Am I good parent? This is a question regularly posed, ironically, by good parents everywhere.
Anyone who has packed off their pop sock wearing poppet to school with a sniffle or dismissed fears of teddy bear eating monsters lurking under the bed with a snort and a wave of a hand will understand the burden of being a conscientious, responsible adult.
There are myriad reasons why parenthood is such a big ask – my Achilles’ heel is leading by example as I am the last person to lecture on table manners or not snacking between meals – but perhaps the biggest challenge we face is the opinion of others. Or at least our perception of it.
I am not talking about whether we give a monkey’s that others may pass judgement on the nipper’s unkempt hair or scuffed school shoes, more the opinion of a wider society.
In recent weeks, there has been much debate as to whether or not this country requires a ‘Home Alone’ law which will give parents clear guidelines on how long and from what age a child can be left alone. The clamour follows the case of a mum who received a caution after leaving her six-year-old for 45 minutes while she attended a driving lesson.
It is a case which has prompted much hysterical debate among those who get themselves into a tizzy over the vexed question of breast or bottle. The law is pretty clear cut: parents face prosecution if an unsupervised child is at risk of unnecessary suffering or injury.
As the father of a five-year-old, I cannot understand how any parent can consider it acceptable to leave someone so young alone for any period of time. It goes against that universal safety net of parental instinct which means that Wotsits for breakfast and juggling knives on the M6 are both no nos.
Clarification of this particular law is unnecessary as everybody knows what is right and wrong here – if you have to ask yourself if leaving young Timothy or Tamsin while you nip to the Horse and Groom is the right thing to do then it probably isn’t.
Every child is different so a one-size-fits-all set of guidelines would be unworkable and, of course, there are some circumstances when leaving a child on their own would not be beyond the pale. As easy as it is for us to smugly sit here and declare ‘I would never do that’, we could all do to remember life as a mum or dad isn’t that straightforward.