If there were a trophy for best loved insta family of 2016 I think we can all rest assured it would go to the Hoopers. A house full of girls and just one. solitary. man. CheltenhamMaman is beyond thrilled that he has escaped from the house of daughters to spend time with yet more females… Here he is Mamans, the one, the only Simon Hooper aka father_of_daughters.
CheltenhamMaman HQ: So Simon just in case any of our readers are not one of your 80,000 followers tell us a little bit about your house full of females…
Simon: Quite simply put, our house is loud and chaotic. We have 4 girls, Anya (9), Marnie (6), and just to mix it up, identical twins Delilah and Ottilie (8 months). It’s a fairly full-on experience that starts at 6.30am and ends at 9pm which gives my wife, Clemmie, and I about 90 minutes in the evening to actually just be us and crumple onto the sofa. Despite everything, our house is always clean, with everything in the right place; this is the result of Clemmie being somewhere on the OCD spectrum, something that I struggle with as I’m not naturally a tidy person. I have tried (and when I say tried, I mean I have been forced) to change, but when I do make an effort it’s not done in the right way. There’s no winning!
The house is generally run like a military operation, especially when everyone is back at school. If we weren’t regimented, we’d be rocking up at school at 10.30am with mismatched clothing and receiving regular letters telling us to buck our ideas up.
I’m still getting to grips with the emotional roller coaster nature of my girls. Much to my wife’s annoyance, I’m a fairly stress-free and level headed person – I see stress as pointless so choose not to be affected by it. I have a very pragmatic way of looking at problems, I break them down into small pieces and swallow them down, whereas my girls (Clemmie included) build small things up into big things and then get frustrated, resulting in shouting, stressing and generally breaking down. I try my best to help them think things through, but I’m still struggling with this one.
CMHQ: What’s a typical morning like in the Hooper household? Is it an organic peanut butter, soy milk and discussions about the day ahead type of affair or do you go for the coco pops, pyjamas and CITV kind of ambience?
Simon: As I said, we’re regimented and we have a set routine (for weekdays at least). I’m the first one up, I make the bottles for the twins and a cup of tea for both Clemmie and I. Then I leg it upstairs, dump the drinks next to Clemmie whose head is usually under the pillow and then we both feed the twinbops. Once that’s over, the big girls usually are up and dressed so they’ll play with Delilah and Ottie while Clemmie jumps in the shower and I get dressed into my cycling gear (yes, I’m a MAMIL – middle aged man in lycra) and head downstairs to make the girls breakfast – usually Shreddies and toast for the big girls and porridge with pureed fruit for the little ones. We chat over breakfast about the day ahead before the girls get shoes, bags and final forgotten items from their rooms, then its teeth and out the door. The girls have 2 sets of toothbrushes, one upstairs for bed time, and one downstairs to make sure we leave on time. No time for TV, that’s for sure (and they couldn’t watch it anyway, as I hide the remotes when I go to bed so they don’t break the morning system!). Weekends on the other hand are more relaxed and we kind of just crawl out of our pits as and when we can (although I’m usually the one booted out of bed to make the bottles – Clemmie says I’m good at it – thanks, I think).
CMHQ: Aside from being a cracking example of a modern dad you presumably have to visit somewhere else, perhaps in a suit, to bring home the Daddy Pig Bacon. What’s your day job and do you love it?
Simon: I’m a Global Operations Director for a big consultancy firm. I work in central London, but I do have the flexibility to work from home 1 or 2 days a week. Most of the people I work with directly are actually in the US or the Philippines, meaning that I do calls and meetings fairly late into the night, so being able to stay in the comfort of my own home is a real benefit. I do like my job as it plays to my strengths. I solve problems and get people to do things differently to make them work more efficiently, something I employ at home A L O T!
I travel a fair amount with work as well which brings its own complications, mainly revolving around child care. Clemmie has never stopped me from working abroad or following my career aspirations, but it does put a lot of pressure on her to look after all of them when I’m away. We’re usually able to rope in a relative to help but there’s been a number of times that I’ll receive a call while I’m sitting in my nice hotel room in New York, or Chicago or Manila, scoffing down my room service, having just had beer after work and a swim, to hear a tired and frustrated Clemmie who just needs to vent. Remote parenting via facetime has become common place while I’m away.
