What It’s Like to Work at Mumsnet in Your Twenties
What I – a childless, borderline child – learned while working at a parenting website.
Like any young person with a need for purpose and a penchant for buying food and staying alive, after I graduated, I needed work. So when I was 22, I quit my temp job in a posh cinema to work at the UK's leading parenting website. Sure, I'd been trying to distance myself from any association with children since I was about 17, but being an editorial intern at Mumsnet was not an opportunity I was going to refuse. And really, how many horrifically realistic nightmares about getting pregnant can you really have a night?
When I first started, my friends were curious about how a childless borderline child like me managed to get a job at a parenting website. How could someone with no experience possibly write and edit articles about parenting? The thing is, Mumsnet is full of people like me. The senior positions might be staffed by actual parents, but the lower echelons are made up of young, educated women. This is the big unknown about Mumsnet: a lot of the time, the person editing a parent's blog on their child's autism, or writing a post on the "Ten best ways to get your baby to sleep" isn't a seasoned earth mother with five high-achieving kids, but a 22-year-old with a damp flat and a shit bike.
My friends were curious about how a childless borderline child like me managed to get a job at a parenting website.
It's also quite a nice place to work. My co-workers were pretty chill; some of them even listened to Drake. We played football on Wednesdays. I did choir on Thursdays. Sometimes I got free sandwiches. I met at least five real-life babies. It didn't even affect my dating life too dramatically – although, on the whole, the pool of eligible men at a parenting website is, as you can probably imagine, low. I definitely gained a new-found respect for contraceptives.
My job involved reading and editing a lot of parenting blogs. From this I learned the following: every parent thinks their experience of parenting is unique and interesting, but is actually the same as everyone else's. Also: a lot of things can go wrong with parenting. For starters, you might not even be able to get pregnant in the first place. Even if you can conceive and you give birth to a child that is healthy, you then have to deal with the monumental pressures that child-owning can bring to areas such as (but not limited to): your relationship, your career, your friendships, your passions, your financial stability, your cultural capital, your mental and physical wellbeing and your bodily autonomy.
I once got to look after a baby as part of my job. I may be a theoretical master in parenting, but that is fuck-all help when it comes to the real thing. We were running an event, and one of the speakers came with her four-month-old baby. When the original babysitter-cum-actual-employee dropped out, it was down to me to sit in a green room with it for five hours. I managed not to drop it or lose it. It didn't cry, which I'm pretty sure means it didn't hate me.
My time at Mumsnet didn't make me anti-children, but it did make me very aware of the pressures that are placed on women if and when we decide to have children. Despite massive strides made for women's legal rights, women are still expected to do the majority of domestic work and emotional labour. It made me realise the weight of expectations that stifle and limit you as soon as you become a mum. I wanted to smash my keyboard against my desk every time I read a blog post about how lucky the writer thought they were to have a male partner who helped with the cleaning/cooking/washing/childrearing. So many women felt obliged to be in control of these domestic tasks, and their partners expected it of them. Parenting, I realised, is an unpaid job, not a pastime.
Having children is really terrifying – I was freaked out just thinking about it between the hours of 9AM and 6PM. I can, however, say that I am now an expert at two-to-five hour-long stretches of looking after babies and semi-decent at five-a-side football. Mumsnet was a growing experience for me, and ultimately, I learned that while it might seem quite easy to pretend you know what a breast pump does when you're hidden behind a computer screen, when it comes to real-life motherhood, that takes some serious ovaries.
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