The trouble with internet reading today, is that people, often literally, take what they’re given. There is an entire science dedicated to how we scan online content and it varies considerably to how we read paper materials, like books. Most of the time, we take a headline or phrase and forget to read the rest.
For those of you who did read on, you will have noted that Penelope Leach’s sentiment was actually not a one size fits all policy, but a general principle, in a very specific context – that of divorcing or separating couples. This, we think, is important to remember.
Whilst our views on overnight stays may not be palatable to all, we thought we would clarify them for you, below. We would like to thank those of you who were patient enough to read our views and to probe us further. We have a long relationship with many of you, which we value, and this week so many of you have trusted us, and listened. We thank you all, very much.
So, here are our views on that statement about overnight contact, which has now become infamous in England at least, thanks to some very mischievous marketers and journalists, no doubt.
On the view that under fives should not, as a general rule, have overnight contact with the non primary carer:
We do not think this is a gender issue, or a fathers’ rights issue.
We believe that where children have been successfully co-parented, or cared for by several people well, that overnight stays are unlikely to be an issue.
However, issues do arise where the enforcing parent/ party is in conflict with the other parent/ party Or, where there has been a ‘traditional’ family set up and baby has not established enough of a relationship with the enforcing parent/ party.
These last two scenarios are quite common, and so they are important. We forget that whilst a lot of parents have started to co-parent, there is still a significant volume of parents who are not doing that, for all sorts of reasons.
So yes, under fives should not have to experience overnight stays without mum, if dad has not been co-parenting and the child is clearly distressed at the thought.
As a final thought we would like to add this: the sentiment above does not equate to our feeling dad/ mum should not be able to be with their child overnight.
As we mention in the radio interview, there are all sorts of wonderful ways of getting around that. We gave the example of Sweden – where it’s common practice for the parents to revolve around the child and for the main residence/ family home to be the child’s base. That way, dad/ mum can stay the night, with the other parent there, so that the child is in a familiar place, with his or her parent/s.
The truth is, the only reason these obstacles arise in the first place is because parents refuse to put their differences aside so that they can focus on parenting instead. It’s much easier, after all, for so many, to war with the other parent than to get down to the serious job of child care.