Rachel Stevens shouldn't be berated for leaving her kids alone in a car
Would you leave your children alone in your car? Perhaps you would if you knew they’d be safe. It’s one of those judgement calls parents have to make, the sort of daily decision that isn’t black and white (or covered in the parenting books).
Unfortunately it’s also the sort of decision that can trigger a backlash. If you’re a celebrity, that is. When I read about Rachel Stevens leaving her kids unattended in her car in London a few days ago my initial reaction wasn’t, “Wow, what a bad call!” It was, “Wow, I’m so glad I’m not famous.”
The former S Club 7 star is believed to have left her daughters, 4-year-old Amelie and 18-month-old Minnie, alone in her car for around 10 minutes while she ran errands.
A witness told the Mirror: "At first I didn't realise they were in the car on their own or how young one of them was but when I did it was quite shocking. I suppose I think about the worst-case scenario but what if they took off the handbrake or managed to get out of the car? Or if someone managed to get in?"
Before we all rush to jump on the judgy-judgy bandwagon let's think about the last time our toddlers acted up in the supermarket — every parent has been there and, if they haven’t, they’re obviously lucky enough to have someone else to do their supermarket shopping for them. You know what I’m talking about. Screaming for sweets, running up and down the aisles, or lying on the floor next to the baked beans having a full-scale tantrum.
That alone is tough enough to deal with. Now imagine the entire episode is splashed all over the Internet, complete with judgement and criticism from a whole range of people who’ve never even met you.
Again, I'm so glad I'm not famous.
"Supernanny" Jo Frost has been one of the lone voices to speak up in defence of Stevens this week.
Frost wrote on Twitter: "I'm sure @MsRachelStevens is now aware that her parenting choice was not a smart one but truly so fed up with celebs being publicly shamed."
She's absolutely right. Is it possible that the biggest threat to modern kids (and, by association, their parents) is not being left alone in a car for 10 minutes but the constant undercurrent of criticism levelled at absolutely every aspect of how we look after our children?
The official Government guidelines on leaving children unattended leave the decision to the parent.
According to the Children and Young Person's Act, "The law doesn’t say an age when you can leave a child on their own, but it’s an offence to leave a child alone if it places them at risk. Use your judgement on how mature your child is before you decide to leave them alone, e.g. at home or in a car."