Community Website for Pregnant Women
Mumsnet is a great community website for pregnant women and mothers to share information and stories.
Sam Norman: There is no doubt that even the most confident parents will have a few sleepless nights over some of the more difficult parenting problems. Things like finding the right childcare, working at what to do about vaccinations or getting your child out of nappies can be really hard work. Justine Roberts and Carrie Longton set up mumsnet.com to help answer some of those questions. Well, welcome to the Baby Channel. How did you two meet in the first place?
Carrie Longton: We met at antenatal classes believe it or not. We were sitting there very nervously without --
Sam Norman: With your first baby.
Carrie Longton: Yeah, first baby quite sometime ago --
Justine Roberts: I meant two, I think I meant two, I was expecting twins and one was incredibly premature. So at one point I remember the teachers saying; now when you have a show it will be like this and I said I have had one.
Sam Norman: And she went right.
Carrie Longton: And we didn't see her again for quite sometime.
Justine Roberts: And arrived with two babies.
Sam Norman: You must be quite an impressionable women there?
Justine Roberts: Yeah, we then went on to be friends and meet up; continue to meet up for year before we started mumsnet.
Carrie Longton: And that group of friends who we still meet up from our antenatal group was kind of part of the genesis for the idea for the site.
Sam Norman: Oh I see.
Carrie Longton: The idea that we got a lot of our support, encouragement and advise and really practical advise from each other because no matter what sort of career you have or what walk of you life you are from or how much money you have got, there is nothing so much leveling as a new baby and you are going through the same problems wherever you live, you are going through the same sort of issues and that's how we got one of the ideas for site.
Sam Norman: So when exactly was the weaker moment, when did you decide that?
Justine Roberts: It was that -- by a Florida pool side, I know it ended up being like one of those terrible holidays that change your life. My husband and I had bravely decided to embark on a holiday and it was November and we went to a well known and won't be mentioned child friendly resort in Florida and the childcare was no less than catastrophic, really it was. The woman who was looking after our children had been hired as a cook three days earlier and laughingly described it as well. But basically no parents could use the childcare. So it slightly spoiled our mood for holiday and we sat around the pool side after it with these other complaining parents that wouldn't it have been nice to have known about this, prior to booking the tickets and prior to leaving and surely we should be using the internet to find these sort of things out.
And from that grew the idea, well, if we are talking about holidays, let's talk about all the other stuff that parents buy. And it was at that time when everyone was starting a .com company and we thought well this would be a great one to start. So I went home and discussed it with Carrie and she --
Carrie Longton: She bought me into it and I sent my first e-mail.
Sam Norman: And from that you have got two books, haven't you? And two books and --
Justine Roberts: Two books and a magazine.
Sam Norman: And a magazine.
Justine Roberts: We have done TV shows.
Sam Norman: So it sounds perfect and everything is quite successful.
Justine Roberts: It has mostly been successful in sort of organic kind of way. I mean we arrived on the .com scene just as the .com blew up in our faces and actually we did at one point say we are going to raise five million pounds and we went to see venture capitalists with a business plan that really made no sense at all and then b.com failed and that was all out of the window. So we raised a very small amount of money and have grown organically by word of mouth and the real success of mumsnet has been the way mums have passed on the word really about mumsnet and we now have a 150000 people who log on each month, parents who log on each month.
Carrie Longton: And they are incredibly loyal and that's a real sense of community out there.
Sam Norman: And what do you provide, what sort of service do you provide?
Carrie Longton: We have a product review section which is what we started with which is holidays and car seats and buggies because I think especially first time parents you go out and you spend a lot of money on stuff and it is not always the right stuff and you might get it in a baby magazine telling you that this person wants that. But actually what you really want to know is do the breaks fail after a while and can you get your shopping in the shopping basket. So that's the idea which we ask parents to recommend products to other products and put them in touch to each other.
And then we also have forums for discussions which is where you would get this sort of thing you are talking about at the beginning, advise on how to get your child out of nappies and advise on a range of topics, parenting and non-parenting and that has been what is interesting for us is that this community has grown and people who started off talking about buggies and nappies and dummies and sleepless nights are now talking about their relationships with their partners with their mothers-in-law, with their friends, television, wine, you name it and it is just a real thing --
Justine Roberts: It is a real community of women now and I think that the great thing is that you know will get your answer to whatever conundrum you put in. I challenge you Sam to go on and put in a conundrum and it doesn't have to be parenting --
Sam Norman: Well -
Justine Roberts: And you will get -- you won't just get one answer, you will get a range of answers. There are plenty of different ways to skin those cats and the great thing about mumsnet is you will get choices that can be adapted to suit you and your family. And what's more, you get empathy or you may get something like well you actually you know not a lot that can be done about that, but it doesn't last and you know what, you are not the worst person in the world because your child is doing this, it is really common. So it is empathy as well as advice.
Sam Norman: Oh yes, because as a first time parent or as any parent you do need a lot of reassurance don't you?
Carrie Longton: And that's very much the tone I think certainly from my point of view because I certainly didn't have text book children and so it is -- but I mean I know it is that feeling when you see a lot of things on television now, you see they are the experts, they are going in and solving everything and they are making it perfect and these shiny happy children out there. It is not like that, it is quite a struggle and there is the joys and there is the highs and there's lows and that's what mumsnet has got all of that. You quite often -- you could cry everyday, it is happiness, misery or whatever it is that. That's what parenting is like; it is real ups and downs.
Sam Norman: Well also I mean you two have a wealth of experience between you two. You didn't look like it, but you have many children each.
Carrie Longton: Way too many children and more on the way.
Sam Norman: And more on the way.
