Simon Hopper knows good and well that he’s outnumbered by his four daughters. Rather than just sharing all the good parts about fatherhood, Hopper decided to make his Instagram an honest space. So he has cultivated a feed chock full of real examples of parenting relevant to moms and dads everywhere.
Any parent can tell you that life gets stressful when it comes to raising children. This rings true whether you have one bouncing baby or a house full of raucous teens. Guiding them through life can be overwhelming. As Jennifer Pinarski opined for Today’s Parent, sometimes the “just keep swimming” saying isn’t enough.
One dad who knows that feeling all too well is Simon Hopper. After graduating from university, he and his now-wife, Clemmie, moved in together. He embarked on a career that led him to management consultancy, while she became a midwife. Then the pair got some unexpected news.
As Hopper, now in his mid-30s, put it to the Daily Mail, “I’ll be honest – when I found out at 24 that I was going to be a dad I was bricking it.” His wife shared a similar sentiment on her Instagram on their daughter Anya’s birthday. “It’s no secret that [she] was our ‘surprise baby,’” Clemmie wrote.
Hopper said that there had been something that had made matters more difficult for him. And that had been the fact that he had known no one going through a similar situation. “None of my friends had embarked on the good ship fatherhood yet, so I was the first one pushed out to sea in a tiny boat with no sail or rudder and forced to explore the choppy ocean, otherwise known as parenting, that lay before me,” he wrote for the Daily Mail.
Little did he know then that, through his and Clemmie’s next few years, he’d inspire that conversation himself. In the meantime, though, the young parents decided to add a second child to their brood. And Hopper described feeling more excitement the second time around, since his eldest would have a little sister.
Marnie was born in 2010. Then Hopper wrote on Instagram that his “family grew from a cozy threesome to a noisy four.” Still, Clemmie hoped that they might add one more baby to their brood. As Hopper described it to the Daily Mail, it took her “ages to talk [him] into this” idea.
Clemmie successfully convinced her husband to have one more baby. But then Hopper and his wife got the shock of their lives. They weren’t just having one more baby – they’d be welcoming twins. Hopper remembered thinking, “I… knew this would happen if we went for a third… I mean, how are we going to cope?”
The kicker? Hopper and Clemmie’s twins were girls too. Ottilie and Delilah joined big sisters Anya and Marnie, making Hopper’s a very girl-centric family. As he wrote for Stylist, “I, as the sole male, now only account for 17 percent of my entire family.” Yet he “wouldn’t change any of it,” he wrote in the Daily Mail.
And as Hopper and Clemmie’s brood grew, she began to share her parenting experiences through Instagram. Her husband told The Daily Telegraph that she “inspired so many of the moms that follow her with her honest approach.” Watching her use the social platform had gotten him thinking, he said.
Hopper said, “I was watching Clemmie over her shoulder in the evenings tapping away on Instagram and talking to other mums about parenting, but they were missing half of the parenting team in the conversation. I just thought, well, why can’t I do that? Because it’s the dad’s voice that seems to be missing here.”
Plus Hopper realized that lots of Instagram parents weren’t being as honest about their experiences as Clemmie was. He decided that starting his own page would “cut through the sugar coating” found on the picture-sharing app, as well as other social media platforms.
“It’s not all walks on the beach, going on holiday and music recitals – I wanted to talk about the mundane parts of life, because actually that’s where I think the funny bits lie,” Hopper said. But, most importantly of all, the dad-of-four realized that while his wife had other moms to connect with, men in his position didn’t have the same conversation-starters – a problem that he had noticed during Clemmie’s first pregnancy.
“Originally my aim was to engage with dads. I wanted dads to have a little network like the mums did,” Hopper said. So he set out to create an Instagram that showed all sides of parenting four young girls. And for a bit of added competition, he vowed to supersede Clemmie and her 40,000 Instagram followers.
Hopper ended up exceeding that goal – and then some. As of May of 2019, his account – with the very apt title, “father_of_daughters” – has roughly 966,000 followers, 300,000 more than Clemmie’s page. Men and women alike have flocked to Hopper’s Instagram because he posts so openly about what parenting four daughters looks like.
In one post, Hopper sits inside of his twin daughters’ play tent as they both climb atop it. As he wrote on Instagram, the girls went from playing tea party with him to playing something else. And he wasn’t invited to join. “I transformed from being an engaged parent to a 36-year-old man in a tent who’s been left to ponder his life choices,” Hopper humorously wrote.
Hopper’s tough moments didn’t end there, of course. He shared this image of Ottilie, face-down on the ground and unwilling to go into the family’s house, even though all of her sisters bounded indoors. As the twin’s father described her, she did “her best impression of discarded flavorless chewing gum [and] welded herself to the pavement.”
The littlest daughters weren’t the only ones to test Hopper’s patience either. In one instance, Anya and Marnie took handfuls of packing paper, threw them into the air and created a huge, crinkly mess. “No, this is not an art installation of manmade clouds inside a room or a flock of oddly shaped migrating birds hovering over my girls,” Hopper wrote.
Another picture shows Hopper dealing with his daughters’ follicularly related issues – namely, uncovering their loose strands that had clogged a drain. In the accompanying caption, he wrote, “As a guy, no one warns you that when you have daughters, you’re going to spend a good proportion of your future dealing with hair related issues.”
Putting the girls to bed also posed a problem for Hopper. He described how Delilah insisted on getting out of bed and returned to her room with the sunglasses and umbrella that she’s rocking in the photo. She got them because her “bed [was] too hot,” to which her father replied, “Toddler logic is wonderful.”
Indeed, Hopper makes a point to show his followers that it’s okay to ask for help. In one selfie, he and his twin daughters stand in a parking lot. Their dad explains that, after a week of watching the girls himself, he calls in his parents, taking them “up on their offer of additional hands to wrangle children,” he admitted.
