Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Karen Bartlett

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Karen Bartlett

Article excerpt

Byline: By Karen Bartlett

Being a child today seems to be very hard work.

All right, not in the sense of street urchins being sent up chimneys, but hard in that for a lot of children every hour of the day is as structured as something their working mothers might tap into a Palm Pilot.

No doubt some of them do.

We're all worried about it.

Just what is happening to the fabric of family life in Britain? It is a conversation that's captivated the country ( at work, in cafes.

Mostly in places where men meet in between long hours at the office and share their worries about what the missus might be up to. Is she giving the kids their tea on time?

The missus is never there ( she's obviously working.

"How was your day at the office?" a little boy I know always asks. "Fine," his mother says, playing along. "How was your day at the office?"

And he furrows his brow and puts his backpack down, just like he's been toiling over a powerpoint presentation.

He is closely monitored for signs that he is turning into a mini-psychopath, as recent research suggested he might if exposed to too much day care.

So far there are none, but it is true that while he has many lessons, and much coaching in everything from football to Spanish to art, he has none of the endless hours of doing absolutely nothing that children from an earlier era would remember.

And in some ways, when he says something odd and unexpected, it's obvious, of course, that the long stretches of time he spends away from home makes him mostly a stranger.

Childhood has become a moral battleground.

What exactly does the Government want to tell those hard-working, decent families it hopes to woo in the polling booth?

Should all women work in offices? Or have more children? Or work in offices and have more children?

The first thing the Government should do is be upfront about what they mean. Women should have the opportunity to do exactly what they want to do. …

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