For the first in a new series of exclusive interviews with some of my favourite Insta pals, I’m seriously excited to share with you my recent no-holds-barred ramble chat with the one and only Simon Hooper; known the world over as King of the #Instadads, Father of Daughters!
Simon shot to fame in early 2016 when he launched his now infamous Instagram account Father of Daughters, providing his hilarious, honest account of raising four gorgeous girls with his wife Clemmie (AKA Mother of Daughters); midwife, blogger, Instamum and author of best selling guide to pregnancy and birth, ‘How to grow a baby (and push it out)’. With nearly a million followers between them on Instagram alone, these two London parents are bringing the highs and lows of parenting to the fore, and we love them for it.
And so without further ado, keep scrolling to read my full interview with the man himself, discussing how he and Clemmie first met, the monumental rise of Father of Daughters (and his unique method of dealing with trolls), the boy’s name he would have used if he’d ever had a son, and why he’s partial to a bit of lycra… ENJOY!
At the pub with Father of Daughters
GILES: Right, it’s my round. What are you drinking?
SIMON: I’d love a craft beer, thanks….whichever’s the most local.
GILES: Crisps? Nuts? Pork Scratchings?
SIMON: Well we definitely shouldn’t eat pork scratchings because they’re so bad for you. But fuck it…let’s get some anyway.
GILES: Sounds perfect! Be right back…
So Simon, where did you grow up?
SIMON: I’m originally from just outside Bristol but we moved into the city itself when I was about 13. My folks still live down that way actually.
GILES: Oh I love Bristol…I went to University there. What about you?
SIMON: I went to Bath Uni just down the road. I’ve gotta say, it was seriously handy having my parents so close by, if nothing else so I could nip home to get my rugby kit cleaned.
GILES: Ha! Do you still play?
SIMON: Hmm…I think if I tried to play rugby now, my body might fall apart. I’ve kind of turned into more of a middle aged man in lycra. Any free time I have, I try to spend it on my bike.
GILES: Back to Bristol, wasn’t that where you and Clemmie first met?
SIMON: Yeah! Clemmie was at uni there and had stayed back over the summer, as she was working as a barmaid. Anyway, one night, me and some mates went to a very well-known Bristol nightclub called the Lizard Lounge…
The infamous Bristol nightclub where Father of Daughters and Mother of Daughters met…
GILES: Oh yes…the Lounge! I know it well…
SIMON: That place! I spent far too many drunken nights there too, wasting my student loan away on jugs of vodka red bull. On this one particular night, I saw Clemmie across the dance floor – sounds cheesy I know – sitting on one of the sticky sofas with her shoes off, rubbing her feet. So I made my approach and said, “You know what you need? Some Scholls Party Feet…”
GILES: Wow. That’s quite a chat up line…
SIMON: I know right? Possibly the weirdest thing that could’ve come out of my mouth. But anyway, we chatted for a bit and then I made my excuses, saying I was off to a house party. She asked if she could come too but I actually said no, because I wanted to be with my mates!
GILES: Playing hard to get…
SIMON: Absolutely. Luckily though, two days later we went out for drinks and after a few dates, I think I said something like, “You’re my girlfriend now, aren’t you?” and the rest is history.
Father of Daughters, Mother of Daughters & their four girls!
GILES: So you’ve obviously been together a long time. Did you guys always plan on having a big family?
SIMON: Clemmie and I are both from families of three children and we liked the dynamic of how three works. So that was the number we were always aiming for. But of course…
GILES: …you went for your third and got a fourth for free…
SIMON: Bingo. Which was a bit of a shock, to say the least.
GILES: What was your initial reaction when you found out?
SIMON: Well, Clemmie told me via text message…
SIMON: Yeah. If I remember rightly, it was just a picture of two babies faces – in emojis – and I think I replied something like, “That’s just my luck.”
Now that the twins are here though, I wouldn’t change it for the world. But it definitely knocked me sideways when I first heard.
Father of Daughters & Mother of Daughters, on the day their twins were born
GILES: Did you take Shared Parental Leave with any of your girls?
SIMON: It was something I seriously considered with the twins, but ultimately I didn’t.
I do think it would be a really great thing if dads could spend more time at home early on. There should be some kind of rule that dads have to take two months off in the first year of their baby’s life. So you can get a proper feel for what it’s like to be a parent and a better appreciation of what our wives and partners do. But also to just connect as a dad.
