Earlier this week, during one of my
frequent occasional Mumsnet coffee breaks, I came across an interesting (and now deleted) thread. It seems a Mumsnet blogger had received what she felt was unfair criticism from another Mumsnet member on one of her blog posts.,So the wounded blogger hit the forums to remonstrate with the culprit. Being easily led, I clicked through to the offending commentary to see what had been said.
Well. What struck me when I got there wasn’t the unnecessarily catty comment (which it was) on an inoffensive mum’s blog. I was more surprised by the blogger’s response: “AIBU? Never heard of it…”
Ok. This is only an opinion. But perhaps if you’re thinking of joining a blogging network, or attending and posting about their blogger’s events, maybe you might wish to familiarize yourself with the site beforehand. You see, AIBU refers to “Am I Being Unreasonable?”, Mumsnet’s most highly trafficked, fast-paced and emotionally charged board, contributing largely to the Mumsnet reputation as a “nest of vipers”. Stripped of the sunny influence of avatars, tickers and hugs, posters evaluate the reasonable-ness of each other’s predicaments with a barrage of opinion, sarcasm, swearing and above all, grammar correction.
Indeed, even on a national level Mumsnet posters have gained renown for not pulling their punches, whether challenging David Cameron on free nappy provision for children with disabilities or demanding an investigation into Gordon Brown’s biscuit preferences. Although it’s open to anyone, this parenting site won’t be everyone’s cup of tea. So if you want to join the Mumsnet blogging network and stick one of their shiny badges on your sidebar, you should anticipate that Mumsnetters might stop by your blog, and bring their opinions with them. They may hand you your grammar on a plate, and they won’t even ((hug)) you first.
So why join our project blog to this particular network? For me, it’s because…
1. We are mums–some of us, anyway. Parenthood comes as part of our package, with all the funny and frustrating aspects of being a working mum. Our work on the Re-Creations Project often happens with kids in tow, underfoot, mucking in and helping out, just like everybody else. And since we try to break down our projects for all ages and abilities, lots of our crafts and tutorials will be fun for crafty mums and kids to try. It makes sense to belong to a network of parents whose interests may overlap to share info and ideas.
But there are plenty of parenting sites out there. Why choose Mumsnet in particular?
2. The Swearing.
I can’t actually remember what first led me to Mumsnet, but I do remember what made me decide to stay. It was the unabashed and copious use of the F-word. You see, I had put in time on other popular parenting sites. Bounty, MDC, Netmums, Babycentre, Kelllymom… In the early days of no sleep and a desperate search for answers about reflux, PND, mastitis, weaning and potty training, I lived on parenting forums. While on the surface, many were “nicer” than Mumsnet, underneath the “huns” and kisses were parents with equally strong opinions.
On one site I was told that the way I was feeding my 17 month old to sleep was inappropriate; that my husband should “remove me” from her evening routine. I was banned from another forum, having confessed that my 22 month old had “stolen” a juice box during a shopping expedition, while I was struggling with her newborn sister.
It wasn’t that they were all a bunch of big meanies, any more than Mumsnet is really a nest of vipers. It’s just that parenting brings out some of people’s strongest opinions, and people get awfully defensive about the way they do things. More than once, I fled in tears from message boards of “supportive parenting sites” under the cover of shiny profile photos and tickers celebrating years of co-sleeping. The bans on swearing and insistence that everybody play nicely, gave me a false sense of security. I was vulnerable and unprepared when I was told: “How disappointing, hun. Perhaps you should dig a hole and crawl inside it to meditate on how to become a better person. HTH! xx”.
Ahh, the relief when I crash-landed on Mumsnet in the middle of a thread about a poo-covered-pouffe. These were human beings, who accidentally got naked at the swimming pool or farted on their pets (you know who you are) and sometimes even lost the plot and swore about life. Instead of masking their derision under hugs and huns, Mumsnetters tell you exactly what they’re thinking with warts and all. If they want to say “Screw you!”, they say “Screw you!” Then they come up with a hundred new ways of saying it just so nobody gets bored.
3. The soft and fuzzy underbelly
Like any parenting site, Mumsnet can be a harsh and opinionated place. Just ask Amanda Holden. Sadly, the same is true just about anywhere mums come together. From baby cafes up to the school gates, mums will defend their way of child-rearing to the hilt. But if you hang around the site for a while, listen to what everybody has to say and take some of it with a grain of salt, you’ll start to witness amazing things.
You’ll see that a mum at loggerheads with a poster on one thread will offer to drive 50 miles to help that same poster out in a crisis. You’ll see a dozen parents working together to reunite a toddler with his precious cuddly toy. On one thread, hundreds of mums flood Downing Street with letters in response to a familiar poster’s cry for help, while on another thread parents stay up late into the night looking for solutions when a taxi with a baby arrives unexpectedly at a poster’s home. In my case, you’ll see hundreds of Mumsnetters raid their rubbish bins to find ring-pulls for our project.
Because in addition to their diverse and candid opinions, Mumsnetters also have compassion and the courage of their convictions. When parents unite for a purpose, they can offer collective knowledge and support, and bring about real and positive change–which is what parenting sites are all about.
I’ll admit, I may have flounced from Mumsnet once or twice. I’ve disagreed with some very notable bans (you know who you are) and there are some posters with whom I’ll just never get along. But if I’m going to have my arse handed to me on a plate by a parenting site, then for today I’ll have mine with a cup of tea, a biscuit, a few
passive aggressive strikethroughs and a smattering of creepy wee brackets.
<skulks off to await annihilation by Mumsnet grammar police>