Exclusive interview: Natalie of The Baby Borrowers discusses attachment parenting, teen pregnancy

A couple of weeks ago I shared my feelings regarding NBC’s reality TV show “The Baby Borrowers.” If you are unfamiliar with the premise of the show, it takes five teenage couples through a crash course in adulthood tasking them with responsibilities such as a house payment, a job, and for three days, the care of a baby (and later a toddler, pre-teen, teenager and elderly person).

As I mentioned in that post, I was surprised to find out one of the moms of the borrowed children – Natalie Nichols – practiced many aspects of attachment parenting (AP). I couldn’t stop thinking about her and wondering if my initial visceral reaction to the show was entirely warranted or if, like in any situation, there were two sides to the story.

I decided to go straight to the source to find out more about what motivated Natalie to lend her infant daughter (Etta – 6 months at the time of the show) and toddler son (Benjamin – 2 years at the time of the show) to The Baby Borrowers (to be cared for by teen “parents” Kelsey and Sean) and to find out if there was more going on behind the scenes than was depicted on the show.

While I still disagree with the show, writing my initial post and doing this interview with Natalie has been a learning experience for me. All too often in the blogosphere, we (myself included) tend to react off the cuff to news of this, that or the other thing, without delving in for more information or waiting to hear the other side of the story. I think it’s human nature, but it doesn’t make it right. I hope that I will remember this the next time I hear something “outrageous” and before I blow a gasket, I will check out the facts and try to find out the whole story.

What follows is an interview with Natalie Nichols about her participation in The Baby Borrowers, with questions from a few other AP moms as well.

Natalie Nichols and son Benjamin - July 2008First off, what are the names and ages of your children?

I have 4 children total: 3 boys, Mackenzie (13), Zackary (8), Benjamin (3), and then our daughter Etta is now 18 months.

In an earlier conversation you said, “yes, I am an AP parent.” What does that mean to you?

I actually would say that I have some characteristics of Attachment Parenting, and many of a Natural Family Lifestyle. It is important to note though that neither of these titles defines who I am or what I do. I simply do what comes naturally to me, and what feels right as far as my family is concerned. I do not judge others for their parenting choices. Over the years of parenting my 4 kids, I have responded to their cries, and they have been worn in a sling or in my arms. I have nursed with reckless abandon, some would say. I’m “one of those moms” who doesn’t think that breastfeeding should be hidden, so where my kids were hungry is where they nursed. I’ve never seen the need to buy a “hiding” cover, sit in a special room, or God forbid nurse in a toilet stall. I think that babies should be worn or held up close and in the middle of adult conversations as a way of becoming more social and fostering great communication skills. I believe in delayed vaccinations, I co-sleep, I have almost always been a stay-at-home mother, I have homeschooled, I have unschooled, and two of my 4 births were natural by choice (and beautifully peaceful if I might add). If my babies need something, I provide it. I have never used a pacifier for any of my kids. They didn’t need them, they had me, and that worked out wonderfully. Out of the bunch the only one to suck a thumb was Benjamin.

Heather, an AP mom who blogs at A Mama’s Blog and API Speaks, would like to know, “Why did you feel the need to let teens who virtually have no child care experience, “borrow” your baby and let them be your baby’s caregiver? Doesn’t this go against the very parenting philosophy – attachment parenting – that you are trying to apply with your baby?”

I have to begin with saying that I was a very intelligent young girl, but at the same time, I didn’t know anything. I moved out on my 16th birthday to live with my teen boyfriend’s family, we got pregnant on purpose, we were married when I was 8 months pregnant and I delivered my first son 1 month before I turned 18. Although I was in the top 10 in my class, in the National Honor Society, Gifted and Talented, captain on the Drill Team, and in Fellowship of Christian Athletes, I threw it all away to drop out of school and raise my son. Sure I could have kept going to school and placed him in the on campus childcare, but they wouldn’t allow me to physically nurse him, and the few breaks I could get weren’t enough to maintain a milk supply. I tried pumping and having my mom watch him for 1 day but he didn’t eat the entire day and screamed bloody murder. I decided that he was more important than a school with rules that I didn’t agree with, so I quit. I got my diploma from a mail correspondence program but I didn’t get a prom or to walk with my class or anything else that represents being a senior in high school. Sure, I was breastfeeding, and we tried cloth diapering, but I was not patient enough with the leaks and gave up. I was a good teen mom, by society’s standards. However I was not a good mom by my own standards and I know that my son deserved better. It was never fair to ask him to grow up with me, or for me to expect him to just wait until I figured myself out so that I could give him the best he needed. He is a fabulous kid now at 13, and I do not for a second regret that he was born. What I do regret is the timing. I would love nothing more than to rewind the clock and become the woman I was supposed to be and share with him the wisdom that living my life has given me. He understands now that he is older, but he had no idea why I wasn’t mature enough not to yell and why his dad and I argued in front of him all the time when he was little.