Justine Roberts: But we laughingly say it is a tax right off because we are doing it for research purposes now.
Carrie Longton: Just to keep that intact with the buggy right now.
Justine Roberts: Now we are pregnant actually, but yeah, lots of children. But really I mean I think the real experts are the mums out there and that's why I have said, the fact that you can draw on this resource of thousands and thousands of people and you are almost guaranteed to find someone who has been through it almost exactly the same problem and what's more you will people who can give you alternative ways of doing things. Because not every one's life is suited to strict routine, some people just don't like that or you have very busy families and you just have to adapt your style to your choices really and the great thing about mumsnet is it makes people feel secured that they can do things different ways and there is no right one way that some expert is telling you must do it like this.
Sam Norman: Well, it is also -- I mean as you said, it is an incredibly lonely thing sometimes isn't it? Being a parent and feel like you are just struggling on your own and there is nobody else who has been through the same sort of thing.
Justine Roberts: And parental guilt, a terrible thing and it is so easy to think that you have done something wrong because your toddler is biting when in fact it is a natural progression and --
Sam Norman: It is just a hurried child. It's nothing to feel sad. There
Justine Roberts: Oh, it's foods from the grandfather -- you know it's the genes.
Sam Norman: Oh, that's another, the food thing that's a nightmare. So do you also dispense recipes and that sort of things?
Carrie Longton: We ask people for recipes - we are antidote to Annabel Karmel, who have a very good relationship with me -- we like very much, we like her very much today and she is great. But not everybody has time to do big recipes or the inclination, to be honest.
Sam Norman: Let's face it.
Justine Roberts: A great nutmeg.
Carrie Longton: That was the great one. So we have started asking our members and they recommend recipes and they have got to be quick and they have got things that have worked and we are actually doing in the same way with the products, we are now rating recipes for success value and speed and that sort of thing, ease of ingredients and --
Justine Roberts: The idea is stuff you have got in your cupboard, but it is healthy and what's more -- it is not something you are going to spend two hours slaving over, that your child then just stays on the floor and that's what makes you end up in tears.
Sam Norman: I know it does, it does. Well it is sort of primitive instinct, isn't it?
Carrie Longton: It is pathetic -- how proud you feel, when they eat something --
Sam Norman: I know it's awful.
Justine Roberts: And there are a lot of tricks of the trade, I mean one maybe I want to recommend -- the guy always makes me laughs at Carey - I always remember Carey stuffing cheese into hula hoops.
Carrie Longton: And my daughter she wouldn't eat cheese and her face was like, vegetables by stuff, that kind of thing. Make mumsnet phrase which is you basically hide them at anything, hide them in youghurt if you have to, but just get the veggies in somewhere.
Sam Norman: I know will you be able to use this great wealth of information for you next babies because it is -- Justine this is your fourth, isn't it?
Justine Roberts: This is my fourth and I mean we are drawing it all time. For now, am just kind of like Mrs. No-nonsense but it was interesting because my first two, my twins were fantastic eaters still they are. They eat everything and I was sort of basking in this glorious wealth, of course, because I have a very healthy attitude to food and it is pasta for my children and the number three came and he is the fussiest, pickiest little boy you have ever met. So I know realize actually sometimes you just get what you get, you do the best you can.
Sam Norman: Exactly. No room for --
Carrie Longton: That made so happy because here I am dispensing advice to other parents and I have children who don't eat, don't sleep, who can't stay there in beds for five minutes and I know the thing, I mean I shouldn't think about parenting, you can know the theory but putting into the practice - when you are a bit weary and -- of course they should go back to the bed at the night, but it's 3 o'clock in the morning and you are exhausted, and that's mumsnet way.
Justine Roberts: Yeah and the other mantra is just don't get stressed because actually the worst thing you can do with any parenting conundrum situation is to get anxious, stressed, angry, all those things particularly with food actually, the angrier you get the more you make it into a food battle, the more chance you are going to have a picky eater. So, yeah these problems are common and don't get stressed of it, it is a phase.
Sam Norman: Have you ever thought of launching out into a dadsnet.com?
Justine Roberts: Well, the problem with dads -- it has been tried that they are not wanting to generalize obviously and we do have some dads on mumsnet. Is that they don't chat so much and if they do it is not necessarily about this, they are just not as prone to letting it all hang out in this regard. So there have been similar websites along the same line and they just haven't got the volume of traffic and why mumsnet works is because you will always get an answer.
Carrie Longton: Because there are so many on there. But Dads we get tend to be stay at home dads or dads who are primary care as a widows, or divorce or whatever and so it is sort of dads in the traditional mumming role - mumsnet go beyond gender, mumming goes beyond gender, the whole mothering thing.
Justine Roberts: We sort of slightly get accused that why did you call it mumsnet and you are letting down all these dads.
Sam Norman: Like as I said what it is.
Justine Roberts: Even as we say, it is an act rather than gender specific.
Sam Norman: It sounds fab, I am going to log on. I think I have probably got beyond that, now they are 8 and 10 -- no.
Carrie Longton: No.
Justine Roberts: No, teenager problems they are on their way. You are going to need the help.
Sam Norman: It is sort of that nice age now, they are just really easy and civilized and I know that the next one is coming.
Carrie Longton: And the great thing it is all anonymous, so we wouldn't know, necessarily, you can call yourself Mrs. Baby Channel, anything you like. That might not be a little to identify you. But the other thing is that people can go and chat about things anonymously that they might not tell their best friends --
Sam Norman: That sounds great. Thank you very much and I hope it goes from strength to strength.
Carrie Longton: Thank you, thanks having us.
Justine Roberts: Thanks having us.
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