No man is an island

A very small desert island surrounded by a calm sea.

“No man is an island” wrote the metaphysical poet John Donne once upon a time. The casual observer could be forgiven for thinking that I’ll feel like one on Saturday, though. I’ll be one of a select few men in a relative sea of women. Being a male parent blogger, I’m used to being outnumbered both online and in real life at conferences. It’s just as well then, as I’m off to Mumsnet’s Blogfest and only know of two other dads who are going!

I’m nervous about it, but only because it’s an event I haven’t been to before. Even so, I’m very much looking forward to seeing friends I’ve made at other conferences and also to the keynotes and roundtables, so it promises to be a great day. I know I’m going to be asked the following question at least half a dozen times though, so thought I’d answer it now. What’s it like being a man in a community dominated by women?

It’s certainly strange on the face of it, but I wonder whether that’s because I’m inadvertently reminded of the fact that I’m a little different so often. Having been to BritMums Live three times and on the radio on a handful of occasions too – I have a face for it, you see – it’s something I’ve come to expect to crop up in conversation.

Of course, it’s unusual being in the minority, but it’s not a bad thing. I certainly don’t feel out of place or unwelcome. I was the only boy in the ward when I was born and one of just three in my class at primary school, so I think that set out the stall. I’ve never really been one of the lads and my stag do was one of the tamest nights out I’ve ever been on!

So I’m happy with things in the parent blogging community. It’s friendly and I’m treated as an equal – but what about outside it? As I can’t help but look at parenting from a male point of view, one of my pet peeves is the way that dads aren’t treated as such elsewhere.

Shortly after I became a dad for the first time, for example, I was asked to leave the hospital as it was outside visiting hours. Apparently, my desire to support my wife after a long and painful birth and to bond with my son didn’t count for anything. I was just a ‘visitor’.

Then there are the numerous marketing campaigns from brands that seem to think that dads are either second-class parents or don’t have an interest in taking care of their children at all.

I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve seen baby and toddler products aimed solely at mums – which, of course, doesn’t do either gender any favour – and the few men you do see on such adverts are feckless figures of fun who are capable of little more than being outwitted by the most basic of tasks. And don’t even get me started on Daddy Pig…

At least it’s nothing like that in this community of like-minded people who both have children and write blogs. I’ve found a place I’m happy in, so that’ll do me.

Going back to the original metaphor, I stick by the suggestion that no man is an island. There’s no doubt that there are some unpredictable waters out there, but I’d contest that the parent blogging community is an enlightened island which defiantly rises above them.


  1. Dad Without a Map

    I don’t know what Daddy Pig is (yet) but a lot of what you say rings true. Especially about not being seen as an equal by professionals. I wasn’t even asked who I was when we went for scans. And midwives rarely spoke to me. I had to start being pushy to be visible and that’s not really me! Keen to hear other views from dads and mums.

  2. Sarah

    You mean we can’t put you in the stocks and smack you on the head with mother and baby magazine?

    See you at Blogfest 😉

  3. Tom @Ideas4Dads

    I’m with you all the way on this Mo Bro – I love flying the flag for the Dads and all the Mum centric marketing/focus doesnt half get on my wick! Enjoy blogfest. Unfortunately my Grans very inconsiderately decided to have her 90th bday party on Sat 😉

  4. Jo

    Hi Tom, glad you are coming to Blogfest – always good to see guys at these events and as you point out have got as much right to be there as anyone. Regardless of what the nurses in the maternity ward say. I went last year and although it seemed a bit overwhelming at first – a blogging friend came and said hello (before that wasn’t quite sure whether all my exchanges on Twitter etc had been with REAL people!! Only prob is knowing which session to go to as some of them conflict. G&t s and goody bags were amazing. Tweeted #blogfest next day that i didn’t find a #Boden wallet in mine and they sent me one next day! Perfect 🙂 hope to see you there Jo x

  5. Life as our little family

    Lovely post Tom. I never thought before about the moment when Si was asked to leave the hospital, so terrifying as we’d just given birth prematurely. I’m going to ask him as with everything else that was happening I have to admit to just getting on with things. The adverts kill me, I find myself switching off. See you tomorrow lovely, I think a cuddle is in order, I see you as a friend and a pblogger second 🙂

  6. Dave (The DADventurer)

    Agree with pretty much all that you’ve said mate. I’ve really enjoyed fitting into the parenting blogger world and have found it really friendly, but that means that you forget it is not ‘normal’ in everyday life, like when you go to a baby class etc and you feel on edge because you are with penis. I can understand your concerns about blogfest – I recently went to Mumsnet Bumpfest which was for new and expectant parents, and I was one of the few blokes there. To make things worse, I was on my own and didn’t have the missus as company! Still, it’s always good to get out the comfort zone and meet new people etc. If not, you’ve always got your mobile and Twitter to keep you busy!

  7. daddydaddycool

    Fully agree Tom! But let’s all agree between us that Dads are awesome! And the more we can invade the mum-dominate blogosphere the better!

    I’m a part-time dog groomer – and completely comfortable with being one of very few males in the profession. On dog grooming fora, the mostly female readership welcomed me with open arms, and I can see that the same is mostly true with parenting blogs.

    Have fun at BlogFest, maybe I’ll be there next year!

  8. Christine

    I’m off to Blogfest tomorrow too, and am feeling nervous for exactly the same reason as you – it’s my first one too. I hope you enjoy it, and it’s not too female focused! #pocolo

  9. Tim

    Good luck, Tom. I’ll be interested to hear how you got on afterwards. (Still haven’t plucked up the courage to go …)

  10. Lucy

    Oh go on please start on Daddy Pig! That programme annoys me but my little one loves it. I much prefer Ben and Holly! I am totally with you about the stereotyping, I wrote a guest post or rant all about it over at Emmys Mummy last week. Look forward to seeing you at blogfest today 🙂

  11. Andy

    I totally agree. I’m fairly new to the parent blogging thing and you’re right, there’s great equality in this community that isn’t reflected outside of it. Maybe our (Daddy blogger’s) attitudes aren’t universally reflected either. Still I’d rather the media assume Dad’s are engaged in parenting and non-cretins, rather than what we often have now.

    I found the hospital thing shocking first time round, I wasn’t expecting it at all. Leaving (being ejected from) hospital without mum and new baby felt like the most unnatural thing in the world.

    Have a great time at blogfest!

  12. Pop Stephens

    I am also new to blogging. But, as soon as I found out about it, I joined in a couple dad blogger communities. So, for awhile, I would ONLY be aware of dad bloggers.

    I’ve yet to attend any conferences, though. As previously stated, I’m a bit overwhelmed by their idea, especially since I don’t currently have much content on my blog (yes, I’m e working on it). We’ll see what the future holds.

    I will say that had any hospital staff attempted to lug me away from my new family immediately after birth, it would have been one bag of contention in that maternity ward!


  13. The Fool

    It really is a lovely community isn’t it? I still here murmurs occasionally from parts of it that don’t think we should be at conferences call Britmums etc but definitely a minority. But I won’t lie, I quite enjoy the attention being in such a minority brings you at these things 🙂

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