GILES: So, bit of a controversial one here. Because you’ve obviously never had a son, was there a boy’s name that you had in reserve but didn’t ever get the chance to use?
SIMON: Well, for every daughter, we had a selection of boys names at the ready. I’ve always quite liked Caspar but then Reuben was a particular favourite of mine. I should probably note, I’m not Jewish, but I must have a bit of a penchant for Jewish names as there were quite a few on my list.
GILES: Hmm, we really struggled with boys’ names when we were pregnant. We had about 10 girly options lined up but only one boy’s name, which was the one we obviously ended up with!
OK, let’s talk Father of Daughters…
Bath time with Father of Daughters
GILES: Some people might not realise but you and I both started on Instagram just a week apart at the start of 2016. Obviously we’ve had exactly the same level of success on there since then…
GILES: So, what drove you to launch Father of Daughters in the first place?
SIMON: Well, as you know, Clemmie had her blog – Gas & Air – which had been really successful. She also had her Instagram account – Mother of Daughters – for quite a while, which I’d watched grow from the periphery. One of the big things I noticed was that when Clemmie put anything on social media, it was almost exclusively women who engaged with it.
There was clearly this big parenting conversation online but with no male voices in it whatsoever. I thought this showed such a one-sided view of what parenting really is. Dads obviously represent 50% of the parenting community and yet we didn’t seem to have a voice.
So I thought I’d start Father of Daughters to show the other half of the story; with Clemmie giving her side and me providing the dad’s perspective.
The other element I wanted to get in was to cut through the bullshit, and the sugar coating of what family life is really like.
It’s not all walking down the beach into the sunset, holding hands. There are tantrums. There are arguments, and tensions between parents. And different ways of approaching things. But I felt that wasn’t being shown.
Six in a bed with Father of Daughters
GILES: And was there a specific moment when you thought, fuck, this Father of Daughters thing is really taking off?
SIMON: Yeah. It was back last year when Clemmie had about 15,000 followers on Instagram. I’d just started my account, so asked if she wouldn’t mind letting her crew know? And so, of course, she very kindly did, saying something like “go follow my husband for the other side of the story.”
I woke up the next day and I had maybe 3,000 new followers, and that initial bump was the thing that really started it. And it just snowballed from there…it’s been a bit mind-boggling really.
GILES: Have there been any downsides to this newfound fame?
SIMON: When you reach a certain scale, you definitely open yourself up to a lot of other people’s opinions when you say things.
Something I’ve learnt over time is that you are always going to come up against people who disagree with you, but it’s how you handle them that’s important. You have to develop a bit of a thick skin pretty quickly.
Father of Daughters takes to the bottle
GILES: Looking at the comments on your posts though, thankfully the vast majority of your followers are really supportive. But I’ve noticed you definitely have your own special way of dealing with trolls…
SIMON: Yeah. My approach is to kill them with kindness, which is my general approach in life too. I’m not an aggressive person at all, and so it’s the same advice I give to my kids if someone is being nasty to them; just be extra nice back, which in turn makes them look small…
GILES: So, when your follower count actually passed Clemmie’s, were you gracious in your success? Or did you rub it in?
SIMON: I think I remained quiet and waited for her to point it out. At the end of the day, it was never a competition; that was never the intent. It is much more about supporting each other and making sure that what we’re doing is true to our lives.
But if I’m being honest with myself, there may have been a small smirk across my face when I noticed that I’d overtaken her.
Bedtime with Father of Daughters & Mother of Daughters
GILES: And what would you say is the coolest thing that’s happened to you since you started?
SIMON: The coolest thing most recently has to be playing tennis with Tim Henman.
GILES: No way!
SIMON: Yeah, it was one of those moments where you really had to pinch yourself. I was doing some work with Robinsons and they invited us to Wimbledon, where (it turns out) Tim Henman was disguised as some bearded guy serving us fruit juice.
After a bit, he came onto the court and started doing all these trick shots, before all of a sudden pulling off his beard and wig to reveal his true identity. While I was like, holy shit, it’s Tim Fucking Henman, the kids obviously had no idea who he was! And then I got to play a few games with him, which was pretty amazing.
GILES: Did I hear that you’re potentially selling up and moving out of London?
SIMON: Oh, we were, but we took it off the market actually. I think because of Brexit and the political uncertainty that we’ve seen recently…
GILES: Bloody Brexit…
SIMON: I think people were just hesitant so it hasn’t really worked out like we planned. We were actually thinking of heading back to Bristol, but now the house is off the market and we’re sticking where we are in London..for now.