CMHQ: Like CMHQ you’re revisiting the baby stage after a short spell of leaving the house with only your wallet and car keys (and maybe a pocket full of hair bands.) For anyone expecting a baby out there what one piece of kit, device or technology has transformed your parenting experience this time round?
Simon: Mmmmmm, good question. Can I have 2 please? The first would be the Sleepyheads – these are things you put in the cot for the baby and it stops them rolling around and waking themselves up. They are so simple and yet so effective and made a real difference to the sleep routine this time around. The second would be the Tommee Tippee perfect prep machine – this is a gadget that makes bottle for you at the perfect temperature at the push of a button. For a long time, I was going to bed with a flask of hot water and bottle of cold water and mixing up bottles in a dark bedroom to do the night feeds. I even made up bottles at midnight and slept with them between by thighs to keep them at body temperature until the top of one came off and soaked my crotch. Not a good look, especially as Clemmie thought I’d wet myself. Those days are gone now, thank god.
CMHQ: Correct me if I’m wrong but you only joined the Insta parent community earlier this year. That’s a pretty impressive following to have built up in such a short time. How have you adjusted to the realisation that almost 80000 of us are now checking our phones every five minutes to see what you’re all up to?
Simon: It’s a bit strange really but I’m glad that I’m able to share what real parenting is all about. I joined Instagram back on March 22nd of this year. Clemmie was already on there and had a strong social media presence so I always used to look into her little world. What became apparent was that there were basically no dads at all. It was all mums and half of that content was sugar coated to look like a perfect life. I thought to myself, I should show the other side of parenting, both through the perspective of a dad, but also in a real, genuine and humorous way. I also decided to use the captions as a kind of blog as I think the words add context to a picture and make it come alive. It just seemed to click with people and before I knew it, my numbers were sky rocketing and I was getting approached by magazines and newspapers for interviews. It was all very surreal, all I was doing was photographing my life, but I’m glad that people are enjoying it. I’ve also had the chance to help people with advice through my insights and made people realise that we’re all going through the same struggles as parents.
CMHQ: Do Anya and Marnie understand what it’s all about?
Simon: Anya is much more aware than Marnie is. As a 9 year old, it’s hard to keep her off line and she knows all about Instagram and the other social networking platforms out there. She knows that we post every day and she’ll ask about how a certain post is doing but other than that, it’s just something that mummy and daddy do. There are times when people who follow us on Instagram come up to us to chat or just say hi which makes the girls think we’re ‘celebrities’ but the next minute they’re off playing and have forgotten all about it.
Anya desperately wants a private Instagram account but we’re holding firm and saying no. If anything, we’re more aware than most parents about social media (both the good and bad sides) so we’re quite clear that she’s not old enough to be putting things on line.
CMHQ: It must have brought about new opportunities for you as a family. Are you and Clemmie having to make some difficult decisions?
Simon: It’s meant that what was a fairly busy life is now full on hectic; but we love it. It’s made us go and do things that we might have shied away from previously. Every weekend is packed with activities and although we’re tired by the end of the day, we’re happy and contented. It’s also opened up a whole new world for me. I’m planning on starting a Youtube channel soon and I’m in talks about doing a book so all exciting stuff, it’s just a case of finding time (which I’m woefully short of!). The only major decisions we need to make in the relatively near future are about where we’re going to move, if we decide to move at all.
CMHQ: Now we’ve seen you and Clemmie playing the Right Move game and you recently visited our neck of the woods for The Big Feastival. What can we do to convince you that the Cotswolds is the best place in the world to raise a family?
Simon: From what we saw, the Cotswolds is gorgeous and I’m sure it’s a wonderful place to raise a family. I was brought up in the West Country in a small village outside of Bristol and my heart lies there still. Clemmie is a city girl, born and raised in the outskirts of London so we constantly argue about where we should move in the future. The main factors for us are schools, house size and my commute into London, which I’d still have to do 2 to 3 times a week. It has to be somewhere not too remote, but with enough space for the girls to play outside and have the kind of childhood we want them to have (one in which they can actually be kids and not grow up too quickly!). Who knows where we’ll be in 2 years’ time – watch this space. If I get my way, we’ll be moving west. Only time will tell.
Thanks so much for your time Simon. Hope your September is smashing and don’t forget to keep us all in the loop of what’s going on in Crystal Palace. We’re hoping to welcome Clemmie to Cheltenham in the New Year to tell us all about her new book. You should come along too!
Follow Simon in Instagram.