During transition year, students in Ardscoil Rath Iomghain are offered the opportunity to take part in a fantastic experience of virtual parenting.
A ‘real care baby’ is in effect a doll programmed to behave just like a real baby would. These babies need to be fed regularly, winded, changed and comforted just like a newborn baby would.
Many students reported being woken up to the sound of their baby crying at night from four to six times and having to tend to their virtual baby’s needs. Amber Dowling reports having to get her sister home from a night out to help her manage. Amber’s baby was particularly difficult and just wouldn’t give her a break. Amber also found shopping with her baby a real burden however she said that the lack of sleep was by far the worst part of the experience. She admits to having lived for the moment when her ‘virtual baby’ would be handed back in and turned off.
The experience for Amber, although exhausting, was so worth while in her opinion. She says she has no intention of becoming a parent until well into her twenties. She believes this brief encounter with parenting a new born, all be it a doll, gave her such a valuable insight into the freedom she enjoys as a teen and the absolute lack of it if she were a parent. She freely admits the responsibility was just far too much and she likes her sleep and carefree youth more then she originally realised. Laughing she stated “thankfully I could just hand it back to Ms. Keenan and walk away”.
All other TY students, boys and girls alike, mirrored Amber’s feelings. The resounding response was gratitude to Ms. Keenan (their fantastic TY co-ordinator) and utter relief that the parenting role was only a brief two-day experience.