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Justine Roberts: The Mumsnet founder on football, families, and - of course - penis beakers

The Mumsnet mastermind discusses the prejudices of motherhood and why she doesn't miss being a sports journalist
  • @adamjacques88

I never thought mumsnet would become this big

When it started [in 2000] I had many aliases and I would go on forums to ask myself questions [to answer]. I remember one moment when a pregnant friend told me about palpitations and I ruthlessly told her to ask on Mumsnet. I felt guilty about [the subterfuge], but by the time I'd logged on again to reply, she'd already gotten an answer from someone else – and I remember punching the air.

There is a prejudiced view that mums are dull Which is why some people found the "penis beaker" thread on the Mumsnet forum surprising [the discussion, about one couple's post-coital cleaning ritual, went viral, doubling traffic to the site]. We were all laughing at it in the office, though we have a thread like that every day: there's a lot of gallows humour of women dealing with the ups and downs of family life and they can be hilarious and witty and all things mums are not meant to be.

I still get things wrong as a parent Every time I get shouty (a lot) or one of my younger boys does something unspeakable, they'll merrily chant, "Call yourself a parenting guru!" It's become a bit of a joke in my house with my teen daughters, in particular [Roberts has four children]. I shout back, "No, I don't and never have!"

I see a lot of misogyny around The discussion right now, of course, is about Richard Scudamore, the head of the Premier League, whose emails to his friends discussed women's anatomy and how stupid and irrational women are. And of course there was that horrific Facebook rape group. We complained and got the page taken down.

I used to feel like the person who never had ideas Growing up, if you belonged to my family you were organised, but uncreative. So it came as a surprise to learn that I did have ideas– though half are crap. You can label yourself, but you should always give yourself opportunities to challenge that.

I couldn't go back to corporate life [Roberts began her career as an economist]. It was the bureaucracy of it: having to fill in so many forms; all the jargon and what I called lip-service meetings, which were so obsessed with collaborative decision making, but no one ever made a decision!

I've wasted so much of my life watching football I'm a Liverpool fan, my husband supports Arsenal. So the rest of our family is split down the middle: two of our kids support my team, the other two have taken my husband's [side].

I don't miss being a sports journalist [Roberts spent several years as a freelance football and cricket writer]. During the football games I covered, I wasn't really viewing and enjoying the spectacle, I was just hoping no one scored last minute and wrecked the intro to the piece I'd already written. It's not the same thing as enjoying the drama of the game [as a spectator].

Food is such an emotive thing for parents It's often the only thing you have control over and you feel that if you can get them to eat [well], you are a good parent. But it's not always so easy: a friend of mine ended up feeding her child Hula Hoops with cheese hidden inside as the only way to get protein into their diet. Parents don't have time to grate polenta or spend hours turning things into smiley faces, which is why we came up with the idea of a crowd-sourced cookery book tested by thousands of Mumsnet users.

Justine Roberts, 46, is the founder and CEO of Mumsnet (mumsnet.com). 'Top Bananas!', a collection of recipes, tried and tested by Mumsnet users, is out now (£20, Bloomsbury) mumsnet.com