"I wanted a resource young dads could relate to" … Mike Catabay, ydad.com.au, with Jacob, 2, and Noah, 7 months. Photo: Nick Cubbin
A lonely parent sobs into a webcam. "I'm tired, exhausted and isolated. I miss my old job and I feel guilty I'm not fulfilled by my baby." The video, uploaded to an online blog, is reviewed by thousands of parents, who type back words of comfort and sympathy. But this isn't a desperate housewife - it's her rarer male counterpart.
In the past decade, the "mummy blogger" phenomenon has shown no sign of waning. Their influence has spread across culture, retail and politics. But now there's competition in cyberspace; one of the world's leading trend spotters, Marian Salzman, recently identified "daddy blogging" as "the one to watch in the future" as brands shifted their focus to "child-orientated masculinity".
According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, there are 39,300 stay-at-home dads (men who do not work and say their main duty is "caring for children"), compared to 426,700 stay-at-home mums. And this minority wants its own voice.
"Writing gave me a buzz and made me feel validated" … Clint Greagen, reservoirdad.com.
So what differentiates the genders when it comes to blogging? Dads offer the same mixture of humorous anecdotes, emotional outpourings and product reviews. Their readers are like-minded fathers and mothers who want a man's-eye view. Many stay-at-home fathers write about the discrimination they face, how their masculinity is questioned and their guilt for not earning an income.
While many are purely seeking a hobby or emotional outlet, there are others, like Australian father-of-one Torkona Exon (his blog alias), who are frank about the financial potential of daddy blogging. Exon sells ad space to global brands such as Kellogg's, and last Christmas paid for all of his son's presents by writing about Target's toy section. On his blog's home page is a PayPal link for generous readers to "Donate to help me pay my bills."
The corporate world is circling, too. In February, 250 dad bloggers met with 55 leading brands at the Dad 2.0 Summit in Houston, a networking event to discuss the commercial power of house husbands.
"I certainly didn't see it as a profession" … Matt Ross, daddownunder.wordpress.com.
"Mothers have already grown into a huge, powerful force," says summit co-founder Doug French. "But it can be difficult to create or engage a distinct voice among such a vast chorus. Dads are newer to this game, and many brands see a chance to get in on the ground floor of a burgeoning community."
One of the summit topics was the portrayal of men in advertising. "We're trying to help brands understand that nobody appreciates or relates to ads that portray dads as clueless and uninterested parents," says French.
So can we expect to see more male models selling vacuums and food processors as the power of the stay-at-home dad increases?
Melbourne advertising expert Rhondalynn Korolak says retailers are dedicating more of their budget to so-called "dad-vertising".
"Big brands are changing the way they sell small appliances, toys and cleaning products," says Korolak. "They realise stay-at-home dads want products that squeeze household budgets or offer shortcuts to get household chores done more quickly.
"For the first time, toymakers Mattel have introduced a Barbie construction set, presumably aimed at the stay-at-home dad market."
That's at least partly due to daddy bloggers, changing the world one heartfelt, humorous, and occasionally mercenary post at a time.
MIKE CATABAY: ydad.com.au
28, from Sydney. A media designer at Macquarie University and father of Jake, 7, and Noah, 7 months.
What's his schtick? An über cool Gen Y dad who goes by his nickname CBay, Mike Catabay is a DJ and photographer in his spare time. This blog is practical - the guidebook he wished he'd had when expecting his first baby. "I get a lot of feedback from young men and women who are in long-term relationships, settling down, becoming an adult, and who want a heads-up," Catabay says.
Why he writes: It was originally a music blog - back when there was time for hobbies. "It changed into a dad blog just before the birth of my second son," says Catabay. "Parenthood suddenly became more real." When Catabay was a young dad, he found that few of his friends could relate to his panic and there was little guidance elsewhere. "The hospital offered a huge pile of leaflets for mums and just one for dads on dealing with depression," says Catabay. "I wanted a resource young dads could relate to."
Does it pay? Not in the conventional sense - there's no paid advertising - but it is prime self-promotion. The blog has a music section, from where you can download tracks Catabay has worked on. It also links to a second website, which showcases photography and video projects. "The blog is primarily a creative outlet," he says.
Blog snapshot: "About a week ago, just before my eldest son's second birthday, I had a difficult day with my sons. A daddy fail! My wife had been hit with a fever and I bravely (or stupidly) declared that I would take care of the kids without her help. Well, my puffed-up chest soon deflated like a broken whoopee cushion. The thing is, I hadn't had this kind of exposure to the demands of both of my sons. Their intense tag team strategy steam-rolled my ego into the ground. Why? There's nothing like a major poo incident to test your parenting resolve. A note to new parents - along your journey, there will be poo. And on that fateful day, for me, poo there was, and I could not escape it."
CLINT GREAGEN: reservoirdad.com
39, from Melbourne. Stay-at-home dad to Archie, 8, Lewis, 7, Tyson, 3, and Macki, 1.
What's his schtick? Greagen hides his emotions behind humour and doesn't mind oversharing - he even wrote a "vasectomy countdown". "The nurse is attractive, which only serves to amp up my jitter-meter because I've always been much more comfortable exposing myself to less visually appealing people," he quipped. Popular posts include love letters to his robotic vacuum cleaner and how to "mother-in-law proof" your house.
Why he writes: Greagen was a parent searching for purpose. "I quit work when Archie was two. Co-workers were appalled and my manliness was questioned. Writing gave me a buzz and made me feel validated." He has since written a crime novel and been signed by a literary agent who was enticed by his blogging profile.
Does it pay? Greagen is picky, rejecting offers on a weekly basis because the fees aren't high enough. "I've heard of bloggers writing sponsored posts in return for two loaves of bread. I wish others weren't so eager to undersell themselves."
Blog snapshot: "Tyson is sprouting molars and this has meant night after night of constant sleep interruption ... To free Reservoir Mum from this horror, I have to make her believe that she means nothing to me. 'You're dead to me!' I scream. 'You're all cold and clammy and there was a period of time today - like a full five minutes - while I was watching a Beyoncé video clip, when I didn't even think of you once.'"
MATT ROSS: daddownunder.wordpress.com
33, from Melbourne. Stay-at-home dad to Max, 2.
What's his schtick? A British ex-pat who struggles with the "loneliness of parenthood", Ross wears his heart on his sleeve. Most of his readers are women, for whom he's a shoulder to cry on. "I used to try too hard to write what they wanted to hear," he says. "It all got a little bit Oprah."
Why he writes: It began as a diary to send to long-distance relatives. "I certainly didn't see it as a profession," says Ross. "I come from a sharing family. My dad has never been shy to say, 'I love you', so I'm an open book." He says fatherhood is a roller-coaster. "Sometimes I worry people think I'm faking when I'm depressed in one post, then full of joy a week later, but that's reality."
Does it pay? A brand ambassador for Dettol, Ross is a "kind of a agony uncle" on the Dettol website. Aside from this, he won't accept money for sponsored posts, but does promote charities. His priority is producing wholesome content. "I also do a lot of craft projects," he says. "Recently I made a billy-cart from recycled pram wheels and a car seat. That got a great reaction."
Blog snapshot: "Am I man enough for the boy? Max is living up to all of society's gender-specific stereotypes. He is a 'car-o-holic' ... can often be found sprawled out nonchalantly in muddy puddles, his favourite colour is blue, and if you try and put him in anything vaguely effeminate, he has a penguin-like ability to regurgitate the contents of his stomach ... I am being out-testosteroned by a toddler of my own creation."
This article first appeared in Sunday Life.
To chat with other fathers, visit the Essential Baby Dad's Zone.