It is important for me to reiterate here that while I consider myself an attached parent, I do not go down a check list of ideals and ensure that I’m applying what someone or some organization thinks is best for my children. My style of attachment parenting applies to not just my own children, but to my view on how we should be with society as a whole. I live my life by what I feel is the right thing to do, instinctively and as a mother. For me, the right thing to do is to turn my mistakes in the past into something positive for someone else. My older kids are proud of what our family has been able to do to try to make the world a better place.

I don’t feel that allowing the teens to care for Etta for those three days had anything to do with going against the way I parent. There are many teen girls out there who think so little of themselves, as I did, that they fall madly in love with the first boy who looks their direction. They see their self-worth only in what that boy tells them to think. And they have sex with him so that he will value her even more. These girls just “need” someone to be there for them and show them that it is not the right path to take. They need someone to tell them to look deeper inside themselves and see the beautiful girl staring back at them. They need to know that the right man will love them for the person she is and for the person that she wants to be. He will never try to make her be someone else or try to stop her from achieving her dreams. As an AP and NFL mother, I feel that it is every one of our places to fill this role. In my opinion, these are all of our children. Just because they are teens, they are still someone else’s son or daughter.

Did you hope to educate the teens (and viewers watching at home) about the benefits of breastfeeding, co-sleeping, baby wearing, etc.? If so, do you feel that you accomplished this?

I did teach the teens how to simulate nursing with Etta, using her breast-shaped bottle and my expressed milk. I didn’t share with them about co-sleeping, because the teens were not allowed to sleep with the babies in their beds as one of the safety precautions. While I do believe that co-sleeping with your own child is perfectly safe, you instinctively respond to the slightest sounds or movements with a baby you have recently given birth to and that couldn’t be expected of the teens. HOWEVER, Sean did co-sleep with Etta in a sense, after I had my initial tough love discussion with him. He walked holding her, he laid back on the couch holding her, and she slept, well, like a baby. Granted he didn’t get much sleep, but he fostered that feeling of co-sleeping that she was used to, and he made it work. In addition, since unlike me, he was having to prepare her bottles for her night nursings, it worked out well for them to be on the move anyway. I did bring Etta to the show in our sling, however I didn’t leave it for them because it is fitted and they were both much taller than I am. Plus I didn’t feel that they would be totally secure holding her in it and might have a false sense of security anyway. They did have the use of front carriers, but I don’t think they used them.

It has to be said though, I did not participate in this project because I am an AP or NFL parent. I participated to help show teens the realities of being a parent in hopes of deterring them from throwing their teen years away. I just happen to parent this way and was able to share some of that with them. I did tell Kelsey when I met her and saw her in the empathy belly “Congratulations, you have a beautiful baby girl and you are a breastfeeding mother now!” But that did not make the final airing. An additional neat breastfeeding moment was when Sean was caring for Etta alone and visited with his neighbor and fellow pseudo-single dad Cory. They were discussing their parenting tricks they had picked up. Sean told Cory that he needed to pick Karson up and take him to another room for a change of scenery (something I shared with him in the tough love conversation). And then Cory asked Sean if Etta had eaten and Sean said proudly, “Oh no man, I just breastfed her like 10 minutes ago.” 🙂 I’m hoping that his breastfeeding experience will give him some insight and enable him to be very supportive of his future wife.

The Baby Borrowers has fallen under attack by groups like Zero to Three and Attachment Parenting International, among others. How do their responses affect you as an AP parent who willingly participated in the show?

I am not bothered by the negative criticism these groups have given the show or us as parents. The issue of teen pregnancy is a big one and it requires serious communication. Look how people are discussing teen sexuality out in the open now. It is amazing. As far as the research that these groups are using to say that we endangered our children emotionally, I don’t feel that it even applies. There are many situations that these same groups excuse from their criticism. Working parents, military parents, parents who go on a long weekend and hire a nanny or leave their children in the hands of a relative they don’t see on a regular basis, etc. The babies in those situations have no idea why their parents are leaving, whether it be for a weekend getaway or to participate in The Baby Borrowers, and if they are securely bonded in the first place (which is next to impossible to avoid with AP) then they are fine. I truly think it was irresponsible for these groups to speak out about the show without gathering all of the facts first. I don’t know of a single parent or child involved in this program that has been assessed by any of these groups. I have to add that I did not participate so that anyone could decide whether I am a good mother. I was not the best mother at one point in my life, but I am doing the best that I can to right that wrong now. Regardless of any of the claims that these groups, who have no actual knowledge about the filming or the participants, I would do this all over again if given the chance. Every time I get a letter from a young girl who’s life was touched in some small way by this program or by my involvement, it is further solidified in my heart that I made the right choice, and these “experts” are fanning flames when no fire exists to begin with.

