The phenomenon known as "baby fever" is a topic loosely tossed around in conversations among 20-somethings for a variety of reasons. Whether it's a way to explain the intense need to smell the top of a baby's head, a desire to start your own family, or to simply let people know it hasn't impacted you yet, the phrase is bound to come up. And if you're experiencing baby fever in your 20s, know that you're not alone and that, well, experts might be able to tell you why.
According to the Cassandra Report: Ages and Stages, out of 75 million millennials, about 25 million say they have no desire to have children. According to the same report, 69 percent of those millennials don't think there's a stigma attached to not wanting kids, as opposed to decades ago when it was considered taboo. And now that the child-free stigma is fading, 34 percent of them have no problem saying that they don't want to sacrifice the flexibility they currently have in life, and 32 percent say they aren't interested in the responsibility of becoming a parent. It's clear millennials and subsequent generations are defining life on their own terms ,and not the same paths their parents and grandparents forged. This is all well and good for those 20-something adamant about putting parenthood on the back burner (or no burner at all), but what about those who feel the opposite?
I had twinges of baby fever in my 20s. I wanted to hold babies for an undetermined amount of time and sniff their little heads. But at the end of the day, I knew I wasn't exactly "ready" for them. Then I found out I was pregnant, and let me tell you: actuality of having a baby was dramatically different than just experiencing baby fever feelings. But because of those "OMG I want a baby" feelings I knew that, at some point and regardless of when, I wanted to be a mother.
According to a 2013 Gallup poll, more than half of Americans, ages 18 to 40, already have children, and 40 percent of Americans who don't have children hope to have some in the future. So while millennial women are having kids less frequently, the desire to have children is still considered the "norm" in the United States.
Baby fever isn't just a "female" thing, either. Gary Brase, associate professor of psychology at Kansas State University, and his wife, Sandra, conducted a formal survey to gauge whether or not baby fever is a real thing, and if so, how it manifests over time and across the sexes. They found that both genders are capable of feeling this pull toward parenthood, with intensity varying. Part of the survey looked at how often gender roles were affiliated with baby fever, because women are often societally conditioned to want to have children (even if they personally don't).
The final results concluded that baby fever, according to Time, is an "emotional signal that subconsciously hints to the brain that it might be a good time to have a baby." Basically, positive exposure to babies made the subjects in the study want kids, and negative experiences left them feeling as if was best to wait... or not have children at all. And while researchers found that baby fever in women decreased over time — likely after realizing how much work is involved in raising another human being — for men, it strangely increased.
All the numbers and results aside, having baby fever in your 20s is an indicator your so-called biological clock is still connected to the generations of humans who entered into marriage and have children at a young age. But the world was different even a few decades ago, and women, especially, weren't encourage to go to college, climb the career ladder, or simply enjoy life on their own terms. So rest assured, having baby fever isn't a bad thing. You're merely in tune with your internal desires, yet capable of deciding when, or if, to start a family.