When you think of a new baby do you envision tiny toes and soft skin or do you immediately think of diapers, late night feedings and crying? Having a baby is a joyous occasion but it has its difficult moments.
Eighth grade students at Yavapai area schools try out being parents for a weekend through the Baby Ready or Not offered by the NorthStar Youth Partnership. Baby Ready or Not is a program that shows students what life might be like if they have a baby as a teenager.
“Teens think that babies are a lot of fun, but they don’t realize the responsibility and expense that comes along with it,” said Kasey Shaver, who leads the Baby Ready or Not classes. “Teen pregnancy often means having to put your dreams on hold to care for a baby.”
Taking a Baby Home
Students spend two hours on a Friday afternoon learning how to care for babies, and then take home a high-tech, computerized baby for the weekend. The experience simulates life with an infant. Students must feed, clothe and care for their assigned baby while keeping a journal to record their thoughts, feelings and experiences.
The computerized babies collect data all weekend. On Monday, Shaver is able to see how the students performed as a caregiver. Students also debrief and talk about their biggest struggles and what misconceptions they had before taking the baby home.
Shaver also teaches the students about the financial costs for having and raising a baby. Before the end of the weekend, students understand the impact a baby makes for them and their families.
Thoughts on Teen Pregnancy
When asked about teen pregnancy, one student said, “I think it’s best for teens to wait to have kids. They’re not emotionally ready at all. It’s very hard to care for a kid when you’re still a kid yourself. Teen’s aren’t experienced enough to have children.”
The experience proved more difficult than most of the students anticipated. “I now understand it’s a lot harder to do the regular things you do every day," said an eighth grade student. "Before this, I always wanted to know what it was like to be a teen mom and now I know, and it makes me want to wait and live my life as a kid.”
The students' parents are also asked to provide feedback about the experience. One parent said, “(My son) learned that babies require a lot of time and attention. When he becomes a parent, he knows now, that he will sacrifice a lot of personal time.”
Parents overwhelmingly feel that Baby Ready or Not is a good experience for their teens. “(My daughter) learned that taking care of a baby is a tremendous responsibility and very physically and emotionally exhausting,” said another parent.