'There's no way I would let Josh out with a bunch of other six-year-olds'
In the suburbs
Josh McCabe is the kind of little boy who makes you smile. He is bright and lively and has plenty to say for himself.
He is six years old and lives with his mum Claire Shiels, a nutrition coach, and dad Eoin McCabe, a life coach and motivational speaker. Josh lived in Baltinglass, Co Wicklow, until a few months ago, and now lives in Stillorgan in the Dublin suburbs. Claire and Eoin are self-employed and can manage their own time, and one or other of them picks Josh up from school - he's in senior infants - at about 1.30pm and is with him at home for the rest of the day.
"In the year before he went to school, he was in a playschool every morning, and before that, he went to a playgroup a couple of mornings a week," says Claire. "I have been at home with him mostly, or we muddled through with a mixture of family and friends.
"In Baltinglass, it was easier to give him time with friends. In Dublin, play dates seem to be limited to Fridays. There's a lot of driving involved."
Eoin, who grew up in a small town, sees huge differences between his own childhood and that of his son. "Child protection and safety concerns seemed to be almost non-issues for parents back then," he says.
"We played in and around the local river, in disused and abandoned houses, old car wrecks and sauntered through the town at the weekends like a bunch of little vagabonds, clueless and happy. Today, there is no way I would let Josh off out on the streets with a bunch of other six and seven-year-olds."
"I'd say Josh thinks it's unfair that he's not allow play iPad games more often, and he probably doesn't think the rules about treats are fair," says Claire. "He probably thinks it's unfair that his mum and dad work so much. Because we're both self-employed, you're constantly thinking: where's the next bit [of work] coming from. So while we're physically here a lot, we're not always mentally here."
Like a growing segment of Irish children, Josh is an only child. "I'm not coming down on one side or the other of the question of whether that's better for him or worse," says Claire. "There are benefits to both. Josh has a great ability to entertain himself and to communicate with adults. Maybe he misses that element of just getting on with things that you get with siblings."
Clare also sees big differences between Josh's childhood and her own. "Even though I've been at home with him, he hasn't had all my attention by any means. My mum was around a lot and very present. Maybe my take on all this is coloured a bit by feeling guilty. Josh's childhood isn't better or worse than mine - just different," she says.