TikTok’s newest Rent-a-Dad trend is filling the gap in modern family dynamics



Published Jun 11, 2024


IN RECENT years, a new trend has emerged on the fringe of family and social services: the Rent-a-Dad phenomenon.

This innovative service allows individuals or families to “hire” a father figure for various purposes, such as attending parent-teacher conferences, playing catch in the park, or helping with home repair projects.

As society evolves, the concept has gained attention on TikTok, prompting discussions about its origins, implications and its overall benefit on well-being.

The Rent-a-Dad phenomenon can be traced back to the growing complexities within family structures and societal roles over recent decades.

With an increase in single-parent households, divorced families and the bustling pace of modern life leaving less time for family bonding, many have found themselves lacking a traditional father figure.

Social media influencer with her rented dad for a day. Picture: TikTok screenshot

This gap, coupled with the human desire for connection and guidance, paved the way for the Rent-a-Dad services to emerge as a solution for those seeking paternal support and companionship.

In a heart-warming exploration of an unusual service, social media influencer Tyen Rasif opens up about her personal journey and why she decided to rent a father figure for a day.

Tyen, whose own father left when she was 11 years old, flew to Tokyo to meet Mr Natori, a 63-year-old man with extensive experience living overseas in China and Singapore.

Her experience sheds light on a unique aspect of Japanese culture where renting a companion for non-romantic companionship is common.

Tyen shared her adventure with Mr Natori on her TikTok with a video titled, “I rented a Dad for a day” with a subtext caption “Healing or weird?”

Her video detailed them visiting popular tourist spots and engaging in deep conversations over matcha tea, where she received valuable life advice.

@tyenrasif Healing or weird? ❤️‍🩹🤪 #japantravel #asakusa #travelvlog #dadrental #mentalhealth #fyp #foryou #fypシ #soundsofsea #tunesofsg #tokyo ♬ Taking Off - Tyen Rasif

She documented their day together in a video, highlighting the healing experience and the simple joy of having a fatherly figure by her side, even for a day.

Interestingly, it was noted that about 20% of his clients are men seeking the guidance and safety felt by an older, more experienced companion, challenging stereotypes about who might benefit from such a service.

Why should you rent a dad?

The reasons behind renting a dad are as diverse as the clients themselves. For some, it's about providing children with experiences and lessons they believe can best be taught by a father figure.

For others, it’s an emotional support system or a way to fill the void left by an absent or deceased father. Single parents often seek the services of a Rent-a-Dad to help balance parenting responsibilities, especially in cases where a male presence is desired for specific activities or guidance.

The medical and psychological communities have shown interest in the Rent-a-Dad trend, largely focusing on its mental health implications.

Experts acknowledge the potential benefits of having a positive male role model in children’s lives, including emotional stability, better social skills, and reduced risk of engaging in risky behaviours.

However, professionals also caution against the temporary nature of such services, emphasising the importance of stable, long-lasting relationships for a child’s development.

Critics within the medical industry also raise ethical concerns, questioning the psychological impact on children who may form attachments to these temporary father figures, only to experience loss repeatedly.

The consensus among health professionals is that while the Rent-a-Dad model can offer temporary support and enrichment, it cannot replace the deep, enduring bonds formed through consistent, long-term relationships.

As the Rent-a-Dad trend continues to grow in popularity, it reflects a broader societal shifts towards non-traditional family structures and the search for connection in a fragmented world.

While it poses a unique solution for certain familial gaps, it also sparks conversations about the nature of parenthood, the role of fathers in child development, and the complexities of human relationships.

Studies have found that about 40% of people in Japan feel lonely sometimes. Tyen believes this is a sign we need services to help combat loneliness.

South Africa is not exempt from the problem of loneliness. It is just as serious, especially among children who grow up without their parents.

According to Stats SA, more than half of the divorces in 2022 involved kids under 18, affecting nearly 19 000 children. The rates of divorce involving kids were highest among black African couples at 59.3%, while the lowest were among white couples at 44.2%.

This is what netizens had to say under Tyen's video one user wrote: “Is this cheaper than therapy? Asking for a friend.”

Another wrote: “I would get attached and cry when he leaves 😔.”

A third added: What if u rent a dad and he doesn’t show up?”

Despite the diverse opinions on these services, their popularity underscores a universal truth: the human need for connection, belonging, and support remains constant, even as the ways we fulfil these needs evolve.