What do Mumsnet, Lush, and Liz have in common?

Eight years ago today, sometime around 4am, Mummy sat with me – her 22 day old newborn – strapped to her chest, whilst both of us howled in despair. I had reflux, and howled in either pain, or hunger. Mummy was just exhausted and wanted to give up. In desperation Daddy searched for support online, and found the Mumsnet “breastfeeding with reflux” forum. We sat  there in the small hours reading the threads, wondering if we should buy the American meds they recommended, and hoping to see a small light at the end of the tunnel. In the end, Mummy gave up, and I became a bottle-fed baby. For this she received harsh criticism from the forum members, and left Mumsnet feeling bitter.

"caitlin moran at Mumsnet Blogfest 2012"Yesterday Mummy went to the first Mumsnet Bloggers Conference Blogfest. In honesty, she went for the speakers, most notably Caitlin Moran. She made a fool of herself by wondering where she had met Tanya Byron, before realising it was via the medium of TV. She knew of Liz Jones’ reputation for being controversial, and was vaguely interested. And a tiny bit of her wondered what “mumsnetters” would really be like.

Initial impressions are not always a good indication of character, we are often told. And so it was yesterday. The speakers did indeed make for an incredible line-up. Mummy no longer takes notes at these events, preferring to meet people, network, and come home armed with only the tips that stuck firmly in her mind, rather than reams of paper notes that will languish at the bottom of an immovable pile. So here is what she gleaned from the first ever Mumsnet Blogfest:

  • There are some lovely bloggers involved with Mumsnet
  • Some of them are involved with BritMums, Blog Camp, and Cybher too
  • The women of Mumsnet are indeed feisty. They are also respectful, intelligent and not at all militant
  • Not all famous panelists are full of their own self-importance – most notably Eliza Gray, who didn’t mind in the slightest discussing our blog and hers, and Professor Tanya Byron,  who seemed genuinely thrilled at Mummy’s star-struck, prosecco-fueled approach
  • The Bloggess is no-where near as scary as her online success might foretell
  • Nick Clegg’s wife is an inspiration
  • Caitlin Moran is quite possibly demented, but nonetheless amazing
  • First impressions of Mumsnet were wrong
Here is the important part: one should not judge a book by its cover, nor even by its first few chapters. The Mumsnet forum has a reputation for being fierce, unforgiving, and a bit like a pit-bull – fight first, think later, or not at all. We have certainly watched in voyeuristic fascination as colleagues have been put in their places. But over time, the Mumsnet moderators seem to have improved at overseeing their members and ensuring fair comment.

"justine roberts of mumsnet"We have a new-found respect for Mumsnet, partly because of an incredible first bloggers event, but largely due to founder Justine Roberts. Somehow, Mummy ended up in a long conversation with Justine; too much wine prompted her to divulge her early experience at the hands of the breastfeeding forum, and her concern that a few are damaging the Mumsnet experience for others.

“I’m embarrassed that our members would behave in such a way to a new Mum, I’m so sorry,” was Justine’s main concern.

They chatted about blogging in general, about the speakers, about her own desire to stay out of the lime-light, and about this blog, and some of its posts. For a first meeting this length of one-to-one conversation with an unknown blogger felt rather unprecedented. This is a woman with a conscience, with respect for others, with a desire to talk to those around her with genuine interest, no matter where they stand in the blogging or media rankings. Mummy is a convert.

How does that relate to Lush? Well, we are prompted to mention them because of something we found in the Mumsnet goody bag:

"lush fun"

Mummy feels similarly to Lush as she does to Mumsnet. Does that sound bizarre? Yes of course it does, so here’s an attempt at explaining. When Lush first arrived on our high streets 18 years ago, Mummy couldn’t walk past it without reeling at the over-scented and over-priced bath confections. For years she steered well clear, until gradually she became aware of their ethical and humanitarian goals. When finally the arrival of a pre-teen daughter made a visit to Lush mandatory at least once a month, the company’s products grew on her. Not only that, but the levels of service and attention dished out by the cheerful staff gradually coaxed her into submission, and allowed me a window of opportunity to convince her that I needed a Lush birthday party.

