EPISODE #51

Real Teens, Fake Babies

EPISODE #51

Real Teens, Fake Babies

Welcome to the fourth and final episode of our Sex & Parenthood series!
We are proud to conclude the series as a co-production with the wonderful This American Life. Sex & Parenthood has generated some amazingly deep conversations about a topic we rarely talk about in a real way. Check out parts one, two, and three of the series and join the conversations in the comments!

Now, on to our story.
Did your high school health teacher ever try to teach you the risks of sex by making you carry around an egg and pretend it was a baby? These days, the pretending isn’t as much of a stretch. Lots of schools are opting to use robotic babies that cry throughout the day and night just like a real infant.

egg-squarebaby-closeup-square

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We followed two girls at Glen Ridge High School in Glen Ridge, New Jersey through their 48-hour stints with the babies.

Paige was brimming with maternal affection for her fake baby

Paige was brimming with maternal affection for her fake baby

Rachel just thought it would make for a fun story

Rachel just thought it would make for a fun story

Paige (left) identifies as Christian and conservative, and thinks premarital sex is one of the worst mistakes you can make. Rachel (right) identifies as bisexual and liberal, and thinks premarital sex is fine as long as it is consensual.

The babies accompanied the girls through their classes, and they had to stop whatever they were doing to feed, change, burp, and rock the babies each time they cried. (The cries, by the way, are pretty urgent—they are recordings of actual babies crying.)

Paige-gym-square-2Rachel-drama-square

But, like with real parenting, there were times when the girls couldn’t attend to their babies. For Rachel, it was when she was donating to the blood drive.

The baby looks peaceful here but it is screaming its little plastic head off

The baby looks peaceful here but it is screaming its little plastic head off

Paige’s most dramatic moment happened, literally, in drama club. I don’t want to give it away. But here are some hints.

Paige-EMS-squarePaige-drama-2-square

Listen to the story to hear how the girls managed the pressure of being woken up by a screaming robot all night long. And how just two nights with those robots impacted their feelings about sex … and motherhood.

Resources for talking to kids about sex
Check out our posts with great websites and books for talking to your kids about sex (or just pointing your teenager in the right direction).

Did YOU have to carry around an egg in high school?
Was it fun? Disastrous? Did it change your thoughts on sex or parenthood? Tell us EVERYTHING. Down there, in the comments. (We’d also love to hear from kids and parents of kids who have used the fake babies!)

CORRECTION: In the original intro to this story, I said that the electronic babies cost over $1000 each, including their accessories. The correct number is over $600.

Thanks to BWN, Podington Bear, Anthony Barilla & Merel van Dijk for music in this episode.

86 thoughts on “EPISODE #51: Real Teens, Fake Babies

  1. Just picked up with this podcast due to This American Life. As a soon to be father for the first time I will no doubt find myself tuning in, in the future. Paige’s voice was hilarious she needs to have her own podcast / youtube channel of her in extreme circumstances it would be gold.

  2. I also found this podcast through This American Life. This story really really resonated with me. I’m a mom to 1 year old twin girls, and the past year has been so very intense. I burst out laughing so many times hearing these girls reactions to their robotic babies. Thanks for the great stories.

  3. So when I did this robot baby thing, they weren’t as complex. there was no armband….you could ask someone to babysit, etc.

    However, there were different programs for different babies. some people had colic cry patterns, while some had “easy going” baby patterns. I think is possible that Paige had a more difficult baby, frankly. Or she just had bad luck with when it decided to cry. ::shrug::

    Nice story to listen to…but I really wasn’t sure about judging the girls as ready or not ready based on this project. Guess what? They aren’t ready. They don’t know what ready means. I’m 27 and work with children every day and I don’t know what ready means, either. So…I wish they’d cooled their jets on the melodramatic statements there at the end.

    Also, I know this keeps coming up, but I’ve never heard a voice like Paige’s before. I’ve never really heard a vocal intonation like it, at all! If anyone can tell me more about that speech pattern, I’d be obliged.

  4. I have an extremely hard time believing that wasn’t Maria Bamford playing “Paige” even after seeing the photos. My mind is blown LOL!

  5. That was such a great episode! I am in tears over Paige! I had the late model turn key robot baby. The thing cried every half hour and it made me late for school one day. It decided to cry as I was driving to school. I didn’t think it made an impact on me but now that I look back, the robot baby was a window into my life now. With a 4 year old I am late to work just about every single day.

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