To that end, Hopper also hilariously shared that he and his twin daughters felt the struggle of teething. Along with a picture of one of the girls screaming – and her dad doing the same – Hopper wrote, “Teething is now in full effect and the girls want us to know all about it. An email would have sufficed but it seems they’d rather use their voices to get the message across.”
In fact, crying babies make regular appearances across the father_of_daughters platform. “It’s hot, we haven’t slept much and it’s witching hour, so no amount of bouncing, TV, stupid faces or making noises will solve the little one’s problems,” he wrote. In the comments, many parents commiserated with Hopper and the impossible-to-calm baby.
Later came another hilariously emotional picture of twin daughter Ottilie loudly interrupting a photoshoot to capture Hopper’s headshot. “I can laugh at this now but it does remind me just how hard it can be to achieve the simplest of tasks when a wailing child is within close proximity,” he admitted.
Fortunately, Hopper, Clemmie and their brood had the chance to escape it all on vacations – and they shared photos of those moments, too. Here, Hopper wrote that while their hotel arranged a playdate for their second-oldest, Marnie, he and Clemmie forgot to make plans for Anya. So rather than relaxing, he ended up watching her “perfecting backflips” while he “[drank] fizzy drinks.”
Of course, relaxing on the homefront proved difficult for Hopper and Clemmie too. In one image the funny father shared, his wife’s serene bubble bath has been canceled by a pair of curly-haired intruders. The whole scenario leaves Hopper with no other option but to hashtag his photo, #privacyisdead.
Some of Hopper’s posts show his personal space being invaded, just like his and his wife’s privacy. “Someone call crime watch! I took this picture of a guy getting mugged in broad daylight today,” he wrote with this image of his young twins smushing his face. “The suspects are described as looking exactly the same, to the degree that their father can’t tell them apart,” he added.
Obviously, life with twin girls gave Hopper plenty of fodder for his true-to-life Instagram. Under this image, he wrote, “Bed time – a yoga session for hyperactive chipmunks that ended with Ottie hiding for 15 minutes in silence & me shouting down the street in the dark because I thought she’d gone (only to be found eating a chocolate egg under Anya’s desk covered in a blanket).”
Keeping the twins clothed proved to be a problem for Hopper too. He wrote, “Within seconds of coming home, I can almost guarantee that at least one child will cast aside their oppressive clothing faster than [a] model who’s running desperately late for a life drawing class and really loves their job.”
The father-of-four also chronicled the journey to potty-train Ottilie and Delilah. Meanwhile, he was still haunted by the memories of doing the same for his oldest two. He recalled forgetting one daughter’s bag of soiled clothes in his suit pocket. And then he found them the next day while at work. Then, he sarcastically concluded, “With twins, I get double the amounts of parting gifts.”
When potty training got difficult for the twins, Hopper shared that update, too. Of course, it came with a hilarious twist, He placed both girls in the hamper. “Because, from the waist down, their clothes are all ruined and this saves time,” he wrote. But, through the humor, he conveyed a very real sentiment – he said it “feels like we’re failing.”
Many of Hopper’s Instagram posts gave glimpses into his state of mind as a dad and all of the roles he had to take on – protector, teacher, playmate, friend. Along with a picture of him holding his under-the-weather twins, he wrote, “I’m the man who can sort things for my girls [and] lift their spirits, but I’m powerless now and it sucks.”
When the twins came down with the chickenpox two years later, Hopper felt similarly useless while his daughters suffered. He wrote, “Being relatively helpless when it comes to easing their discomfort still makes you feel as useful as a pair of left-handed scissors at an international convention for right-handed people.”
In being his funny, vulnerable and honest self in all of these posts, though, Hopper stayed true to his original mission in starting his Instagram – providing an honest portrayal of what fatherhood was like. A post he shared on Father’s Day summed the person to whom he reached out through his Instagram – and who he was too. “This is to the dads who work hard to play hard,” Hopper began.
“To the dads who can solve any problem and fix everything, who received mugs, hand drawn pictures and… gift boxes. To the dads that are away from home or stay at home, the dads who are never too tired to play, who act as climbing frames, that build dens, teach their kids armpit farts, how to burp and bad jokes, that give the best shoulder rides and the softest hugs,” Hopper went on.
“To the dads that know care makes a man stronger, that being soft isn’t less manly but being firm is sometimes necessary,” Hopper continued. “To the dads doing the night feeds, who can make a child laugh off their tears, who get the family to [scrum together] when times are tough and make lasting memories for their kids,” he further dedicated his post.
“To the dads that are tired and stress but never let it show, who lead by example, who make their kids feel like they can achieve anything, the dads who provide encouragement when it’s most needed and will always offer a comforting pair of arms when things goes wrong, whatever their age,” Hopper wrote.
“To the dads who just on with it [and] know that they’re loved by the people around them. Happy Father’s Day,” he concluded. And, with that, Hopper’s post – this time, a bit more sincere than silly – garnered praise and support from his followers. One person wrote, “As a dad of four daughters myself, I love this!” Another replied, “[Love] this post, so true and couldn’t put it better.”
And, as usual, Hopper’s words struck a chord. Another commenter said, “I love the quirks and moments you document. As I’m too old and too far to enjoy them with my own father, I thank you.” Another gushed that Hopper was “a… lovely human being” and his “wife and children are so lucky to have [him].”
Hopper continues to share his family’s day-to-day happenings through his Instagram. But those who follow him can learn even more about the dad-of-four’s fatherhood journey. In the midst of raising his girls, Hopper also penned an autobiographical book called Forever Outnumbered. It is a different way to tell his story and further stoke important conversations about being a dad.