"Lush parties"

Whatever you do with your pre-teen daughters, make sure they have at least one Lush birthday party. Lush totally have the answer to what makes a young girl tick – (natural) cosmetics that look pretty and smell strong (don’t forget, we haven’t yet learned the art of subtelty), shopping – every guest gets £10 to spend on products, dispensing with the need for a party bag – and staff that deserve medals for their ability to maintain a cheerful demeanour whilst fending off 8 year olds in a non-agressive manner!

"Liz Jones at Mumsnet Blogfest"So you see, first impressions are rarely correct, and it is always worth delving a little deeper before making a final judgement. Which brings me on to Liz Jones, a lady who, over the last few days, has done little to impress parent bloggers. The “controversial” Mail columnist has made sparks fly today with derogatory online comments about the event and its attendees. Mummy was expecting to see a strong and dynamic personality, full of opinions on life. What she saw instead was a very damaged woman, with apparently little happiness in her privileged but empty life. Perhaps instead of reviling her, we should all feel a little sorry for her.

Never judge a book by its cover. As Caitlin Moran said, if you don’t know how your final paragraph should resolve, go back and read not the title, nor the first chapter, but the second, the one that goes a little deeper; you will find all you need for your final judgements in there…

Disclosure: this was not a solicited post. We paid for everything we talked about in here, apart from the priceless time with some very cool, intelligent, and inspiring women.


55 thoughts on “What do Mumsnet, Lush, and Liz have in common?”

  1. On a scale of 1 to 10, how annoyed do you think I am that I couldn’t go?
    Glad you had a great time and really interesting to hear your point of view.

  2. Hi,

    This post has made me feel a bit overcome. It is all warm and fluffy on so many levels.

    And as for the Lush birthday party I want to turn the clock back and be a pre-teen and have a birthday AND a party NEXT WEEK – awesome!

    BTW the bloggess is two Gs, and given I had never heard of Miriam González Durántez before yesterday, I now want to hear about her everyday, so it doesn’t seem right to refer to her above only as Nick Clegg’s wife… do you agree? Hope so.

    Anyway I love love love this post, and I REALLY enjoyed yesterday.

    Take care, Liska x

    P.S. My Mumsnet post didn’t contain pics or vids YET, so I will be doing a follow-up post if I can ever get You Tube to work and I do have a great pic of you and Cambridge Mummy x

  3. You put that so well.

    I have to say, I was taken aback by the conversation you describe between yourself and Justine Roberts. It’s reassuring that she wants the Mumsnet forums to be a more supportive place.

    Oh, and LOVELY to meet you yesterday.

  4. Glad you enjoyed it and you’ve not let the Liz Jones thing over shadow the whole event. I do wish I could have been there. x

  5. I really enjoyed your post. I’m not sure what tempted me to Mumsnet Blogfest as I’m not a Mumsnetter. However, I also really enjoyed every second. The Bloggess, Caitlin Moran and lunch were my high points 🙂

  6. Well there you go … My sentiments exactly before reading this post. Pit of vipers and over scented tosh not quite right then? 🙂

  7. Thanks for your nice comments. Gosh, famous panellists… Yes! Arrived at last! My take on the event is at 50 is the New Black. Enjoyed talking to you too… Until the next time (I was trying to twist Kate Williams’s arm to put on more regular Mumsnet meetups… ), Eliza x

    • Ooooh I do hope you succeeded. If ever we all needed something to write about we have enough fodder for a few weeks now, I think 😉 Thanks for visiting. Yay! A famous person visited my blog! *does little dance* *wakes up 8 yr old to tell her* *deflates self before getting out of hand*

  8. It sounds like it was a fascinating time at the conference, one extreme to the next and some middle ground. Having just recently returned from a blogger’s conference, I am interested to hear other’s perspectives of these events. If I go again, it will be for the speakers only because I did enjoy them.

