Is it ever OK to leave your baby home alone?
Would you leave your baby home alone?
How about if your child is sound asleep, and you're only going to be gone for a few minutes?
When a mother asked this question on parenting site Mumsnet, opinion was divided but the majority of responses involved a "hell, no!" in some form or another.
What the hundreds of commenters didn’t know was that the mother, who went by the username Dakin1, had already left her 10-month-old baby napping at home while she popped out to a shop 50 metres away and only posted to the site to gauge people’s opinions.
"I timed it hence knowing it took exactly seven minutes," she wrote. "Nothing bad happened whatsoever but I did worry. Was wondering if I had been completely out of order or if anyone else has done similar. The risks were so low (would a random fire really start in those seven minutes?) and she has never woken early… But wasn’t sure if I was trying to ease my guilt."
HappyAsASandboy said, "7 mins is a long time to scream and no one comes," while other users expressed concern about what could happen to the mother: "What if you got mugged, or hit by a car while you were out?"
Many users found it difficult to understand why the mother was even asking this question in the first place when she has two simple alternatives: to "wake the baby" and take her with her, or "ask a neighbour" to look after her.
However, other mums admitted to doing a similar thing on occasion. One pointed out that "it’s logically as risky as having a shower or going in the garden to hang out washing. It’s irrational to think popping out for 7 min is any different."
Where does the law stand on this issue? In Australia, there isn’t a legal age for leaving children home alone. In Queensland, if you leave a child under age 12 home alone for an "unreasonable time" you have committed a misdemeanour. What constitutes "unreasonable" depends on the circumstances, and criminal charges would only be brought if the child was left in a dangerous situation without food, clothing and accommodation. Victoria State Government states, "Babies and children should never be left home alone."
When the law doesn’t provide a definitive answer to a controversial parenting issue, what’s right and wrong is up to each individual parent to decide — and that’s the key to this story. Some parents wouldn’t leave their kid unsupervised for seven seconds, never mind seven minutes. And others would make a different call entirely.