What it's like to be a dad influencer: 'I'm as regular as they come, but maybe the internet needs a little more of that'
Bo Petterson shares pearls of wisdom and troubleshooting tips on his Dad Advice From Bo accounts. (Photo: Courtesy Emily Petterson)
Bo Petterson has six children, ages 28 to 38. But on TikTok, 1.3 million followers rely on the 62-year-old Washington resident for fatherly advice on everything from buying a car to shaving to picking yourself up when you're down in the dump (a hot drink helps , he says).
“All of the advice I share is advice that I've given my children all their lives,” Petterson tells Yahoo Life of his popular Dad Advice From Bo platform, which offers practical, how-to videos on changing tires, moral support and honest life lessons , checks credit reports and conjures up his favorite "simple dad meal": "Weiner Wraps".
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While Petterson denies he's a “dad influencer” - “I consider myself a dad,” he says, “the same dad that I am to my children and the same dad that I would be to everyone else's children; I'm not trying to influence anyone, I just want to pass on the things I've learned ”- he's part of a growing group of men building large social media platforms inspired by their parenting experiences. Yes, mom influencers continue to dominate the field, but they're no longer the only ones sharing kid-friendly lunchbox hacks or jokes and memes, pitying each other over work tables and children's birthday parties, or giving thoughtful deep insights into different parenting styles and child behavior. From Simon Holland's hilarious tweets to Marvyn Harrison's Dope Black Dads podcast, which celebrates black fatherhood, to the Utah-based father of four, The Modern Dad, to Terrell and Jarius Joseph's YouTube channel, which describes their lives as a gay couple with two children shows, fathers find their voices and their foundation.
Psychologist Kier Gaines started vlogging after giving birth to his daughter Emery three years ago. What originally began as a means of getting those early precious family moments on camera soon began to resonate with other parents and garner a prominent following. In January of this year, Gaines posted a video announcing that he was leaving his job to be a full-time digital creator and dad influencer sharing his insights into mindfulness, toddler emotions, and more.
“There came a point where I realized I was more passionate about sharing my fatherhood and life path through a mental health perspective,” says Gaines, who runs the Kier & Them YouTube channel with his wife, Noémie , across from Yahoo Life. "A lot of people don't know that I'm a licensed therapist and I haven't seen anyone bridge that parenting gap, so I saw an opportunity and ran away."
The transition wasn't always seamless, Gaines admits.
“Being a father influencer is a bit difficult because it feels like people care about you, the parent, but not necessarily about you, the person,” says the Washington, D.C. resident family man. “In the beginning, when I was posting pictures of myself and my interests, I got a wave of comments asking where my child was without even addressing me. But now that I'm more comfortable focusing on myself and what makes me the father I am is people are realizing my true self and being drawn to him, which I really appreciate now I feel like people recognize Kier who is a real person who happens to be a father. "
In contrast, Petterson says he initially felt "terribly uncomfortable" with his unexpected Internet fame. His Dad Advice From Bo videos were posted at the behest of his daughter Emily, who suffered a traumatic brain injury at the age of 18. When Emily's condition worsened in 2019 due to complications, Bo finally agreed to share his advice with the world, stating, "I've never been on social media in my life, but I would do anything to help her pain." Coupled with a huge barrage of support that gave Emily "a distraction from the pain and a reason to move on," the family has since received monetary donations that have helped fund their medical treatments.
Gaines also credits his daughter for helping him see the possibilities of his platform. Not only does he teach her about emotions and pass on affirmations to "form an internal dialogue to talk to when she's older and feeling down," he hopes to give other parents the tools to do the same.
"When my daughter was born, I became more of a feminist than ever," he says. “I could see the world as we live in it through their eyes and I could see how different things girls have to live with in the world that I hadn't seen. I was able to better recognize my privilege as a man and help her to develop equip with tools to assert yourself and navigate the world as a strong and confident young girl. Now that I have this platform, I want my role as a girl to be loud dad. "
And he doesn't underestimate his role in representing black fathers, saying, "Stereotypes imply that black men can't be vulnerable, but in reality there aren't many safe places we can do that."
While he admits that fathers are “underrepresented” in the educational space, he expects this to change when rigid notions of masculinity and paternal norms are redefined.
"The concept of warm love expressed by men is being welcomed today in ways that weren't there generations ago," says Gaines. "Our conceptualization of fatherhood hasn't changed much since then. I feel like it will take a while for the mindset to catch up with expectations, but I think we're on the right track."
Petterson is more careful.
"A lot of people think that fathers are these omniscient superheroes, even though we really don't know a lot and we have as many flaws as everyone else," he says. "So I stay away from topics that I don't know enough about and try to remind my followers that I just do things, take or leave them."
Despite his huge audience and the fact that his own kids now look up his videos when they're doing a DIY project - “I said, 'Hey! You still have to call your father! ‘“, He jokes - the father of six is more of a father and less influencer, although he likes to go along.
“I'm just a normal father,” he insists. “I buy shirts at the thrift store, have the same two friends since high school, and watch cowboy shows at night. I'm as regular as they come, but maybe the internet needs a little more of it. I always tell people that you are never too old to give dad advice and you can never have too many dads. "
Read more from Yahoo Life:
Leslie Odom Jr. on Parenting: "I Think You Are Getting Fewer Than 5 Things To Teach Your Child"
Amanda Kloots is "completely open to finding love again": "I know that Nick would want this for me"
Barack Obama addresses daughters Sasha and Malia, who take part in protests against Black Lives Matter
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