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A father’s role in the delivery of his child has drastically changed since the days when men weren’t even allowed to seeing their laboring partner, instead confined to rooms far away to hand out cigars and high-fives and hearty pats on the back. Today, many men are right beside their partners, offering support, holding a leg while she pushes, or more frequently, wielding a phone to capture every grunt, scream, and graphic moment of their child’s birth.
Twitter user The Fine$$er proved himself to be one of these extreme video-taking partners when he uploaded a two-minute clip of his wife giving birth to their fifth child in the passenger seat of their car. As his wife labored—derriere in the air—and howled in pain, he made sure to record the entire thing while still driving the family’s car, three of their children strapped into the back seat.
The now-viral video has racked up millions of views and received its fair share of support and criticism. Many agreed that the mother is a fierce warrior who bravely displayed the strength of womankind. But others questioned why the father thought it necessary to pull out a phone in the first place. Especially while operating a vehicle with small children in the back, instead of pulling over to assist in the delivery of his child.
me asking myself how he’s driving, recording, watching his wife give birth and looking back at his kids all at the same time pic.twitter.com/OGTQyAk0Mj— ‘ (@metminaj) September 7, 2018
I’m sorry but I’m more horrified that you filmed it while driving and didn’t pull over. You’re lucky your wife and newborn didn’t end up through the windscreen. Congratulations btw.— catherine (@cuddycudmore) September 7, 2018
At best, it felt like a case of oversharing, an act research reveals most parents are guilty of in the age of social media. According to a survey by Parents, 79 percent of participants said many parents overshare on social media, so it should come as no surprise that a term has been coined to capture the phenomenon: “sharenting.”
At the intersection of parenting, social media, and technology, we find many instances of sharenting where parents reduce intimate moments into spectacles and trade them for likes, shares, followers, and possibly free stuff. One does not have to assume what the intentions of this father were when he decided to reach for his phone and capture his wife with her booty in the air delivering their child. He made them quite clear by following up the video with another tweet telling viewers, “Follow our family page on IG: Theswinneyseven.” Another advertised his T-shirt company.
Follow our family page on IG: TheSwinneySeven— The Fine$$er 🏚 (@youngflymouthOG) September 6, 2018
And he also tagged Nissan in another tweet writing, “Hey @Nissan I think we need a bigger car!”
Gossip blogger Perez Hilton and other Twitter users soon joined in the rally to pressure automobile manufacturers to gift the family a new vehicle, highlighting the reason why parents continue in the tradition of sharenting, even in moments when it can be dangerous or unwarranted. For this father, and perhaps many others who find themselves in cute, funny, or somewhat interesting parenting moments, the incentives to record and share are abundant.
Just think of all the stories of children going viral and raking in the dough for their families. Remember the “Charlie bit my finger” video that launched a pair of brothers into stardom after their parents captured an adorable moment and unwittingly shared it with the world? It remains the No. 1 non-music video on YouTube and has been viewed millions of times, generating hundreds of thousands of dollars as well as opportunities to be featured in advertisements and other profitable gigs. In another example, a father’s recording of his son’s existential crisis after dental surgery helped the family launch a T-shirt business, make their rounds on the TV circuit, and parlay their viral fame into money-making opportunities including licensing deals for companies to use the footage.
The popularity and profitability of parenting YouTube channels like WhatsUpMoms, which earns an estimated $800,000 per year (not including sponsorship deals and free stuff), also sends parents the message that any mom or dad can strike gold from capturing the right moment and presenting it to the right audience.
Because in the end, it’s the audience that holds the power to take a random video across the line from virality into profitability. An unintentionally captured clip of two siblings sharing a loving moment or a series of funny videos about parenting tips can be instantly positively branded. But a man recording his laboring wife while offering no help, while driving with three children in the back seat, should not receive the same unending positive support from critical viewers. Especially when he then decides to litter the thread of that video with self-serving advertising. (The Daily Dot reached out to the family for comment but did not receive a response.) In short, not all sharenting should be shared equally.
While the role of fathers continues to evolve, pressured by both changing social norms and social media, one thing that will never change is the need for mature discernment. Some intimate parenting moments are not meant for a wider audience. Perhaps, they are not even meant to be recorded. One of the biggest demands of modern-day parents is to set aside the desire to record every “event” and instead be actively present. Fulfilling that demand may not have any glitzy incentives, but it is really what parenting is all about.
Editor’s Note: A earlier version miscalculated the number of The Fine$$er’s children; it has since been corrected.
Tiffanie Drayton is a geek culture and lifestyle reporter whose work covers everything from gender and race to anime and Xbox. Her work has appeared in Complex, Salon, Marie Claire, Playboy, and elsewhere.