L: Unsplash, R: Glen Ockso
Maybe this is why my Twitter feed has recently become peppered with accounts from that very breed of eligible (sort of) bachelor. They’re bloggers, podcasters or anonymous torsos, just trying to share their experience of splitting time between fatherhood and fucking.
The “dating dad blogger” has a distinctive style on Twitter. Plenty of goofy gifs and anecdotes, gags about the weather, pictures of food and pints, wholesome interactions with people who might be dear friends or could be total internet strangers. And, of course, the bio: “Just a #single #dad, swiping their way through the football we call planet Earth, sharing the journey with you along the way :)”.
But where did the motivation for all these good daddies to start oversharing come from?
“I was at what I thought was the end of a relationship that turned out to be really quite toxic, and I had some stories to tell,” says Nick*, a single dad blogger in his fifties who has tweeted anonymously under the name Bumbling Dad since 2018. “I’d talked to mates and I’d been online for a while, but I thought it would be a good opportunity to write some stuff down about the past few years of how it had been to be single, after a really long relationship. It was incredibly cathartic.”
John*, 45, lives in Canada and writes a blog called “Single Dad Dating World”. It’s more explicit, giving accounts of notable hookups. “I figured there would be other dads out there that might want to know that dating can still be very fun at this age,” he says. “When I would share my dating stories in real life, often with friends or colleagues from work, they were always in amazement at what’s out there.”
For Glen Ockso, a blogger in his thirties who writes under the moniker “A Dating Dad”, the process was therapeutic: “I started writing just after I became single, in 2017. It was a way of me processing things and working them out. At the time there weren’t any other male dating blogs at all, and certainly no single parent dating blogs. I had to learn how to date again, learn how to do it as a man and learn how to do it as a parent. In part it was to track my own progress of going through heartbreak and divorce.”
David Elliott, author of the Single Dad’s Guide For Life blog, also started his site in 2017.
“There aren’t too many places you can talk about what it’s like to be a single parent,” he says. “I remember, especially when my ex and I first split, it felt empty. I felt like I had to fill up the time, that space when I didn’t have my daughter, and I think the blogging took a bit of that.”
You might wonder if the dads talking about their availability on Twitter and WordPress have any other motivations. Surprisingly, among those I talk to, this doesn’t seem to be the case.
“I’ve been approached, and I’ve met some really nice people, but the thing I fear most is meeting somebody via Twitter and it going wrong,” says Nick. “Then my creative outlet and safe space would be gone.”
It’s the same case for Glen: “I do get approached. It’s not common, but it does happen, and it’s always incredibly flattering. It’s always a tough thing to play out, though. You think, ‘I’m just not interested,’ or you’ve interacted with them for a bit, and you know they’re not in the right place for a relationship.”
For David and John, it’s often a distance issue: “Any women that have asked to hook up with me live in the UK, funnily enough,” says John. “I likely would meet up with someone if we had chemistry, and I’ve given my number to a few women on Twitter to chat via WhatsApp before, but that was after chatting for a while.”
“I’ve gone out with one person on Twitter before,” says David. “But with Twitter, the majority of people you interact with are not next door to you. You might like someone but find out they’re in Tennessee. People talk about TCs [Twitter crushes], but they’re just a lot of flirtation and there’s not a whole lot of payoff relationship-wise in that sense.”
For Glen, any first date anxiety is also tied up to a feeling of responsibility for his followers.
“I’ve turned into some sort of support person for a whole world of people,” he says. “I get DMs every day, pretty much, whether it’s someone asking for divorce advice or saying they’re upset their boyfriend’s just ghosted them.”
Being a non-toxic alternative to online pickup culture was one of the reasons Glen started blogging. “When I started, there wasn’t anything out there aimed at men, other than that lad culture of, like, ‘This is how you pick up chicks.’ So it was partly just for me, and partly to give advice for the guys, and partly to show to women that not all men are horrific.”
Nick agrees: “I think I’m quite empathetic, I hope, with the people I follow and who follow me on Twitter. You have conversations and people have tough times, and in the dating corner of Twitter it’s important to sometimes try to give someone a gee up when they’ve had a terrible time. But it’s also the place I can dip into and just be Bumbling Dad, and I’m really much more uncomfortable with the crossing of that line.”
There’s also the pressure of meeting someone’s expectations, whether that’s in DMs or over coffee. “People’s perception of me is that I’m a sweet single dad, who is self-sacrificing, loves his daughter and wears his heart on his sleeve,” says David. “Then, when they get to know me, they learn I’ve got the struggles and strains of any other person. All of a sudden I’m a stress ball who’s anxious for days because I’ve got a court date to go to over custody stuff.”
Luke* is part of the same dad blogging community, but sits on the other side. He’s happily part of a new blended family, and started writing about his relationship online shortly after he’d introduced his kids to the woman that would become his fiancee. “My sister is the one who suggested I start ‘Blended Dad’,” he says. “She said being a man able to articulate feelings about marriage breakdowns, new relationships and navigating the delicate world of a blended unit would provide a USP, and be a pleasant addition to the blogging world. Initially I wasn’t convinced that people would be that interested, but I was surprised at the positive reception.
“What I didn’t realise then was how supportive other bloggers are. DatingDad is a fantastic blogger and a very good writer. He was extremely encouraging when I started out, as was DIYDaddy. The blogging community is great, particularly dad bloggers. We kind of root for each other.”
As with all dating blogs, the fate of what will happen to Single Dad Guide, Bumbling Dad, A Dating Dad and Single Dad Dating World, should any of them settle down, is unclear – but all are hopeful that it wouldn’t spell the end of their daddy blogging days.
“Ultimately you’re just looking to find that one person that you connect with,” says David. “But ‘single dad’ is kind of my identity on my blog. Am I all of a sudden going to put ‘dating dad’?”
Glen’s approach is characteristically romantic: “Everyone always says, ‘Would you still be A Dating Dad?’ I’ve been in a relationship that lasted 18 years, and by the end we weren’t going out very often. I learnt my lesson. I want to keep a relationship active and alive. And that means I am going to be dating for the rest of my life, even if I end up only ever dating the same person.”
Interviews edited for length and clarity.
*Name changed to protect identity.