Hi, my name is Conz Preti. I am 33 years old and recently married. I tell you all of these facts because in the last year or so people have been extremely comfortable asking me every time they see me if I will be having kids anytime soon. I usually give them a mean look and tell them it's none of their business, but the real answer is: I don't know. I go from 0 to 100 in the span of days, from really wanting a baby now to really enjoying the perks of being DINKs.
Recently I've become obsessed with the podcast The Longest Shortest Time, which touches on parenting, birth, reproductive health, and more. In Episode 51, they talked about fake babies given to teenagers in the US to teach them how hard having a baby is in order to reduce teen pregnancies. But it turns out that there's an Australian study that says the baby robot actually causes young girls to want to get pregnant. I was immediately fascinated, so I decided to adopt a baby robot from Realityworks to see how it made me feel about potentially being a mom at some point in my life. And before your roll your eyes and say that taking care of a robot baby is not like taking care of a real baby, I know — however, I have never really taken care of a real baby, so I felt this would be a nice small step without putting any of my friends' kids in danger.
I was given the choice to pick my baby's race but not its gender.
I decided to name the baby Turbo, because it's both cool and kinda robotic.
Turbo arrived in the office with all his accessories to survive a week with me: diapers, bottle, clothing, a diaper bag for me to carry everything around in, and a car seat. I put the boxes near my desk, and I could see coworkers notice the car seat and smile at me. Shit, do they think I'm pregnant now?
The instructions for Turbo were pretty clear.
1. The Realityworks babies not only show you how to take care of a baby, but also record how successful you are at it, giving you a grade at the end of the experiment.
2. I had to take proper care of him, which meant feeding him, burping him, rocking him, and changing his diaper. This all sounded pretty straightforward, except for the changing diapers — I already hated that part.
3. I was not supposed to mishandle him or I would get points deducted, which meant no shaking him, making sure to provide proper head support, no rough handling, and not leaving the baby in the wrong position.
4. Turbo also came with a thermometer to register the temperature throughout the experiment, to make sure I didn't leave him out in the cold or have him melt — you know, things you need to worry about with actual babies.
Coincidentally, the first day of my experiment was "bring your kid to work day," which made me feel confident that today was going to be ok...until I stepped out on the street.
At work, things were not at all easier.
Turbo started crying and I did not know how to make him stop. Suddenly the entire office was staring at me, or at least that's how it felt to me, and I understood those poor parents on planes holding a kid who's going apeshit. Completely mortified and apologetic, I ran to a meeting room to try to quiet down Turbo. I didn't want to bother my coworkers, and I also wanted to be able to tend to Turbo's needs without interruptions.
I wanted to stay hiding in the meeting room all day, but I had a bunch of real meetings to attend. I wanted to keep the baby turned on, but I also couldn't interrupt some of those meetings. I waited as long as I possibly could, but the moment my phone rang for a call, he started crying. So I had to put Turbo in "daycare mode," which basically means the baby stays quiet for the amount of hours you select. He still records temperature, movement, and head support, but he doesn't scream or coo.
How do working parents do this? Like 100% respect to them.
I thought once I was at home things were going to be easier, but obviously I was wrong. My dogs really hated the baby, and they would bark when he cried, which made the baby cry more (or was it all in my head?), which then made the dogs bark louder.
I quickly realized that the key to being a parent is multitasking, but multitasking is also almost impossible. I learned this the hard way when I went to pick up Turbo's bottle from the floor while holding him and accidentally bashed his head against the counter. He didn't like it at all, and I wanted to cry because I thought I had killed my baby robot after less than 24 hours together. I really hoped this didn't mean I was getting a bad grade by the end of all of it, but I also knew I was most definitely not getting an A+.
I cheated the first night.
Our dogs were very suspicious of the new visitor at home.
I woke up super early and decided to work from home because I didn't want to relive the scene of the baby crying in the office and everyone staring at me with judgy eyes. Since I was up earlier, I started working earlier, but stepping out of the room to shower or brush my teeth gave me intense anxiety!
Who knew showering, something I enjoyed so much before and took my time with, could be so nerve-racking and anxiety-inducing? Must do it fast before baby cries!
I was also slowly starting to lose it. I put eye cream all over my face without noticing. And I could not keep track of where my phone or the remote for the TV were. Also my dark eyes were like WHOA!
I figured out how to take selfies and text while feeding Turbo. Am I doing this right?
I realized I've been calling him by his name. I talk to my friends about Turbo as if it were a baby. This is starting to get creepy. I'm starting to get attached, and I honestly don't recognize myself. WHO AM I?
Why does Turbo sleep when I'm not doing anything, but cry the second I am busy? Does he know? I think he knows.
I slept like shit. Turbo cried, the dogs barked, there was a thunderstorm. I have plans to go to brunch and hang out with friends, and all I wanna do is go back to sleep. Ugh. Also my dark eyes have never been darker.
