In a recent article in Sociology, Joe Bailey maps out some important recent developments in sociological theorising, which he represents as ‘the private’. In this he seeks to use ‘the private’ for one particular sociological purpose, but may be in danger of obscuring other purposes that may also be important. In his discussions he largely neglects the considerable body of feminist literature around public and private, drawing very heavily instead on recent writings by some prominent male sociological theorists. Most significantly, he subsumes family life within his category of intimacy, but this may obliterate some ideas about ‘families’. Furthermore, parent–child relationships are about a great deal more than intimacy, not least because there are real issues of power involved. Our own concerns with the concepts of public and private have been to illuminate different ways of being that are associated with different sorts of social spaces. We outline four main tensions that may become overlaid to create extensive differences in ways of being, including a tension around differing understandings of the individual. In particular, we point out the significance of childhood and children in these tensions around public and private social spaces, and their associated practices and orientations.