Mostafa Hassan talks about anything from school pick-ups to the cultural stigmas of being a stay-at-home dad on parenting blog ArabBaba. MediaSource spoke with Mostafa about why he started his blog, his message to other dads, and working with PR.
What inspired you to start your blog?
I had been writing a journal since the day my oldest daughter was born six years ago. I wanted to hold onto the small things about how I felt, what she did, the challenges I was facing, the frustrations, etc and thought one day I would share it with them. I wrote everything in Arabic and for the past six years my wife assumed it was related to Islamic writings and such, so she just continued to shuffle these notebooks from drawer to drawer. Finally, early last summer as she shuffled more, she asked what this was and could we just box it up. That’s when I told her. We sat down for hours (and by then we now had our two daughters) and I translated it for her. She cried and laughed and it brought back so many memories. She finally told me I needed to ‘get it out there’. Being an Arab man these things are not something you put out to the public, so it took me weeks of thinking about it. It made me wonder how many other babas were out there feeling the same way. And that’s how it started.
Is there a particular message behind ArabBaba?
That stay-at-home dads are still an anomaly regardless of the country. But in the Arab world, it can be viewed as taboo whether you are Arab or not. I wanted to change that. I wanted to show people that we are real and we value being fathers. And for those (which are many) that still have the opinion that child raising is up to the wife, I had hoped to alter their minds just a little bit (regardless of the nationality). Plus, I felt that with my educational background and my obsession with educating children, I thought it was a great way to combine the two.
What’s been the feedback from people who read the blog?
99% positive. There have been a few negative comments (from the Arab world mostly) that came up. But they were quickly shot down by a lot of people. Moms out there gained inspiration and were sharing with their husbands. When I gave someone my card they started to say ‘Oh, YOU are ArabBaba! I read your stuff all the time’. That has happened more times than I can even think. I started to realise that it was ok to be coming out like this.
Are there other parenting blogs and resources from the region you have found particularly helpful? How does your blog add to or build upon what’s out there?
Like mine – definitely not. And I suppose that’s a good thing right now. I think it’s a very unique situation, plus with the pairing of multi-cultural parents, expats, education, ‘feelings’ and child raising is really different. I do have a lot of mom bloggers out there who are a great support. And I think because I have a tendency to focus more on small bits or small ideas (like five minutes to do something), it makes it easier.
Tell us about your experiences building your blog audience. What works and what doesn’t?
I had no idea. It was pretty quick. I simply started a Facebook page, then added Twitter and then it all went from there. Within weeks I was contacted by one of the ministries, within months, several education entities queried on my contributing to their content, etc. And I’m very happy to do it, but I never started this to make money.
Are you open to being contacted by PRs and marketers?
If it’s relevant to my areas, then yes. For marketers, relevancy is key. I’m not going to be involved with someone selling telephones if it has nothing to do with the people I want to reach. And to be honest, I don’t do any advertising for that reason. I don’t see any value in what has come to me so far and I’m not going to go out and solicit it.
What are your feelings about advertising and promoted posts? Any advice for bloggers contemplating whether this is the right solution for them?
Again, it depends on why you got into blogging in the first place. If you are in it to make money, there needs to be a really clear and unique thing that you have to offer, as well as a market that wants it. Plus, you will end up spending a fortune getting followers and maintaining pages that it probably wouldn’t be worth it.
Otherwise, if you are blogging for the sake of your own sanity, that takes a much more humbling and methodical way of building something because you are clear on who you want to be involved with and what matters to you. If you advertise 5,000 different things on your social media or blog with no substance to it, no one is going to pay attention.
What tips do you have for anyone considering starting their own blog?
Having a clear idea of what you are wanting to accomplish is the first step. If it is cathartic, great. Write away. If it’s moneymaking, then you may be able to head off in several directions. Sometimes it becomes both. Understanding why you want to start a blog in the first place is the biggest step. But, also understanding that once people are following you, it can be tiring because they want more and more. Keeping it cool and doing things as you want and staying with the reason you started in the first place is the key.