This week though she managed to undo all the years of credible work by producing a new book in which she claimed, “young children can be ‘damaged’ by splitting their time between their parents if they are separated”.
She goes on to say “shuttling children backwards and forwards between two homes and allowing them to ‘sleepover’ with the parent they do not normally live with can affect the development of their brains.”
There probably was a time when her views were considered “expert” enough for courts to impose them on separating couples but today her comments are simply those of a dangerous and bigoted woman.
To say that sleepovers for young children are bad for them has to be one of the most outrageous things I have heard since Lucy Emmerson, co-ordinator of the Sex Education Forum announced that children should not be encouraged to kiss their relatives, as they are all potential child abusers!
In a country where nearly 4 million children are growing up without their father due to family breakdown we are sitting on a social time bomb and we have a responsibility to encourage more shared parenting and that includes “sleep-overs”.
Last week mum and dad were living together in the matrimonial home sharing the parenting and being parents to the children. There is nothing more unsettling for a child for one of those parents to suddenly vanish, or for them to be reduced to part-time baby-sitter, popping in to read a bed-time story.
With views like that of Penelope Leach that 4 million children figure will increase.
It is scientifically proven that children bond with whoever is the primary carer and that can be mum, dad or in many cases grandparents as grandparents are stepping in more often these days to help with childcare.
As we know, sadly even if Dad has been the main carer he is unlikely to get a court to agree to the child remaining with him and mum having to pop round and visit.
In the cases of divorce and separation the child can only continue to grow if both parents work together sharing the parenting and making sure the transitions between each parents home is a positive experience. Preventing a child staying over-night with dad rather than helping a child, damages a child.
Thousands of children up and down the country successfully live one week with mum and one week with dad. Even those who do not do it on a weekly basis consider they have 2 homes and are better for it and they slip seamlessly from one environment to another.
It is only when bitter fighting, uncertainty, parental alienation and confusion ensues that a child suffers and it mars that transition between homes.
Even the term “sleep-over” when referring to how a child spends their time with “dad” is derogatory and outdated. To imply that the mother is the “primary” carer, as organisations like the CSA and Local Authorities do is sexist. We would not stand for it if they were speaking about women like this, so why do we stand for it when its aimed at men?
This is precisely why Shared Parenting should be enshrined in law. We must move away from the current lexicon of sexist stereotypical language that implies a matriarchal society where fathers are simply there as cash-points and baby sitters.
Over-night staying time should be encouraged along with shared parenting as this helps establish and support positive relationships between children and both parents.
And lets be honest what mum juggling work and children would not like a night off from the kids and who better to look after them than dad.
The holes in Ms Leach’s theory resemble a bad 1980’s string vest.
Firstly, while these young children are being denied proper time with their fathers, they are being exposed to numerous “sleep-overs” with mums new boyfriend or a carrousel of boyfriends as can be the case.
Secondly, married businesswomen who are the main wage earner travelling away on business regularly leave their children at home with dad on his own. Are those children being harmed?
Thirdly, hundreds of MP’s have 2 homes and only see their children at weekends or fleetingly one night a week. I don’t hear her saying they should not see their children? If she had done though you could guarantee the law might suddenly change to resemble equal parenting.
What next from Penelope Leach and like-minded colleagues? Will they expand this view to say that children should not go and stay with Granny and Grandad?
The public is not free of guilt though when reports like this come out. Consider the up-roar if the report said that “sleepovers with mum were bad for the children”. Sadly it is still socially acceptable for many people to write reports like these attacking fathers and essentially saying they are a risk to children.
I say there is no place for reports like this is a progressive society where 84% of the public supports equal parenting.
Anyone who still claims that a child is closer to the mother indicating that fathers are a risk is living in stone age. Maybe its time for Ms Leach to put down her pen and enjoy retirement and if she has the luxury of grandchildren I can thoroughly recommend “sleep-overs” with them, as long as she does not read them her books at bedtime or they risk suffering from nightmares like many fathers.
JEREMY VINE – BBC RADIO 2
Fathers4Justice Campaign Director Nadine O’Connor interviewed by Jeremy Vine on BBC Radio 2 as part of a package about Penelope Leach’s comments on shared childcare. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N__XkW12C_o
BBC RADIO SOLENT
Fathers4Justice Campaign Director Nadine O’Connor interviewed on BBC Radio Solent as part of a package about Penelope Leach’s comments on shared childcare. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UH73smxFecs&feature=youtu.be