Too Online

I’m A Mom, & The Internet Has Made ‘Daddy’ Weird For Me

“Daddy has a surprise for you!” just hits different these days.

I can’t speak for everyone, but my “for you” pages on TikTok and Instagram Reals really have my number, to an almost alarming degree. And at the moment, alongside “Twilight” humor, fan-created Harry Potter content, and numerous other things that are somehow even more embarrassing to admit publicly, my feeds are back-to-back Pedro Pascal clips, interviews, and montages, every last one a vivid testimony to the fact that the Internet has crowned the star of The Mandalorian and The Last of Us as “Daddy.” No, he doesn’t have kids; yes, this is about the fact that he is very hot, in a very specific way. And as a mom, parenting with somebody her kids call “Daddy” every day, it’s making things kind of weird... but mostly funny for me.

Allow me to explain for those of you who aren’t on TikTok, or at least not on Pedro Pascal fan TikTok (yet). It’s very simple: The Internet has decided that the current term for a slightly older, somewhat gruff, deeply competent man and (ideally) grey hair is “Daddy.” Pascal very much qualifies. And — this part is important! — he has, for the most part, cheerfully embraced it. In one particularly popular Vanity Fair interview clip, when asked who is a bigger daddy, him or Oscar Isaac, Pascal replies, “I’m a bigger daddy than him, I’m older than him. Although he’s a real daddy, he’s got kids and I don’t. But ‘Daddy’ is a state of mind, you know what I’m sayin’? I’m your daddy.”

And I have been identified by the algorithm as the perfect consumer of all this content, so I know what I’m talking about, here.

To individuals without children, the “daddy” trend may only exist in group chats with friends swapping the occasional photo of Drake, Ryan Gosling or Jon Hamm — some of my personal faves along with Pedro and Oscar — looking particularly daddy-like dressed up in a suit or even more irl daddy-like dressed down in sweats.

However, to individuals with children and a partner who identifies as a dad, the “daddy” thing is a bit more complicated, and to be honest, also a bit funny. While one’s real “daddy” and celeb “daddies” are not to be confused, the terminology puts them side-by-side in ways that I just have to laugh at.

My kids are both old enough to have made the transition from “dada” to “daddy,” and anyone with toddlers knows that you might inexplicably start referring to your partner by the name that your child calls them. That means that, unfortunately, I sometimes refer to my husband as “daddy” when talking about him to my kids. And for me personally, given all this extra daddy being thrown around, it can feel a bit strange to hear.

I try to catch myself and say ‘dada” or “your dad,” but sometimes I don’t and the “daddy” slips out: “go ask daddy,” “daddy will get it,” or “daddy has a surprise for you!” I have to say, in today’s daddy climate and depending on my daddy state of mind, it makes me both laugh and/or occasionally shudder.

But what else am I supposed to do? I can revert back to “dada,” but that seems a bit baby-ish for my toddlers. We are not a “father” family — I immediately think of the ominous old “wait until your father gets home” trope, and, frankly, it sounds a bit formal to my ears. “Dad” is almost too grown up — I imagine that’s what they’ll call my husband when they are pre-teens and teenagers, and I do want to revel in these younger days (at least in the cute ways) for as long as we can. So, there you have it folks, we’re back to good ol’ “daddy.”

After being bombarded with so much “daddy” content, I got curious. This curiosity morphed into an internet rabbit hole I fell into around 2 am one night. There’s a long history to using “daddy” outside of the actual parent-child relationship. There are even articles online that cite the use of the word “daddy” all the way back to 1621 — as a term used for pimps. You hear it crop up in old music, too. More recently, people started throwing around the term “zaddy” to describe a hot older man — one who may or may not have fit in with previous “traditional” or conventional measures of attractiveness, and one who may or may not have children. And then at some point, everybody just dropped the Z and went for it.

The internet is constantly churning up new meanings and innuendo around just about everything. It can be a cringe, it can be funny, it can be both at the same time. Ultimately, I love it and it fascinates me. Like other things in my life, I try not to let my identity as a mother limit me, and I am fully on board and in my daddy state of mind. Even if I do chuckle as I round up my kids and yell “time to go, Daddy!” across the playground.

Taylor Siering is a mom of two from New York City, currently living in the midwest. She is a PhD student who studies the intersection of work and gender, with a specific focus on the experiences of working mothers and motherhood. She spends a lot of time thinking about mom content, pop culture, social media trends and her other random, hyper-specific interests.