Mama OWL Blog: The Teen Parenting Project

The Teen Parenting Project

Tuesday, 23 April 2013

This weekend A brought home my first Grandchild.

Okay, so it was made of plastic and pretty creepy looking but still. As part of Child Development, A was responsible for taking care of a 'virtual baby' from Friday-Monday. The baby simulator looks like a regular baby doll but is computer programmed and has sensors to enable its carer to cater to its needs.

It is pre-programmed and A's performance with caring for the virtual baby - we'll call it VB - will be checked by her teacher when it is returned to school. On Friday after school she brought VB home on the bus in a baby carrier, complete with bag full of clothes and items it needs for its care. She took great delight in pretending that it was real, being the wind-up merchant that she is.

Friday evening, A discovered that making snacks one-handed is not particularly easy and so balanced VB on the kitchen table with a wet wipe pillow... FAIL. Then when she was eating the snack, A learned that babies wake up at inopportune moments (like when you're trying to eat), and so A enlisted the help of E to hold VB's bottle so that she could eat her snack... FAIL.
Unfortunately VB decided to be hard work and cried on & off all of Friday evening, and then went on to wake A three times during the night for over an hour at a time. VB's needs vary like those of a real baby, so VB needed changing four times, feeding, burping, and rocking. I went in to see A in the morning before I went out, she lifted her dishevelled head and stared at me, bleary eyed, before it registered that I was talking to her. I won't lie, it was very funny.

When I returned on Saturday afternoon, A was still in her PJs and hadn't done the couple of jobs I asked if she would do for me while I was out. She explained that every time she went to start, VB had cried & she had to rock/wind/feed/change it. I had to laugh, because she told me this like I didn't have any idea that this happens.

VB went on to be rather fussy all evening, much to A's disgust and her mood & attitude deteriorated as time went on. She became more and more snappy & impatient and twice I had to chastise her for snapping at E. VB only woke twice during the night, which meant that A had a better night's sleep and therefore Sunday morning she was in a slightly better mood. Not much, but a little.

As part of the project she had to take VB out of the home environment, so she strapped VB in the carrier and then complained about having to take a bag with the baby's things in it. It was the smallest bag ever, containing the bottle and nappy. I pointed out that an actual baby's changing bag is considerably larger and requires many more things, and to think herself lucky that that's all she had to take with her. My changing bags generally doubled up as my handbag and ended up containing all sorts & was more like a suitcase!
She got the train and met her friends in town, and spent the day wandering around. When she got home she reported that VB had cried almost all day again, and that one hilarious individual had hit VB in the back and made it cry so she was going to have another 'mishandle' on the report (the first one was when E had tried to pick it up to play with it).

Come the evening, VB chose to cry at dinner time again which meant that A had to try and balance the baby & bottle while trying to eat at the same time. She did manage to find an effective way of doing this, not dissimilar to my own "managing to eat while feeding baby" methods I had employed with my newborns which I found amusing. It reached a point where she was actually counting down the hours until she could return VB to school - brilliant!

Monday morning, A was sat holding it ready to take it back to school, she was exhausted and had had quite enough of it by then.
It didn't cry during the night (I would expect because she had to get up for school!) but it was fussy all evening which had really naffed her off.

E however was rather upset that VB was going back to her 'mummy' (ie, school) & cried because she had enjoyed doting on it like it was a real baby.

The only down side for me with this project was that I must have some programming of my own that wakes me up when I hear any old baby crying because it disturbed me all weekend (not as much as it did A though, ha!). I think it is a fantastic project and never mind being designed to make teenagers think carefully about the consequences of their actions, if I was considering having another baby (which I most certainly am not) then it would have put me right off!

Of course it is not exactly like having a real baby because it is, of course, a doll, and you can hand it back at the end of the weekend - but in my opinion it is realistic enough in its behaviour to give a good idea of exactly what sort of attention a baby demands.

It has certainly been a rude awakening for A... At 1am... 3am.... 5am...


  1. Best blog post ever, I laughed quite hard and got hiccups lol... thank god we didnt have them when I was at school.. xx

  2. Hahahaha brilliant! Mind you my teen living with her baby brother has been enough to put her off, even without the night waking!

  3. What a great idea! Definitely something that all teenagers should try!

  4. Brilliant, that made me laugh. What a great deterrent to teenagers seeing babies as an easy option.

  5. I had to laugh! I remember getting this doll in college and it annoyed me so much that I rang college a day early to get them to take it back LOL i was in tears when I got home through exhaustion ;-)

  6. Brilliant! I laughed SO much reading this.

    I think every teenager should have a VB for a weekend! What a good idea. xx

  7. Although A might not agree, this seems like a wonderful experience for a teenager.

    Welcome to Collective Bias!

  8. Love this blog post - that is such a good idea for teens to know and understand what it's like to look after a baby - interesting that she was sad to see it go back to "mummy". Also thought it was funny that you automatically woke up at the sound of a crying baby - I think this is in-built as soon as you become a parent.

    Laura x

  9. Wow What a weekend! Great idea to get teens to realise how hard life is with a baby

  10. I was a teen mum and although it was unplanned it was a massive shock to the system that I did actually enjoy. But I do believe that these dolls can really help tackle the teen mothers who are trying to trick boys into getting them pregnant because they want someone to love them! Sounds like it has given alot of girls a wake up call. Out of interest do young lads get given them as well do you know?

  11. Oh my sides hurt!
    I love this idea, well done to the school and to A for not giving up.

  12. This is fantastic! I kind of feel sorry for A but it obviously had it's desired purpose.

  13. That is so funny! I always wondered what those things were like! Hope the teen enjoyed her week as mummy ;) lol x


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