hould we have to pass a test before we are allowed to become parents? Or is the reality of restricting procreation to those who demonstrate they are capable of nurturing and instinctive parental love a flagrant disregard of our basic human rights?
Sue Atkins, author of Parenting Made Easy and Parenting for Dummies kicked off the debate. “At times parenting can feel like training jelly – all wobbles and no rules.” Agreeing that it is not easy to raise a balanced, useful member of society, Sue is concerned that parents are reluctant to ask for help, no matter what their background and that training is better than testing. “Parenting is one of the most important jobs in the world and yet we get no training for it. I don’t mean the extremes of Super Nanny, just ordinary everyday skills.”
Journalist Tom Latcham, the only man in the group, argued that the subject is surrounded by snobbery and hypocrisy. “Popular opinion appears to be that thick poor people should be prohibited from having kids and yet Prince Harry is a thick Royal and he could potentially father the next heir to the throne!” Tom has yet to enjoy the parenting role and the prospect terrifies him. A parenting test could be likened to passing your driving test and then crashing into the barriers. “After all, what moron would leave a child in a pub? Oh yes the same moron who put George Osborn in charge of the economy!” Tom concluded that no government has the right to decide who has a child or not.
Our lovely local representative couldn’t be better qualified. Frankie Nowne, as a youth magistrate and a member of a local adoption panel, questioned what the criteria would be for a parenting test, financial or genetic? “The Australian government has just apologised for giving children away born to mothers who didn’t pass the marriage test.” Frankie believes that there is a robust system in place to audit childcare and safety. Adoptive parents have to go through rigorous and intrusive tests but at the end of the day all children need is unconditional love.
Rachel Tonkin, a Senior Communications Officer with Parenting UK, wondered how many times parents should take the test as parenting changes as a child grows up. “It’s very different for toddlers and teenagers”. Lots of things happen during any childhood which will affect the way they are parented, be that divorce, bereavement, changes in physical and mental health. The single most important thing Rachel feels is “to reduce the stigma of asking for help.” Their helpline received over 8.6 million queries last year according to Rachel “Not seeking help is, in fact, failing you child.”
The debate opened to the audience and issues such as the environment children are brought up in,, parenting lessons in schools, financial circumstances and level of education were raised, some quite vocally. When put to the vote the motion was denied – unanimously, which is a first for Table Talks at The Bell.
And, at the end of the day, parenting should be a joy, not a burden.