Did you, your husband Chet, and/or your children get to spend some time getting acquainted with Sean and Kelsey before they “borrowed” the kids?

We sat with Sean and Kelsey for a good while before we left the children in their care. We stayed maybe 2 hours or a little less with Etta. We went through the manual that the producers asked us to prepare for Etta’s care. It contained the brand of wipes and diapers we use, what she likes to eat, any allergies the children had, the children’s likes and dislikes, etc. We had a chance to thoroughly inspect every room in the house. Everything was age appropriately baby proofed. We were able to observe the teens each holding our daughter, and explained what she liked and what she didn’t in that regard. Chet reiterated to Sean that he had to support her head. We answered any questions that they had and just got to visit with them and find out a little more about them as people. Kelsey explained that she wanted kids right away, which we already knew, and hoped to change. And Sean explained that he was hoping Kelsey would realize that they should wait. We liked Sean’s idea better. We didn’t spend quite as much time with Benjamin there because he was ready to play on the swing set. We sat and explained to Sean and Kelsey that he was like night and day from Etta. And we explained that we wanted them to see that it was not as easy as saying, “Etta was just that way because she missed her mom, my child would be different.” We told them that no two kids are exactly alike, and you really never know what their personality is until you meet them.

On the show I believe they showed you intervening with the teens twice while they had Etta. I know that you expressed milk and brought that over to the house throughout her 3-day stay, but how many times did you actually intervene? Did you spend any time with Etta during any of those interventions?

On a few occasions we sent instructions through the nanny if we noticed something minor that the nanny might not have known to pick up on. Nothing against the nanny, but there are some things only a parent can recognize in their child. That is the benefit we had of seeing and hearing everything that went on. As an example, I sent word to the nanny, via the producers, to be sure that the teens were putting my expressed milk into the fridge in an organized manner and paying attention to dates/time to be sure they didn’t let any go bad, etc. And after Sean’s visit to the grocery store, bless his heart, he came home to tell Kelsey, “Etta’s mom said she loves avocado, but I couldn’t find any jars of that anywhere.” I did zip over quickly to let Kelsey know that they would just buy an avocado and mash it up for her with breast milk. It was not a big deal, just clarification. And before going over the first night, I did send word that they made Etta’s breast bottle and left it sitting on her dresser untouched while they frantically tried to figure out why the child would not just fall asleep.

Although it would have been fine with the producers if I had gone to comfort Etta, I didn’t choose to do that. Because she was nursing and was used to having the AP lifestyle, I just felt that would have been a mistake. It would not have been fair to her for me to show up when she had already gotten used to her surrogate parents and then leave again. My main concern was her smelling my milk and then refusing to take the bottle from Sean and Kelsey. My husband was not able to give her the bottle with me in the room because she wasn’t that easily fooled. But if I was gone, then she took it with no problem. I didn’t view this any differently.

Summer, an AP mom and blogger at Wired for Noise asked, “How sudden were the changes (for Etta) from co-sleeping and breastfeeding to not? Did she have time to gradually adjust to the new situation before the show, or was it sort of last minute? I wonder because I have heard that with many reality shows the people are selected with little to no notice.”

That is a good question. The notice is fairly short I guess when you are considering schedules that many children have, etc. Like I stated in an answer above, Etta continued breastfeeding, just through her breast-shaped bottle. We purchased the Adiri nursers because they feel like a breast more than any other bottle. As long as I was not the one giving it to her, she took it fine. We are regulars at our local gym and she went to the on-site childcare most evenings for an hour. We started taking the breast bottle with us when she went as soon as it was a possibility that she would be on the show. It wasn’t very long, but long enough that we knew if she was hungry, she would take it. Also, I really don’t feel that co-sleeping was taken away from her because of the way Sean gave her that constant touch that she was craving after I spoke to him. You all saw that she wasn’t very happy when they did try to take co-sleeping away from her, and it was not going to happen.

How did you mentally and emotionally prepare your 2-year-old son Benjamin for his 3-day stay away from you?

I guess I prepared Benjamin as much as one can with a 2 year old. When Etta was a newborn, Benjamin went to a preschool program for a few hours a few times per week to give me time to breathe. He was perfectly fine with that and wanted to go all the time. Benjamin, although he is parented the same way, has always been very independent. He has always been the “tough one” of all of them at his age. He doesn’t get phased by much, and separation is one of those things. It is funny that in one scene Sean is standing at the door where Benjamin is crying and says, “I think he misses his mom,” but they didn’t understand his words as much as I did and I had just heard him crying saying that he wanted to go outside and play. Benjamin knows we are here and that we are coming back. He’s always just been really laidback about that and doesn’t get stressed by being around others. Now if he watches us leave, he may protest for a minute or two, but as a general rule for him, when we’re out of sight, we’re out of mind. We always just distract him with something else and sneak out and he is A-OK. They took him out to show him the play equipment in the backyard while we left, so he didn’t have an issue with it.

