We wanted to make
parents' lives easier. We always wanted to create a site
that wasn't pink and fluffy.
Our USP is a
sense of humour. That's the important thing with kids -
not losing your sense of humour.
Parenting can be
quite funny, but sometimes it's quite dark humour. Maybe
it's because you have no sleep - you find quite bizarre things
I met my
co-founder, Justine, at ante-natal classes. We carried on
meeting up with our small group, and for a long time we had all the
answers to each other's questions.
But then Justine
wanted to go on hols with one-year-old twins. We couldn't
give her much help, and she had a disastrous time. When she came
back, she suggested that, instead of asking each other for advice,
why not ask the worldwide web?
We started it
really because we felt parents were the real experts, and
the ones best placed to give other parents honest, unbiased, and
use- ful advice, support, and friend- ship.
It's free to join
and open to anyone. The majority of our members are
mothers, but we have more dads than any dad website, and we also
have gransnet.com especially for grandparents.
Nothing is out of
bounds. When we started, it was very much
parenting-biased: pregnancy, sleep, food, and so on. That's all
still there, but the top three forums are AIBU (Am I Being
Unreasonable?), chat, and relationships. But we have everything,
including religion and chicken-keeping on there.
I run all the
commercial and consultancy side; so I try and make some
money selling advertising and market research, while making sure
the Mumsnetters are happy with what we are doing commercially. We
asked our members a long time ago what advertising they wouldn't
want to see on there. It's things like formula milk, plastic
surgery, slimming pills, etc.
I'm also very
involved in our Mumsnet Family Friendly Programme.
Our ambitious aim is to make Britain the most family-friendly
country in Europe; so we have a benchmarking system for companies,
looking at how their policies affect both their staff and their
are pretty tough on families. Some companies are working
hard to change that - particularly the 20-odd companies who are in
our Family Friendly programme - but balancing work and motherhood
is always hard. Economically, times are also hard, and we've
noticed that a lot on Mumsnet since 2008. And, emotionally, it's
back to guilt, anxiety, and exhaustion. There are never enough
hours in the day. . . Or maybe that's just me.
The best decision
I ever made was marrying my lovely husband, and I am a mum
to three fantastic children: Grace, 14, Noah, 11, and Mimi, 7.
Before Mumsnet, I worked in TV for 14 years, and as a TV producer
for Clive James for the last ten or so. I went back for three
months when Grace was ten months old to do a millennium special,
but I quit TV after that, and started Mumsnet soon afterwards.
I think it's
always been hard to be a mother. The pressures vary from
one generation to the next, but the guilt and anxiety seem pretty
universal. That said, there's also so much joy in being a mum, and
I don't know anyone who would opt out once they've started, even if
they could. It's the best life experience ever.
What helps is
sitting down and spending five minutes with your kids, and
realising it's all worthwhile.
I had the best
mother ever. A certified saint, she is and was my
inspiration. Sadly, she died when she was 50 and I was 26. I miss
her every day.
At its best, the
Church can be a good mother to people. Sadly it's not
always at its best.
In the early
days, what most mothers need (as well as Mumsnet, of
course) is a place to meet up in the real world with other mothers,
and the Church has always done a good job of providing that. I
think the folks who run those mum-and-baby or -toddler groups can
be some of the best evangelists: not by preaching, but by
listening, help- ing - just being there and understanding. It can
be a powerful witness. I hope Mumsnet is the same.
I was brought up
to believe that God was my Father.That wasn't a hard image
to live with, as I had a very loving dad. But the God I know
definitely has a mothering side.
When folks ask
'Why Mumsnet, not Parentsnet?' - apart from the fact that
"Parentsnet" is clumsy - we say the art of "mothering" goes beyond
gender, and the God I know through Jesus is both a great father and
I get great
sermons every week at my current church, St John's,
Downshire Hill [in Hampstead]. I don't always agree with them, but
they always speak to me. The short talk at my wedding had a big
impact on both of us, I think. Every Michael Green sermon at St
Aldate's was like a shot in the arm. He once asked me to pray for
him before he spoke, and that had a huge effect on me as a
19-year-old. I realised we were all just empty vessels without
And I once heard
Rowan Williams speak at St Mary's, Islington. I was all
ready to have a go at the C of E and ask him about what Jesus would
be saying to the Church about its obsession with homosexuality and
women, and he spoke so powerfully about the love and holiness of
Christ that my questions just felt point-less.
All the sermons
that have changed my life have been about the amazing, unbounded
love of Christ. As my mum always said, you have to love
people into the Kingdom.
My parents were
wonderful Christian role-models, very practical in their
faith. And my dad is still a big influence in my life today, as is
my sister Gilly. Geoff Warburton was my minister when I was in my
late teens, and he was the most wonderful preacher and friend to my
parents. He spoke at our wedding, and at my mum's memorial
Michael Green had
a huge impact on me as a student; Harry and Lin, who ran
my home group for years; and my prayer partner (and ordinand)
Kristin Breuss; Graham Claydon was instrumental in helping my
husband get confirmed later in life, which has had a huge effect on
me. Plus, I have a really lovely team at Mumsnet now, who support
me and put up with me, and a husband and kids who keep me on the
straight and narrow. End of Oscar speech!
My only regrets
are for the times when I've hurt people.
sound is definitely the sound of the sea. My favourite
places are somewhere sunny with warm sea and sand and my extended
I know I should
probably choose Shakespeare, or Jesus, or Nelson Mandela;
but honestly, if I had to choose someone, living or dead, to be
locked in a church with, it would be my mum - every time.
Carrie Longton was
talking to Terence Handley MacMath.