  9. Great post. My experience of Mumsnet has been mixed. Mums who are vocal about parenting will inevitably get people’s backs up as the topic is so personal and emotive. Thankfully, for every person who does that there is someone who will genuinely care and want to help rather than ram their opinions down your throat. Let’s hope the stereotypical ‘mumsnetters’ who get (and create) the bad press don’t overshadow all the good work Mumsnet does.

    • I really do think Mumsnet is on the change, particularly where bloggers are concerned, and it’s great to see. I will definitely spend more time over there now as a result of Blogfest

  10. ‘Controversial’ to me means someone or something who makes you think or challenge (if even for a moment) long held views. Forces you to look at something a different way – even if they don’t change your mind. Spiteful vitriol aimed solely at garnering press is not that. It’s just spiteful vitriol which adds nothing to considered and articulate debate.

    Well balanced and enjoyable post. HMS

  11. I’ve also found Mumsnet supportive, especially when I had my first baby, although I have steered clear of controversial posts (and there are many). I’m glad that you enjoyed the conference.

  12. I have to admit I keep well away from Mumsnet. I don’t like it at all, it seemed awful the few times I went on it and i just stated away after that. Then I started changing my mind slightly when I saw tweets from people at the event but I quickly changed it back when I saw Liz Jones’ article thinking why would Mumsnet invite someone like that when the woman is infamous for what she does; surely it’s for the publicity. I’ve read a few blog posts since then and it does sound like an amazing day. I’m still not sure about them, basically 🙂 now I shall stop rambling!! 🙂

  13. Thanks for your invaluable tips on the walk from the tube station to Blogfest! Like you I was spitting into my cereal this morning when my father-in-law showed me the Liz Jones article which he’d specially cut out for me (bless!). I came to the same conclusions – she doesn’t sound like a happy woman and you’re right – maybe we should feel sorry for her.

  14. Sorry, but I couldn’t absorb anything else after you recommended cosmetics parties for eight-year-olds. Even more worrying is the fact that I seem to be the only person who’s uncomfortable with this.

    • I think cosmetics is a misleading term to use Aisha, implying as it does make-up and skin regimes. The children are only interested in bath bombs and bubble bars that smell nice, fizz in the water, and colour the bath!
      I’m not a fan of make-up for young girls either, but they are interested purely because of watching their mothers – it’s totally normal. Which is why I applaud organisations like Lush for making harmless products that interest them while they’re younger. Add to that their ethical aims and I really can’t see a problem – other than cost.

      • I used the term you did in your post, so if you think it’s misleading you might want to rephrase it.

        Lush are a cosmetics company. They flog cosmetics; facemasks, lip balm, perfume. Their goal, like any other in the beauty industry, is to convince you that their products make you more desirable. And they aggressively target the younger market.

        In my humble opinion, the longer parents can delay a child’s preoccupation with appearance the better, giving them time to learn there’s more to people than beauty and trendy consumerism.

        And as for Lush’s “ethical and humanitarian goals”, they use these values to appeal to the middle-to-upper class, environmentally aware market. I know we don’t live in an ideal world, but social responsibility should be the norm, not a selling point designed for the privileged few.

        Often it’s those who have a guilty conscience that shout loudly about their exemplary morals.

        Bath bomb and bubble-bar parties are innocuous in themselves, but I bet it won’t be long before those pre-teen packages introduce cute little make-up items, all hypo-allergenic and organic ingredients. But it’s all good clean fun right?

        • oh for heaven sake. A bit of glitter doesnt sexualise a pre teen.

          Honestly girls will be girls and have wanted to be since I was a girl. Why do we have to assume that it is sexual or grooming?

          Let’s just let girls be girls if they want to be.