On the show, they depicted Sean telling Ben that he had to go to his room for a timeout if he didn’t stop crying. He didn’t stop crying and was sent to his room, the door closed while he continued to cry on the floor. How did you feel about that? How do you discipline him at home? Did you intervene at all during Benjamin’s stay?

To be honest, even with 4 kids, I don’t have a lot of experience in this arena. Neither of my older two boys ever threw tantrums, so I didn’t get to experience that before Benjamin. I was the mother in the store in shock that children acted that way because MY CHILDREN would NEVER act that way. Well I believe that everything happens for a reason and I believe that Benjamin’s job was to show me once again that I didn’t know everything and that yes, even my children could act that way. At the time, we were telling him that if he did not stop the behavior, he would go to his room for a timeout. If he did not stop, he went to his room, and at home he threw fits much worse than he did for Sean and Kelsey. I actually felt like he was acting better than he did at home. This brought up an interesting point. We noticed that when Kelsey made deals with Benjamin, he held up his end of the bargain. She told him, for instance, that if he took a nap, he could go to the park. She asked him if he wanted that and he said yes, so he laid down and took a nap without protest. He was a fairly late talker, compared to my other boys so it didn’t dawn on me that he was able to negotiate his behavior like that. But what she was doing was working for him. So at home, we have started doing that. Sometimes, we will still do time out in his room, but it is his choice. He likes to hear that it is his choice. He feels empowered, I guess. We will tell him that he can either stop the behavior or he can go in his room, and then say, “you choose.” And generally very quickly he chooses to stop the undesirable behavior.

I didn’t intervene myself with Benjamin, but my husband did once I believe. At first, Sean and Kelsey were letting Benjamin do whatever he wanted, and seemed afraid to take control of the situation. So Chet went over and explained to them that they had to be the parental figures and that he could not just be able to run wild. They took his advice to heart and each developed their own approach to discipline. Sean wasn’t as creative and just used the time outs in his room that Chet suggested. Kelsey really turned things around and had a great rapport with him. In regard to Benjamin crying on the floor, I was not affected by his behavior. He was not sad or hurt, he was just mad. I had witnessed enough tantrums from him to know that he was just in a battle of wills with Sean, and I was not going to intervene and let him think that he was winning. And Benjamin didn’t actually start throwing tantrums until Chet spoke to the teens and asked them not to let him have his way. For instance he would not get up to the table for them, would immediately get down, etc. and they were just allowing it and ignoring it. We don’t accept that behavior in our home and did not want them to either. Being a parent is showing your children the correct way to behave too, and Sean and Kelsey had to learn that part as well.

Julie, an AP mom and blogger at ChezArtz and API Speaks would like to know, “What do you wish they would have shown as part of the series?”

I wish that they would have shown Sean’s sleepless nights with Etta after he finally did “get it.” It is unfortunate that he came across as this heartless little punk who called my baby girl an “it.” He was not that way at all. He developed such a bond with her and she with him that it is almost unfair to the both of them that you didn’t get to see it. Or maybe it’s better that way and it’s something special that only Sean, Etta, Chet, and I will carry with us forever. I am glad that Cory was shown stepping up to the plate when needed, but he did it reluctantly. Sean dug right in and didn’t complain. Both of those boys earned my respect, and that of my husband. They can hopefully serve to show teen boys out there that if you do get in a situation and you think the only thing you can do is run, maybe they might want to think again. Sean showed that if you relax and just hug and love your child, they will give you that in return, and it is rewarding. And Cory showed that even when it is hard, sometimes you just have to buck up and push through. They both proved that babies of teen parents (and anyone else for that matter) need more than their mothers to stick around.

On a separate note, I wish that there was more time to air the parents’ review of Sean and Kelsey with the toddlers. After having seen them care for both of my children, I did not just sit there nodding my head listening to what Chet had to say. I felt that I had come to know both of them well enough to speak candidly with them and that I owed that to them. So I told Sean and Kelsey that I did think separately they were wonderful people, and that someday they would both make great parents, but not with each other. I told them that they did not display the love and devotion that it takes to make a marriage work. When they were apart, they seemed to shine, but as a couple, they really didn’t support one another or complement each other. I also told Kelsey that I felt that she had low self-esteem, as I did when I was her age and became a teen mother. But that she couldn’t look to Sean or any other man to provide her with that. I told her that she had to love herself enough to know that she was a beautiful person with or without a man.

Do you have anything else that you feel myself or my readers would be interested to learn about your participation in The Baby Borrowers?

