My name is Kirsty. I'm a Mumsnetter - but it's not just penis beakers we've got an opinion on

We have a view about everything - and a special language we all understand

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The Independent Online

I've got a confession, after dark I lead a secret life; I assume another identity one that even my dear husband knows nothing of.  As my two youngest children are tucked up, one already asleep and the other drifting off, I sit perched on one of their beds, my face illuminated by my tablet, chatting to strangers all around the country.

You see, I'm a Mumsnetter.  We're edgy, irreverent and love a good yarn.  We've got an opinion about everything and special language and emoticons that we all understand. We give virtual pieces of cake, brews and occasionally biscuits, ( as in, 'that takes the'). It's like belonging to an exclusive club, yet no one there knows you.  We all use a nickname, some more imaginative than others.  Mine's rather boring, I'd love something esoteric like Heathcliff's Window but I expect moniker's already floating around in cyberspace.

It's not only the feeling of belonging that I love about Mumsnet but the varied content that fills its pages.  Recently my trusty washing machine developed a pungent smell.  My first port of call for advice was Mumsnet.  A quick post was met with the recommendation of a hot wash with some cider vinegar.  Minutes later I was discussing the niceties of vagina etiquette' but it might have easily been my views on someone's chosen baby names or the suspicious behaviour of another poster's husband.

The diversity of the site is where its appeal lies.  There are threads about feminism, current affairs or health issues.  Diametrically opposed are the fabulous 'Am I Being Unreasonable?' where you can find topics such as 'AIBU to feel positively evangelical about electronic cigarettes?' Or 'Chat' which often produces classics like' Errmm, have they just gendered Kinder Eggs?'

So it came as no surprise to me when #penis beaker captured the public's imagination and went viral all over Twitter. I suspect Penisbeakergate will go down, if you pardon the pun, in Mumsnet's annals as one of its funniest threads.  The question has to be why.  Why the beaker and secondly why post a thread about it on Mumsnet?  Well probably because it's the only place anywhere that I can think of for someone to ask questions about other people's after-sex routine.  As the replies came in thick and fast I found myself guffawing and sniggering at the comments; just like a naughty schoolgirl in the playground.  You see on Mumsnet it doesn't matter how old you are or what you look like, you are part of the gang.

Not that we approve of everything though.  Holding a kid's party whilst suffering from a sick bug, as one poster did over the weekend will earn you an almost universal flaming.  We don't like the passing around of bugs or unfaithful partners either.  We hold no truck with sexism and we believe in a woman's right to choose, after becoming a parent, whether to return to the workplace or not. As an entity Mumsnet seems to be a barometer of our current social mores.  It's also a very disparate, yet powerful, tribe that uses its influence for lobbying and campaigns; recently the excellent 'This is my Child' which highlights people's attitudes to children with special needs.

So why is it so successful? I think it's because of our human need to communicate. Even if it's about the mundanity of a smelly domestic appliance or a post-coital cleansing routine, we love talking and in today's screen dominated society we've found a different way of doing that.

I've given myself a limit now - only after the kids are asleep - and I'm trying to curb my habit of taking my iPad to bed with me, after all, I do need to speak to people in real life too.