          • HEAR HEAR.

            The above comment made me question my decision to buy my 2.5 year old Lush’s ‘Fun’ soap last week, but ffs, if giving her soap that’s a bit like playdoh makes her happy to learn about cleaning and personal hygiene then I’m happy. Same with bathbombs for when she’s a bit older.

            Also love the idea of a Lush party, looks like a lot of fun.

        • Sadly social responsibility is not the norm, hence why I like what Lush try to achieve. Every business is in it for profit, of course, but I have genuinely been impressed by their aims, and even more so by their levels of customer service – another rarity in our world. I don’t think that makes me naive, and although I am indeed privileged to be able to afford the odd bath bomb, what use would it be if I deliberately didn’t applaud them just because they aren’t the norm? Surely that’s exactly the reason I should!
          Any mother who has dressed their little girl in something that makes her feel good about looking good is building her self-esteem, but also her awareness of how she looks. It’s the same with hair-slides, and come to that, boys character t-shirts. It’s about having a personal image, not about grooming! Make-up is entirely different and not something I encourage. Luckily she’s not overly bothered, given that I don’t bother except for a special occasion. If she were, I would explain why it is inappropriate.
          Lucky too that fun and pretty bath bombs and shower jellies (because that’s what the girls played with at the party) have nothing to do with any preoccupation about appearance.

    • I’m not sure that Lush cosmetics can be considered as ‘grooming children for adult life’. My now 10 year old has been enjoying Lush bath bombs for years and I don’t feel that’s any different to buying her a matey bubble bath designed for children.

      She likes the fizzing, the colour it turns the bathwater and the smell of it – who doesn’t! It has nothing to do with grooming her to be an adult!

  15. It does sound like it was an interesting day, I could not do the date so it was nto a choice for me but yes I may have avoided due to it being Mumsnet and the interactions I have had on there before. Nice to hear the founder is decent.

    I also avoid Lush as I lived in Dorset at the time they launched and hated the smell, had no idea about the good ethics. I probably would probably not go down the kids make up party route (thats’ if it is facial cosmetics) but that is personal choice and I certainly do not condemn anyone for their parenting choices, I know you well enough to know you would be having appropriate conversations with GG.

    Mich x

    • I hated the smell when they first began too! But I have become immune to it now that GG likes to go in there.
      Lush do do some make-up – lip gloss, and perfumes, as well as facial cleansers, but the emphasis by far is on bath fizzers and bubble baths, and that’s all the girls were interested in.
      Thank you for your vote of confidence 🙂

  16. Fab post! I never knew about Lush parties, what a great idea – all the Lush products are fun to use and I have to admit even I get excited watching a bath bomb fizz away! Glad you enjoyed BlogFest!

  17. I don’t like mumsnet.
    I don’t like Lush
    But I do like you and this post and think its great how you can be open minded enough to dislike something and then kinda like it.

    Mwa xx

  18. Oooh my girls (3 and 4) love stealing one of my bath bombs occasionally. In fact Alison had one in her bath tonight.

    I send them in with hubby when it is time to choose my presents whether birthday, valentines day or christmas and they love looking and smelling them all. i know they will love one of these parties when they are older.

  19. I love your objectivity in both the articles and response to comments.

    And aren’t bath bombs loved by girls (and mums) of all ages?? 🙂

  20. Oooh I love a little scrap in a blog post comment thing! It’s great that you can be open minded and big enough to say what you have. I might have to take another look at lush now!

  21. loved your Tanya Byron moment! Reminds me of when we bumped into Ross Noble in the summer and I was absolutely convinced that I used to work with him – I made a total idiot of myself – because even after he told me that it must be that i recognised him from the telly I still said ‘but are you sure I didn’t used to work with you’!!!!

  22. The way you’ve written this from your childs POV is absolutely vomit inducing!!

    There was a thread about it today in AIBU… this is the most nauseating example Ive ever seen


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