I will attach my response to viewers and critics of The Baby Borrowers, including 0-3 and AACAP, so that you can read more about my reasons for participating and what myself and others have gained. In addition, it is paramount to note that my family did not seek to get on television. We are not seeking fortune or fame, or even our 15 minutes as many have suggested. I was contacted by NBC because one of the casting agents found my Myspace page and they invited me to participate in the auditions. I had never heard of the show, and when they explained the potential to help reduce teen pregnancy, I was on board. There was no money or other compensation whatsoever for participation in this “social experiment.”

Thank you again, Natalie, for taking the time out of your busy schedule to talk candidly with me. I genuinely enjoyed getting to know more about you and appreciated your perspective on The Baby Borrowers. I wish you and your family all the best.

31 thoughts on “Exclusive interview: Natalie of The Baby Borrowers discusses attachment parenting, teen pregnancy”

  1. I liked reading this and getting her perspective, even though I haven’t watched the show (mostly because I thought the premise was ridiculous). Thanks for this!

  2. Very intelligent woman who truly wants a better life for teenagers. I admire her strength and attitude for those who rake her over the coals. Her life. Her style.

  3. Awesome that you took the time to interview the mom and get another perspective. I do not watch the show, however I have read in other comments on other blogs the comparison to dropping your baby off at daycare. It sounds like these teens were monitored a lot more than a lot of daycare centres. Just a thought …

  4. While I agree that the questions were clear and the answers really told me a lot about why she did the show, I’m not even a little bit convinced that this show was created to do anything but get ratings and sell advertising! I just don’t believe that this show will have any effect on teen pregnancy if indeed that is the shows “goal.” For me, the biggest concern I would have about having my children on this show as a parents and not necessarily as an AP parents (that has a whole other set of issues for me) would be that they are being used and commercialized to sell products. I wonder about that piece…as a professed “Natural Family Lifestyle” parent how did she marry that antithesis to her values?

  5. apsupermom,

    If you can elaborate on what about my participating in this project and having a somewhat natural family lifestyle are contradictory, I would be more than happy to try to clear up any confusion.

    I can tell you though that because I think it is such an important message to get out there–that teen pregnancy should be discouraged, and not encouraged–I really am not concerned with what products were sold as a result.

    I respect your difference of opinion, and can only speak to my own, but for me that has nothing to do with the way I parent my children. Or better yet, maybe it has everything to do with it.

    I am committed to helping girls not go down the road that I chose, if someone else happens to make money because of that message getting out there, then so be it. The two are completely unrelated to me. I will say that having morals and helping others is a HUGE part of the parent that I am, regardless of which theory or group that puts me in, and for that I don’t feel the need to explain. After many years of doing it the wrong way because I didn’t know any better, now I know that every word I speak or write, and every action I take builds the character of my children. So if a company sold cookies or laundry detergent while I was trying to help the world be a better place, I’m perfectly ok with that.

  6. I’ve never heard of the show, but what an interesting interview. Natalie sounds like an intelligent and loving mom.

    Although I do not know if I could do it (more b/c of my controlling nature than actual concerns for the kids!), I think her reasons for doing so are valid and praiseworthy. Sure, the show’s producers may not really care about preventing teen pregnancy, but it is obvious that this parent, in particular, sees a bigger picture than most.

    Best of luck in the future, Natalie!

  7. It sounds like you honestly believe that this show will help stop teens from getting pregnant. I don’t believe it will have any effect at all on teen pregnancy and teen parenting. This show was created by network executives to sell advertising and get ratings. Since on of the cornerstones of Natural Family living is to raise children with a little commercialization as possible, I can’t understanding letting you children be used for just that…to be the catch to sell products and ads.

    Here is the thing. I was also a teen parent and I have a teen now. I am also a child development specialist and education psychologist. I know kids and I really know how teens tick…its my job and they aren’t watching this show…My bet is that the core audience is and was always intended to be the over 25 married crowd. Why else would it be in the WE network? If they wanted to get at teens it would be on The N or some other channel teens watch.

    I just don’t buy the “world a better place” argument because in my head it is full of holes. If curbing teen pregnancy is your goal there are hundreds of other, much more productive things you could do besides put your children out on TV to sell cookies and laundry detergent.

    I just don’t get the logic.

  8. I am a licensed professional therapist who works with children and their families, and while I agree in theory with the aforementioned education psychologist, I believe that those who believe in the power of a “social conscience” would see the value and be willing to participate in this. It may be the idyllic attitude that “one life changed can change another, and another, and another”…but I choose to believe in that Ideal. I’m glad there are others out there who do as well.

    I’m certain the teens in this “social experiment” are better for having had the experience. As I see it, it didn’t HURT, and it MIGHT help…so where’s the harm?

    Thanks for the interview and the “further research.” I concur that we in blogdom need to become more proactive in researching our facts.

  9. I’m glad to know the interview perspective of the families involved.

    I don’t really agree with the angry person who posted before me.

