Fred Goodall has a company that helps businesses communicate with their customers. But outside of his office hours, he’s most concerned about communicating with parents, especially dads. A husband and father of three kids, ages 5, 9 and 11, he’s run the popular dad blog Mocha Dad for five years. We got him to take a break from blogging (and parenting) to talk about connecting with other dads, managing his kids’ screen time, and his toughest editor, his wife.
MommyNoire: What inspired you to start Mocha Dad?
Fred Goodall: I started the blog in 2008 because I was a new father and I was looking up online to find some resources for dads and there weren’t resources available. So I started writing some of my thoughts and my experiences and thought maybe it would help somebody who was looking for some more information. Also, I wanted to write something positive about dads, especially black dads, because there’s so much negative information: we abandon our kids, we’re not available, we’re not part of the family and I know that’s not the whole story. So we needed a different story of dads who were involved in taking care their kids. and is really engaged with kids.
On the about us page of your site, you list your wife as managing editor. What’s her part with Mocha Dad?
She reads my blog to make sure I don’t sound like an idiot (laughs). She writes some posts sometimes as a guest poster to give some perspective. She validates some of the things I write.
What would you like to accomplish with Mocha Dad?
The main thing I want to do is present fathers in a positive light. There’s so much information for moms out there and in many instances mom is seen as the hero of the family, the person who makes all the decisions. Dads are seen as pretty incompetent or weak and they can’t be trusted with the children. All these things are not true. Dads are actively engaged, full partners in raising children and I just want people to respect the role of fathers and understand that fathers have a huge contribution to the family.
Has blogging changed the way you parent?
Somewhat. I think it helps me to be a better parent. One thing my wife does is point to things I’ve written on my blog and holds me accountable for doing those things. She says, “hey, remember when you wrote this? Make sure you’re doing that.” So it keeps me honest.
How do you manage your kids’ screen time and online activities?
We’re very big on monitoring what they do online. The first thing we do is put all computers in a central location. And that’s the rule for all of us, the whole family. We want to make sure we support each other and hold each other accountable for what we do online. Also, the kids have a specific amount of screen time whether its computers or video games or TV. We set a timer for 30 minutes at a time. And this only occurs maybe two or three times out of the week where they can have screen time. It’s very structured. And we’re very involved in what sites they’re visiting, what shows they’re watching, even which music they’re listening to. My daughter had a Taylor Swift CD. I told her before she listened to it I had to read the lyrics. She said, “Dad, Taylor Swift?” Yes, I know but I just want to make sure these lyrics are okay. And she said, “Dad, you’re being overprotective.” I told her, I’m a dad, it’s hard not to be overprotective. I’m protecting you. There are so many things kids can encounter on TV or wherever and we want to be sure we’re guiding them down the right path.
What was most helpful to you as a new parent?
Talking to more experienced dads and hearing their perspectives. I remember one time, even before my first daughter was born. It was in a period when there were a lot of school shootings and lot of other things happening around the world and it made me discouraged. It made me think, why would I bring a kid into this world? It’s not safe for any child. And this dad I knew gave me this advice. He said, “listen, we’re all scared, but you can’t change what’s happening in the world around us but we can change our attitude and how we raise our children and give them the perspectives and the values that we place in their lives. You have to become the dad that your kids need. So you need to work on yourself so you can help your children grow and develop and have the tools and skills they need to survive in this world, whatever this world is.”