Parental challenge is rude awakening

Gemma with the virtual baby
Gemma with the virtual baby
Share this article

THE virtual babies programme run by the Phoenix Youth Centre begins again next week to inform and educate Daventry teenagers about sex, relationships and pregnancy.

Running over 10 weeks, the programme addresses core issues such as self-esteem and healthy relationships, as well as looking at the challenges associated with pregnancy and parenthood.

Gemma with the virtual baby

Gemma with the virtual baby

A big part of the programme involves teens taking home a ‘virtual baby’ which is set to one of 50 levels based on the behaviour of a real baby.

Wanting appreciate the full experience, I agreed to ‘adopt’ a baby for the weekend.

On the first night the baby woke up seven times and no amount of chatting to mothers beforehand or reading online blogs could have prepared me for the way I felt after the fourth crying fit and late night feed.

It really was exhausting, because, unlike a real baby the doll didn’t have any adorable perks or cute noises, and unlike the attachment a parent would have to a child, I had numb anger and discontent at being awoken seven times by a social experiment.

Gemma changing virtual baby

Gemma changing virtual baby

So, even after night one I began to see the point of the project.

On day two I took the baby shopping. I had plenty of things on my list but, due to the logistics of trying to shop with a baby in one arm and the constant fear that it may start crying, I found the task very difficult.

I felt very embarrassed to be carrying a doll at 23 years old, which is one of the only pitfalls to the virtual baby project, as people were confused by the almost-realistic sound of a crying baby and tended to stare.

However it was those complex feelings of tiredness and stress that made the experience such an eye-opener. It is hard work to go about your daily life with a baby in tow. It is heavy and fragile and needs constant attention. I quickly realised just how challenging that can be. Therein lies the value of this ingenious programme. It offers an invaluable insight into the trials of motherhood – with the option of an off button!

The Phoenix Youth Centre, off Ashby Road, still has places left on the programme, which begins on Monday, October 15.

Organisers, Clair Griffin and Lindsey Dodds, from the youth centre, can be contacted on 01327 703864 or about places.