    Sure- they air the show to sell sponsorship ads, but there are so many teens who want to have babies, and I think the show helped the ones who participated, as well as probably some who were watching.

    When you produce a show you don’t always get to DECIDE where it airs. perhaps, a network that deals more directly with the teenage market will pick it up eventually- who knows?

    I also believe that this mother was helped by the show, she learned that she could negotiate with Benjamin and the teens learned something, too.

  10. this it to that asupermom person.

    What world do you live in? I am 17 years old and my mom is a practices ap, in particular with my younger sister (that is how I know about this site). This is being talked about in my school, on teen blogs, myspace etc. I have two friend who both are now turned off of having kids because they did not like how the parents in the show had bad relationships because of the babies.

    I am taking this article to my school tomorrow for a class discussion.

  11. Obviously this is an intelligent woman who did the show for what she believes to be very good reasons.

    Personally, I still find the idea of separating such young children from their network of regular caregivers for such a long period of time to be incompatible with my parenting style.

    I also wonder if perhaps there are other ways for an articulate, compassionate woman like Natalie to help teens such as this. Obviously the show has greater reach, but given the issue of editing, I am concerned as to whether or not the right message is reaching the right audience.

    Ultimately, though, it was very interesting to hear Natalie’s perspective and, agree or disagree, I feel I have a better understanding of how and why she decided to participate.

  12. http://adage.com/mediaworks/article?article_id=129559

    proving my point about young viewers…they ain’t watching…

    And it isn’t a social experiment, it is a carefully crafted, consumer driven devise to get people to buy more stuff. Television is entertainment driven by consumerism. I am honestly astonished that so many people are bought into to it who also read this blog…

  13. As I said above, I still disagree with the show, but I understand why Natalie participated and I respect her choices. I’m not going to argue about what NBC’s motivation was because I think of course it was ultimately to make money, but I do believe it is getting people talking. Look at the discussion going on here and others all over the ‘net.

    Do you think it’s possible that some of the 25+ married sect who are watching the show might be teachers who are recording it and going to use it in their classrooms as a teaching tool in the fall?

    Also, I noticed JW above said they’ve been talking about it in his school and it’s impacted two of his friends’ decisions to have kids.

    So it might not be reaching ALL teens, but it would appear it is reaching some, and that’s something. 😉

    Crunchy Domestic Goddess

  14. I was appalled and shocked when I heard about this show. It literally made my stomach turn. I think I used the word “sick” to describe the premise of the show. Needless to say, I have not watched it and will not watch it, because I am morally against it.

    When Amy contacted me to ask a question that Natalie would possibly answer, I did wonder how someone who says they basically consider themselves an AP parent could participate in something like this.

    After reading the interview, the impression I got from Natalie is that she doesn’t consider herself a ‘formal’ AP parent in the sense that she strives to apply the basic principles of AP. She did say she considers herself an “attached parent,” which to me, are very different things. I guess I would liken it to someone who says they believe in God in theory, compared to someone who goes to church regularly. I was under the impression that Natalie subscribed to the AP principals, and that is why it was so confusing to me, that an AP parent would do this show.

    That being said, Natalie has every right to participate in a show with her children, and it sounds like her motivation is very noble- in that she wants to help teens avoid pregnancy and some of what she went through herself as a teen.

    It was good to hear some of the behind the scenes information, that the parents could intervene and the teens really did rise to the occasion.

    While I think everyone has a right to do what they want, I do question and object to the platform in which this was done. I don’t think anyone can say for sure what kind of long-term damage (if any) can be done to babies who are subjected to this.

    Before the daycare/caregiver issue comes up, I think there is a world of difference between parents who have to provide for their families and leave their children in daycare, versus handing over their child(ren) for a TV show.

    Most parents who have to use daycare do research, interview, and thoroughly check-out the providers that will be caring for their children. Furthermore, most daycare operators have years of experience with children, and some have degrees in childhood education, etc. Some are even parents themselves, and are usually not in the daycare business unless they really have a fondness for children. Additionally, I do not know of one parent who just picks a daycare center and then leaves their child there, without doing trial runs, and gradually getting the child and the provider used to each other-and forming a bond.

    Most parents I know (AP and non-AP) who use daycare providers, will not leave their child(ren) with a daycare provider unless they can ensure the provider can will apply their parenting principals.

    Because of this, I think there is a big difference when the parent has the ultimate decision in who cares for their child, versus a TV network picking teens for a show for to suit their purposes.

    I am very skeptical that a TV network or casting agent would have the baby’s best interest at heart when picking the teens for the show. If they made a point to pick teens that really seemed to know what to do for a baby, then they wouldn’t have much of a show would they?

    TV networks want ratings, and that is what I object to. Obviously every parent uses a babysitter from time-to-time or has to use daycare. But why risk damaging your child (even though Natalie didn’t feel hers were- what about the other children?) for a TV show?

