The Mums issue


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Mumsnet has been variously described as a political force, a national institution, and an internet phenomenon. Last week, a spin-off site Gransnet was launched. So this week, we invited CEO and founder Justine Roberts to speak for the Mums. And Grans.


Mum jeans

There’s a common misconception that post-partum mothers inhabit a mirror-less world of shapeless fleeces, ill-fitting jeans and crocs with socks. Worse still, that they are destined to remain trapped inside that matrix throughout their child-rearing years until the kids move out (or more realistically, reach an age at which they really ought to have moved out but who the heck can afford to pay the rent on a starter salary?). At the fleeing the

nest stage, mums move on to at best Per Una, at worst a Country Casuals look.

Nothing could be further from the truth. Mumsnet Talk is buzzing with conversation about pleated midis, maxi dresses and butterfly tops. There are legions of posts about the efficacy of hot oil cleansing routines, Mimosa nail varnish and BaByliss big hair. Indeed there were nearly 300, 000 visits to Mumsnet’s style and beauty forums last month, roughly three times as many as our Parenting forums.

Does that mean Mumsnetters are all Yummy Mummies anxiously wondering about next season’s school run dress and totting up each other’s fashion crimes?

Far from it, Mumsnetters are pragmatists – do the school run in your PJs if you will – but good-old fashioned judgement is always in vogue and couldn’t we all do with a bit of help when it comes to which Summer flats?

What’s in a (baby) name?

Monroe and Moroccan? Oh Mariah Carey, if only you'd hung out on Mumsnet, you would have known that naming twins requires double the effort.

Classical or modern, unusual or universal, baby name shortlists should be put to the discerning Mumsnet jury on Talk and run through the MN Baby Name Finder.

Monroe? Clearly destined to be a reality TV star who shops at D&G. Poor Moroccan can only really end up as an interior designer with

a secret predilection for fig rolls. Obviously, slebs wouldn’t let the side down by plumping for names that bear some resemblance to something you'd call a human (there’s light relief to be had in lumpen late pregnancy browsing celebrity baby names) but for the rest of us, there are a long list of Dos and Don'ts to be observed. And meanings and trends to be dissected.

And does it ‘go’ with siblings’ names, middle names, surnames...

What about abbreviations? All this before you even get to the name’s cultural and class connotations.

Because make no mistake, children’s names - and their spellings - subtly and not so subtly - send out signals about our background and aspirations. No wonder we all agonise.

And fantasise about the names we’d love to call our children but daren’t (that’s what pets are for).

So perhaps the fact that year after year Oliver and Olivia top the most popular baby name charts isn’t that surprising. At least our children can only reproach us for lack of imagination.

Family-friendly Britain

Mention the phrase “Family Friendly” and images of laminated menus and primary colours spring to mind. Or worse, politicians currying favour with the female voter. Ask a Mumsnetter what they mean by Family Friendly and they come up with something altogether more contemporary. Gone are the days when chicken nuggets in a drafty conservatory will do. We’re looking to the countries that rate as the best places in the world to raise a family, like Australia and Norway.

In a recent survey, Britain was voted the worst place to bring up children, and 84% of Mumsnetters when polled say they thought UK employers were poor when it came to being family friendly.

Mumsnet isn’t known for accepting the status

quo and we’re not ready to accept that this is something we can’t get right. We’re reclaiming the term Family Friendly so we can make it mean something. Wrestling it back from the people who say it but don’t deliver. We’re running an audit of Parliament because where better place to start. Our survey of MPs revealed unsurprisingly that 9 out of 10 believe parliament is not family friendly and nearly a third have considered quitting because of the strain on their own families.

Mumsnet is running a Family Friendly programme to help companies get it right for staff and customers alike.

We want to recognise and promote what works – like using technology to make working on the move possible – and to encourage companies to be loud and proud about their family friendly credentials. At the end of the year, Mumsnet will recognise the employers, companies and organisations that have gone the extra mile to be family friendly in the first ‘Mumsnet Family Friendly Awards’.

Here at Mumsnet, we think family friendly could be a new approach to ‘CSR’, a term that has become a meaningless hygiene factor. Earlier this year, Mumsnet licensed its brand for the first time, allowing products recommended by its user reviews to feature the Mumsnet logo in their marketing. If customers (80% of whom are Mums) choose brands on the basis of their Fair Trade credentials, why not their family credentials too?

The Mum Pound

Mumsnetters are smart, opinionated and they’ve been there and quite often done that. 75% have a degree, two-thirds work, and most take two foreign holidays a year. They are in control of the majority of purchasing decisions, be it a computer, car, or holiday.

They are the opinion-formers, sometimes in the boardroom sometimes at the school gates.

So patronise them at your peril. Quite frankly, and sorry Iceland, but whether Kerry Katona shops there is neither here nor there to Mumsnetters. Brands are trying hard to recognise that modern mothers will not be pigeonholed and told how to make their whites whiter but they still fall foul of stereotyping men and women, albeit in a pro-women kind of way.

Of course the best ads are probably those that use Mumsnetters to spread the word on Mumsnet. Given that 4 out of 5 of our users routinely consult Mumsnet Talk before making a major purchase decision – having authentic brand ambassadors

really is an effective way of getting the message across. Ford has used this successfully by getting our users to test their Galaxy car and film the results. In short, get it right, and they’ll tell the world, but get it wrong and they’ll tell the world too!

Here come the Grannies

* Pretend to like people
* Get drunk and function normally the next day, I need at least a weekend to recover
*Go through another divorce in the family
* See sexily appealing film stars like Ashton Kutcher without seriously considering the possibility of adoption
*Accept any more damn trees as gifts

Those are some of the latest postings from Gransnet, our new social networking site

for Britain’s 14 million grandparents. We know Grans are crucial to the smooth running of busy families. 60% of childcare is now provided by Nan and Grandad, while parents are at work. This saves the economy over £4bn a year. Yet there are very few places for grandparents to go for advice, support and information. As Mumsnet has proved, there’s no better place to go for expertise than lots of other people in a similar position.

The over-50s can sometimes feel invisible: Gransnet aims to follow Mumsnet’s success in giving a voice to a group who feel marginalised by the media (and dare we say advertising agencies) obsession with youth. We’ve had ten thousand visitors in the first 48 hours – so we know the appetite is there to

discuss everything from Adele to allotments. What it will look like in a year’s time will be up to the users, but the early signs are that it’s going to be lively!

Thanks to Mumsnetters for their insights, humour and above all their reasonableness ;)