I’ve been inspired to write this after reading this blogpost by the awesome Kraken. It’s not intended as a response but reading her post clarified some thoughts I’ve had on the subject lately. I’ll be honest here – I’m a Mumsnetter so my approach will be a bit different to Kraken’s. 🙂
For those who
live under a rock don’t know, Mumsnet is one of the most prominent parenting forums in the UK. They have more than 50 million page views per month and log over 8 million visits per month. There are posters on Mumsnet of all genders, ethnicity, sexuality, nationality and social background. Most are parents but not all; despite the site’s name being a parent is not a requirement to join and there are many members who have no desire to have children or who are unable to.
Mumsnet is often in the news but usually only when someone’s complaining about it. The part of the site that gets most media attention is the “Am I Being Unreasonable?” board which is known to be argumentative and helps lazy journalists write about the “nest of vipers” as Mumsnet was once labelled. Strangely the site’s detractors never seem to report the advice and support members receive on topics as varied as mental health, bereavement, education, special needs and many more.
One of the accusations frequently levelled at Mumsnet is that posters are mean, nasty, bullies etc. Some are, it’s true. Some are saints. Most of the rest fall in between. 🙂 The problem is that Mumsnet is not pre-moderated and the staff rely on members reporting unpleasant posts. If no-one reports nastiness then it’s unlikely it will be seen and deleted. Mumsnet have a strong anti-bullying policy – sometimes they miss things or get it wrong but I have seen posters deleted, suspended and/or banned on many occasions. But of course it’s the idiots who stand out and give the site a bad name.
I realise that I sound a little defensive and to be honest I am. Mumsnet is a site that has supported me for many years. When I was suicidal with PND it was Mumsnetters who talked me round in the middle of the night, who gave me strength and hope. It was Mumsnetters who sent me clothes for my baby son when I was unexpectedly pregnant and we had no money to buy him anything. It is Mumsnetters who spend time and energy and money fundraising for many charities and campaigning for change in many important areas such as miscarriage care and support for victims of rape and domestic violence. It is Mumsnetters who spend time lovingly crafting Woolly Hugs blankets for children who are terminally ill both in the UK and abroad, for children who are seriously ill, for Mumsnetters who have lost a child or partner.
Mumsnet is a site that divides people more than any other. The trouble is that parenting today is scrutinised and criticised as never before and many parents feel insecure. Infant feeding, weaning techniques, where the baby sleeps, discipline, nappies, buggies, slings – there’s always someone to tell you that you’re doing it wrong, whether it’s a stranger online, a journalist, friend, relative or so-called ‘experts’. And that’s just in the first year or two! Most people have the sense to concentrate on their own children and let other people bring up theirs as they will – but there’s always an idiot somewhere willing to judge. Mumsnet is merely a reflection of society at large.