    I think it is great that Natalie wants to help teens, but I have questioned from the beginning why this show couldn’t use mechanical babies for the teens? They make ipets- not why an ibaby, that is programmed to cry, eat, throw a tantrum, etc.? Others have suggested that the teens could shadow the parents for a week and basically have them do all the work involved with the baby, but the parents would still be there, and the children would not be subjected to being separated from their parents, which is a foundation for building healthy attachments.

    The network doesn’t seek other options, because it wouldn’t get the same ratings, if the teens had an ibaby, and the “shock” value, that is so common in reality shows wouldn’t be there.

    I appreciate the interview, and appreciate Natalie being so open and honest, but I still can’t agree with the show. There is so many other ways to help teens without risking the bond that parents and children have.

    If we start gambling with the very foundation of attachment that young babies and infants have with their parents, we run the risk of doing severe damage to the most innocent and helpless members of our society.

    What good will have come from it if this show does help teens avoid pregnancy, but it damages the children involved? How do we know they won’t subconsciously wonder and fear the next time they will be handed over to complete strangers? Who can say what that will do to their psyche?

    Any good that comes from the show-that isn’t enough to justify the potential risk to the babies and children.

  15. apsupermom–

    I’m going to make this quick, because as you can see in my interview, I do tend to ramble.

    1. This is a social experiment, and it was not created by network executives. It was created by Richard McKerrow, who is known for creating educational series’. Network execs picked up the show, yes, and they will make money off of it I’m sure.

    2. I guess we’ll agree to disagree about NFL. I raise my children with most traits of NFL, but not all. And I do not see anticommercialism as the cornerstone at all. I see it as generally doing what comes naturally (i.e. natural birth, breastfeeding, etc, etc, etc.)

    3. Yes, I sincerely think that this show will help teens. I don’t just think this though, I know this for a fact. It has already helped Kelsey, the girl who had Etta and Benjamin, and that one girl is enough for me.

    4. I’m sorry that you don’t “buy” the idea that one would do this for the greater good. That is actually the cornerstone of my parenting, and I honestly don’t care what side of any mommy war fence that puts me on. I’m sure that there are other ways that I could help teens out there. Fortunately I have been able to do that because of my experience with the show. I am now having continuing dialogues with girls that I never would have known, and am able to offer a helping hand and an understanding ear.

  16. Heather,

    Either I used the wrong wording, or you misunderstood me. I most certainly am an AP mother. I simply meant that I do not have a checklist of things I do because someone else says they should be done. I do them because that is what comes natural to me. I was trying to say that I was an AP parent before I ever heard of the term, not because of it. I hope that makes sense.

    Yes, I used the phrase “attached parent” just because it seemed to fit better in the sentence than I am an AP parent. Someone who practices attachment parenting, would therefore be an attached parent. Or possibly I conjugated the word improperly, but that was all it was. So I guess, by your definition, I don’t subscribe to the AP principles, but I do live my life by them by coincidence. I honestly don’t see the two as being any different. To use your religion analogy, one person goes to church every day and believes in God because her mother believed in God and it’s all she knows. The other person has never been to church at all, but lives their life the way God would have her and just does those things because she loves and knows God, and doesn’t think that going to church is going to make her a Christian. She thinks that just being a Christian and sharing that with others will do the job just fine.

    I will agree with you that not every child could handle the separation as well as Etta and Benjamin did. But this is why there was extensive psychological testiing and trial separations in which our children were left in the hands of the psychologist to determine if they would be able to handle it or whether they would be stressed by the separation alone. If a child showed signs of stress, they were not selected to participate.

    I also tend to think that the parents who do have the luxury of prescreening and doing trial runs in their daycares to get their children accustomed to new providers are the minority. Most people who HAVE to put their child in a daycare do not have the luxury of holding off. Sure they go in and check it out, make sure it smells clean, the children are clean, not obviously neglected, their needs are being attended to, etc. They will ask friends for recommendations, granted the friends did the same check that they did on their own, and they will check to see if any complaints have been filed against the center. Other than that, they pray that their babies will be ok, and they reluctantly go off to work to provide for them. Their babies have no idea why they are leaving or how long 8 hours is, or even that they will be back–up to a certain age. I know that we all want to make allowances for those who “have” to use childcare, and not those who “hand over their children for a TV show.” But in the babies’ minds, it is a separation all the same. As long as they are securely attached and bonded in the first place (as all of these children were, evidenced by their psychological testing), then they are able to handle the situation, they know who mommy and daddy are, and they are happy to see them when they return. It is no different than a couple leaving their infant with an aunt/grandmother and having a weekend getaway.

    It is perfectly acceptable for you not to agree with the concept of the show, or even to be against it. I just wanted to clear up any misinformation or misunderstandings that might have resulted from my interview.

