On this day in 2015, I attended my first parent blogging conference and met hundreds of my peers face-to-face for the first time. I felt like I had officially arrived as a dad blogger. Eight years on, I’m facing up to the fact that – while I’m still a dad and I still blog – I’m not really a dad blogger any more.
I first started blogging back in 2007. This blog started a year later, but I didn’t seriously focus on writing about parenting until mid-2014. For a while, I was on fire. I was writing four or five posts here every week. (At the same time, I was both editor-in-chief of an international cycling blog and earning from writing TV reviews and blogs for the Metro website, all on top of a full-time job.) But now, in 2023, the picture is a little different.
A small fish in a small pond
Back in 2015, dad bloggers were very much a minority. We might even have qualified as an endangered species. Out of 700 attendees at that year’s BritMums Live, there were ten male bloggers. Ten. Dads made up an estimated of 10% of parent bloggers back then. Looking at the current parent blogging/influencer landscape, if anything it’s now even less than this.
In truth, I revelled in being part of such a tiny segment. Just being male meant I stood out in the crowd much more. But I was also part of a distinct minority of parent bloggers who were non-white. Even now, it’s noticeable how lacking in diversity this corner of the influencer community remains, despite strong representation from other minority groups such as LGBTQ+, special educational needs, and single and adoptive parents.
I like to think this has given me free rein to tell authentic stories from a distinct perspective, through the lens of a British Asian dad. I’ve touched on the importance of kids having role models who ‘look like us’ and the importance of Asian-centric stories such as the Pixar short Bao (and, more recently, Everything Everywhere All at Once). As a child of immigrant parents, I’ve pondered what it means to be ‘British’. I’ve shared my fears about the rise of racism in the aftermath of the UK’s decision to leave the EU. I’ve written about ensuring our British-born kids embrace their Malaysian-Chinese heritage. Very few others have covered a similar range of topics.
Nearly but never quite a winner
Even though I’ve always been a small blogger in terms of readership, I’ve received my fair share of recognition. I was a finalist for the BritMums Readers’ Choice Award three years in a row. I was twice shortlisted by the PR/influencer industry body Vuelio. But when it came to actually winning, I was forever the bridesmaid, never the bride, but I was still proud to be recognised by both my peers and industry experts.
Those heady days are gone now. I was ranked number two in Vuelio’s list of the UK’s best dad blogs for four consecutive years; this year I slipped to fifth. My output has gradually fallen away. For the last couple of years I’ve struggled to write a post a week, and recently I’ve barely managed one a month. And I’ve felt the originality and quality of my writing slowly ebbing away too – as a writer, you just know when it’s happening.
The longer it goes on, the worse it gets. It’s like stopping going to the gym. Your writing muscles deteriorate. Everything becomes slower and harder to do. And motivation becomes ever harder to find.
A man out of time
Of course, I’m largely to blame for my own demise. But there are external factors at play too.
Our children’s development, antics and mishaps are the fuel for a parent blogger’s engine. There’s an abundance of available material when they’re three or four years old. But by the time they hit their teens – ours are now 15, 13 and 11 – there’s less interesting stuff to write about. And there are more things that neither I nor they would want to put into the public domain. As a result, I’m now like a reality TV show inhabited only by camera-shy contestants.
As someone who hasn’t done brand work for several years, I made friends in the blogging community and kept in contact with them largely through conferences. These used to be regular events. There was BritMums, Mumsnet, BlogOn – three or four annual opportunities to see my mates. Only BlogOn now remains, and even that is now focussed more on those with younger families. I used to be a well-recognised fixture in this community, but it’s now moving on without me.
Increasingly, I feel like an anachronism: a man who time and evolution have left behind.
Good but not good enough
Every blogger likes to think they have a unique voice. We all want to believe that we are the next great writer just waiting to be discovered.
I’m no exception. Throughout my 16 years of blogging, I have always suffered from imposter syndrome. Many of my contemporaries come from a PR or journalistic background and are professional writers. Some came from a more ‘amateur’ background but have proven themselves as exceptionally talented writers with the perfect knack of connecting and resonating with readers, and have gone on to author parenting books which have sat atop the Sunday Times bestseller lists. A couple have even transitioned that ability into writing successful fictional titles.
I’m not them. And while I’ve always harboured a desire to write a book or win blogging accolades, I’ve come to accept that this isn’t my destiny. I’m never going to receive the ultimate recognition. I’m a good writer, yes. But not the best. And that will have to be enough.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not feeling sorry for myself. I acknowledge that I’ve received plenty of recognition. I’m proud of my ability to tell stories in a sufficiently coherent and engaging way that people have been willing to pay me regularly for it. And I’ve also proven – to myself as much as anyone – that I can write about a variety of different topics, from the trials and tribulations of parents’ evening, to covering the Tour de France, to reviewing Game of Thrones.
This isn’t the first time I’ve stood at a blogging crossroads. But it is now time to accept that I’m not really a parent blogger any more. This doesn’t mean that I’m going to completely stop writing about my kids and my experiences as a parent. But I’ve spent so much time chronicling my children’s (mis)adventures that maybe it’s time to switch focus to telling my stories rather than theirs.