being positive on social media, what it is acceptable to share, etc. The answer is, you share what you want to and it’s up to the reader/viewer to reign in their response and put it in perspective. Unfollow you or hide your feed if they are finding it nauseating or whatever – we can’t all be as happy as each other in every respect and there will be some things we will be jealous of each other for – be that a sunny foreign holiday, or the other person’s ability to pro-create and get immersed in the parenting journey (whatever our gender). Thanks for linking up John – this is a huge part of modern life now isn’t it? #thetruthabout

    1. It’s a frighteningly large part of modern life and I notice a real gap in the generations. Older parents share less while younger parents seem to share just about every thing their kids do. The response and reaction, as you say, is really in the eye of the beholder.

  10. A brilliant post John, you and other dad bloggers have really highlighted the fact that dads can just be dads. They’re half of the parent unit so why can’t they share the photos & achievements?? #BrillBlogPosts

    1. Thanks Toni, it does seem a bit cruel to simply expect this behaviour from mums and then slag dads off when they do the same. I ain’t going anywhere, that’s for sure!

  11. Great post John. I think everyone is guilty of trying to stage their life on social media: the perfect couple, the perfect baby, the perfect night out, the perfect sandwich. When in reality we are all equal, make the same mistakes and make the same boring sandwichs. I don’t really share photos on my personal Facebook of my family. People know about my other social media accounts so if they want to see my life as a dad they know where it’s at.

    1. I like your style. I don’t really share a great deal on my personal account either. I think we all know social media is more than a little stage managed.

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