  17. I want to first say that this was a very interesting and informative interview. I enjoyed reading Natalie’s responses and felt they were genuine and well thought out.

    It saddens me that women on here who call themselves mothers want to strictly define another mothers parenting choice/style.
    I don’t care how many degrees you (general) have. A person will NEVER fit the exact mold of such made up styles (created by more doctorates). If you come close or feel you do fit the mold to a tee..then are you really parenting or just trying to ultimately define and validate yourself. Sometimes i feel the more education which is not the same as knowledge and wisdom the more you feel you can tell others how to be a “better” person. It does not qualify or even give you the right to do so.

    On to the topic of Baby Borrowers. I know that some things are edited out for time, format, yada yada. I do however watch it. I find it interesting and while i was not a teen parent i think it will also impact how i relate to the teens in my family and what they may be thinking regarding marriage, having a family, and what it means to be responsible.
    I would be very interested to see the response of those in the teen and older crowd once the elderly parents come to live with them. I would assume (i know thats wrong) that AP and NPL will cross borders to the care of their elderly loved ones.

    Again thank you for this interview.
    Raven L.

  18. Raven,

    I appreciate your contents. I think that you will be pleasantly surprised by the emotional growth and wisdom that is imparted by the teens short relationships with the elderly. I think that yes, this show is great for teens, but as it unfolds, it really offers something for everyone, including how to better relate to one another, and seeing the value in others’ experiences that we may otherwise take for granted.

  19. I don’t watch TV at all, but I loved this interview. I had read about the show, and thought what in the world! But Natalie, thanks for clearing up that it is an actual social experiment…how cool is that! I think what you are doing is noble and good. I plan on leaving my kids with my mom for a long weekend with my husband after my son stops nursing. A short separation with a person you trust (and you were there supervising) is perfectly fine.

  20. Natalie,

    Thanks for your comments to my post, and I was not trying to say that you weren’t an AP parent, but like you said, you do things that come natural to you, because that is what feels right, not because Attachment Parenting tells you that you have to do so and so.

    That can be a wide umbrella to operate under- some AP parents do subscribe to the AP principals, and try to incorporate them daily as a guide, and that is AP to them. Some just do what comes naturally and for them that is AP. I was trying to say from what I could gather that you probably were of the second train of thought.

    I also want to comment that I am not judging Natalie or any other mother at all for their parenting styles/or choices.

    What is hard for me to grasp behind this entire concept of the show- is how parents can risk the unknown on whether this type of separation could harm their child.

    While I am far from a perfect parent, and do consider myself an AP parent, I still don’t “get” what greater good comes from this, if it risks the bonding attachment and puts unnecessary stress on an infant/child. I don’t see how the end result justifies the means.

    I didn’t know the children were screened by psychologists, and that is good to an extent, but how can anyone really say for sure this social experiment won’t harm children long term? Psychologists aren’t perfect. They can make predications and educated guesses on how they believe a situation like this will affect a child, but they don’t know for sure.

    I also don’t know how anyone could predict what kind of impact this would have on a baby, who can’t communicate verbally with a psychologist, and may not understand what is really happening.

    While the motivation behind parents participating in this experiment may be noble, I still can’t help but wonder, at what cost is this to the children participating in the show?

    Especially for AP parents, who generally try to reduce the amount of time their babies are separated from them, and try to reduce the stress for their baby during separations. This show, no matter how noble the motivations behind it may be, seems counter-productive for an AP parent, in my opinion.

    Obviously, I still don’t agree with the show, but really thank you Natalie, for opening yourself up here for discussion and explaining your reasons for participating.

    While I can’t say I would do the same, you have the right to do what you feel is best for your children and family.

  21. Thank you Amy for giving us this “insider” perspective on the Baby Borrowers. I don’t have network television, so I will admit that I have not watched the show and do not plan to. Even with Natalie’s explanation of her intentions, I can’t say that I could imagine allowing my children to participate in it, nor do I have much interest in watching it.

    I do, however, appreciate Natalie’s desire to spare teens the struggle that she had as a teen parent. I was surprised to hear that an AP mom participated and am glad to know that her past experience was at least part of the motivator for her to do the show.

    I wish you the best of luck, Natalie, and hope you are able to find other ways to help teens, because you are obviously passionate about this topic and can offer the gift of your experience to the next generation.

    At the end of the day, however, this interview did not change my opinion of the show. I still object to it, and do not regret that I participated in API’s Baby Borrower objection. You’ll note that our criticism was leveled at NBC and not at individual parents who participated, by the way.

    A fascinating interview. Thanks Amy!

    Julie Artz
    Communication Coordinator
    Attachment Parenting International
    Mama to Gabriel (9.04) and Lily (5.06)

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  24. Hi Amy or anyone else I had an off subject I was wondering if anyone knew what type of sling that Natalie Nichols used on the show I liked how close Etta was to her. Thank-you

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