Netmums turns 10 this year. We caught up with founder and mother-of-three, Siobhan Freegard, to find out how her site is helping new mums to make friends.
Why did you launch Netmums?
I had my daughter and it was when she was really tiny that the idea for Netmums came to me. The experience with my daughter was so much nicer than the first time around with my son because by then I had learned so much and met so many people.
It was great, but I could see all the new mums with their babies and I thought "they're going through what I went through when I had my son and it's so miserable!" So the idea was to create a lot of local information that would help new mothers.
What will mums find on Netmums?
Netmums is very community-based and when you join you join the local site for your area.
When you become a mum you start visiting toddler groups and coffee shops and going to things held in the basement of the local church hall. You start seeing your area in a whole new light and it really is underground information that's only passed on by word of mouth. That's what we do with Netmums.
So you'll find word-of-mouth information like the nice baby groups, the nearest baby gym, restaurants where they don't mind you bringing the baby, nice places for kids' birthday parties - all the things you want to know when you're a new mother.
How can mums meet other mums in their area?
The Meet a Mum message boards have allowed around 4000 mums a month to meet up and make friends, which I think is really quite special!
I wasn't sure if people were going to use them. But they absolutely embraced it and it's one of the most posted on areas of the site. It's a great place to network with other mothers and find people if you just want to have coffee or go to the park and moan about how much sleep you got.
What tips do you have for new mums?
The Nearly New boards – where you can sell your pram or highchair or other stuff – is really popular. Unlike eBay, you know that the person buying it is going to be just down the road from you.
What are the forums for?
We started out wanting to help and support mums. One of the very first investments we made was employing a counsellor. When you get a lot of women coming together in a supportive environment, very soon you get mums coming forward who have some problems.
We don't signpost it on the website – "victims of domestic violence over here!" – but we do find that we'll often draw out women who are in those situations who probably don't even realise they're being abused.
What are you plans for the future of Netmums?
We've got a contract from the government to provide support within Netmums. So we now have 38 parenting supporters to counsel mothers who are professionally trained in specific areas.
We've got over 100,000 mums logged in our case system as being helped directly by this programme, so we're doing the fun stuff, but we're also doing the serious stuff too.
Siobhan Freegard is a mother-of-three (Sean, 13, Aisling, 10 Aran, 7). She is the author of five books on parenting and she co-founded www.netmums.com in 2000 with Sally Russell and Cathy Court.
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