Now when Turbo cries I feel less anxious. Before, I'd run to him and try to feed, hold, burp, and change him all at the same time to calm him down. Now I'm just chill. I've started to be able to read his cries. For example, when he wants a diaper change, he does a little cough before, so I know exactly what he needs. My friends with kids compare this sound to a baby pooping but also tell me babies don't have a prerecorded sound, so you can't always guess the reason why they are crying. Just when I was feeling like a baby whisperer.
I have caught myself smiling when he giggles and coos randomly. OOOOMMMFFFFFGG AM I BECOMING ATTACHED TO A ROBOT? This would totally explain why some teenagers get pregnant after this experiment. Turbo has been keeping me company and I feel like we are a team now.
I thought I was doing really well for a first-timer. Well, except those two times I broke his neck. Once was when I dropped his bottle and went to pick it up and bonked his head against the kitchen counter (oops), and, as he should, he yelled so hard I was afraid the neighbors were going to kick me out of the building. The second time was when I had the smart idea of putting him into his PJs to go to bed and...broke his neck again. I also dropped beer on the baby while trying to rock it and drink at the same time. Is parenting just a ton of multitasking?
I've been getting a TON of good parenting advice from actual parents who are enjoying my experiment. Starting with "babies are made to last," which is probably the one thing I needed to hear after feeling like a failure.
I expected that by now things would be easier. Foolish me. I fell asleep on the couch at some point and was woken up at 1:30 a.m. by the baby crying. I was so disoriented and tired and had no clue what he needed. Weirdly enough, I was able to sleep more than the other nights, but I was SOOOOOOO TIRED.
I stopped multitasking when I fed him, and it was kind of enjoyable. I would put him on my belly and he would drink away and OMG WHAT THE FUCK IS HAPPENING THIS IS NOT ME.
This day was a real struggle. I was exhausted and my brain could not function properly. I canceled all plans I had and just lay in bed doing nothing. I tried to nap, but my dog barked, woke me up, and then woke the baby up, and that was the end of fun times.
People have been looking at me with the most confused looks, and I don't blame them. I've had a lot of moms smile at me when they see me carry the car seat only to look away in horror when they realize it's just a doll. I get it, though — I'm old enough for this to be a real baby, but too old for this to be a doll.
Turbo was gone and I suddenly felt like I had too much time to kill and didn't know what to do. I felt weird not doing something while also keeping an ear out for crying or worrying if he was comfortable.
My day seemed never-ending without all the tasks that I had been doing around Turbo. And to be honest, I feel a little sad that he's not around anymore.
However, I don't miss the mess our apartment was thanks to Turbo. There were diapers and blankets and baby clothes EVERYWHERE.
On the final day, I got my results. The total score is out of 100, and it's based on how successful I was at performing all the things the baby needed, how fast I came to the baby when he cried, and if I kept him at a safe temperature.
I got an 88% overall, which makes me proud considering I'VE NEVER TAKEN CARE OF A BABY BEFORE. Like, I babysat for the first time at age 33 (meaning within the last year), and I didn't even have to change diapers! So for someone who was doing all of this for the first time, I felt great. But then I noticed that because I bumped his head twice and broke his neck two other times, that was reduced to 64% and I felt a little...bad.
Also, I didn't change his clothes every day, which is something you are supposed to do with babies, I guess? I assumed since he wasn't getting dirty and he looked comfy in his PJs, what was the point in risking breaking his head again? I was wrong.
My results broken down by category.
The baby was also taking the temperature, and I think I did pretty well overall.
Things I learned from this experiment:
* I have a new appreciation for working parents with dogs. Like, HOW? Give me all your secrets, because I need to know!
* I have no idea how to change a diaper. Never have. Ever. I'm scared of doing it for real.
* Now I understand why kids slowly take over their parents' house. It's impossible not to have baby stuff everywhere, just in case.
* I'm never looking meanly at parents with crying babies on a plane again. So many times there was nothing I could do to calm Turbo down, and I can't even start to imagine how these parents feel when an entire plane is staring at them. So, my bad, parents. My bad.
* Going out was such an ordeal. I needed to make sure I had everything he could possibly need, and stuff him into a baby carrier without hurting him, all while trying not to die from sweating and remembering to bring all my things.
* I want to have my own real Turbo, but I'm going to have to let go of a lot of things. I know that might seem obvious to current parents or people who always dreamed of having kids, but as an only child with older parents, this is new to me.
* Turbo is a pretty cool name for a kid, tbh.
From Turbo's makers:
"The RealCare Baby infant simulator is combined with curriculum and used by educational institutions to teach, demonstrate and allow participants to experience what it is like to be a parent. The infant simulators will register and record a user's interaction. Users will be evaluated on the simulators' demands for feeding, burping, rocking, and diapering 24-7. Users are also evaluated on any mishandling events with the simulator including shaken baby and proper head support as well as exposure to temperature extremes among others. At the end of the program the computer inside the simulator will provide a full report of the user's ability to address the needs of the infant."