Father of Daughters in his Rad Dad tee from Black & Beech
GILES: And, I heard on the grapevine that you have grand plans to launch on YouTube next?
SIMON: I do! But only when I can find time…that’s the problem. I have my channel all set up and ready to go, so now I’m just trying to figure out who my audience is and what content I actually want to put out there.
What I ideally want to do is help parents in some way, with ‘how to’ videos, or something like that. I can’t take myself too seriously though, so it’s going to have to be something tongue in cheek if I do go down that path. YouTube is a much bigger time commitment too compared to Instagram, with so much planning and preparation going into every video you make.
GILES: And of course you’re still working full time too…
SIMON: I’m definitely time poor. Some people have suggested, “oh, you can hire an editor to do most of the work for you,” but what they don’t realise is, I’m quite a tight person! I don’t want to pay people to do something I can potentially do myself. Which is the same reason why there are so many DIY jobs in my house that are only half finished.
But I’m pleased to say that I have some great content lined up, so plan on launching that soon. But it’s a daunting prospect!
GILES: So, what’s Father’s Day like in your house?
SIMON: Well, for Mother’s Day, it usually involves us getting booted out of the house and Clemmie going to get her nails done, or having a relaxing time on her own.
Whereas Father’s Day is a case of “let’s all spend more time with Daddy!” But actually, if I’m honest…
GILES: You just want to get your nails done too…
SIMON: Well, exactly, yeah! Who doesn’t?! Nah, actually I would love to have a good day by myself where I don’t see anyone at all. Because, when it comes to my kids, for 364 days of the year, I’m yours. You have me whenever you need me, I’ll give you all of my attention, I’ll do everything with you. But for just one day, it would be really nice if I could just say “See ya” to everyone, and go and watch the rugby or do whatever I wanted.
Father of Daughters has alternative plans for Father’s Day…
SIMON: This year though, if I’m remembering this correctly (because I’m not in charge of the social calendar), I think Clemmie is going on a hen do. So, I’m pretty sure I’m in charge of all the kids for the whole weekend.
GILES: Oh brilliant! So the perfect Father’s Day then…
SIMON: Yup. Exactly what I’d been hoping for!
GILES: Do you at least get some decent presents?
SIMON: Thinking of all the presents I’ve received over the years, you almost always get given the obligatory Father’s Day mug…
GILES: Of course, because every dad loves a good mug…
SIMON: Hmm, I think I’ve got a collection of about eight or nine now – all with fading foot and hand prints on them – so I’m not sure I need any more. I know it’s the thought that counts and all, but really I am most happy with just a macaroni owl or something. I love the handmade stuff – that’s what really matters to me.
Father of Daughters with all the girls
GILES: Now, before we go, let’s finish off with a few quick-fire Qs OK?
SIMON: Fire away…
GILES: Favourite takeaway?
SIMON: Chinese! Love it…
GILES: Oh yeah, same here. Favourite film?
SIMON: I think it’s got to be Die Hard. I’ve just watched it so many times that there’s no other choice really.
GILES: And do you have a go-to karaoke song?
SIMON: The last time I did it, I sang Stevie Wonder, Supersition.
GILES: Good one! And, this one’s from Rosie…what’s your favourite item of clothing?
SIMON: Hmmm…do you know what? I have a single pair of COS jeans which are my go to. They are just really hard wearing, hold you in all the right places, are exactly the right length and are the perfect tightness around my ankles. I’m fully aware how much of a woman I sound right now…
Father of Daughters isn’t afraid to show his feminine side…
GILES: My biggest pet hate is hearing other people going to the loo…what’s yours?
SIMON: Getting drawn into an argument that I had nothing to do with. Just leave me out of it!
GILES: And for the question that I think everyone wants to know the answer to. In the event of a Zombie Apocalypse, what would be your survival strategy to ensure you and the girls got through it in one piece?
SIMON: Oooh…zombie apocalypse? I think it would have to be to get out of London, and fast, driving to a seriously remote part of the country and just starting a new life there, foraging etc. But, you know, after arming myself to the teeth obviously.
GILES: And finally, if you were to ask your daughters this famous question from our childhood, how do you think they would answer?
Daddy or Chips?
SIMON: Oh, Daddy, definitely.
Father of Daughters…outnumbered
For more from Simon and Father of Daughters, your can follow him on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter via these links…and do subscribe to his YouTube channel too, to be the first to know when he posts his next video on there!