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baby hunger

noun [uncountable]

the strong desire to have a baby, especially amongst older, professional women



'Male baby hunger is not as great as women's – few have to make such a stark choice between reproduction and professional success. Baby peckishness, perhaps.'

The Observer 28th April 2002

In early 2002, a new book entitled Creating a Life: Professional Women and the Quest for Children, by Sylvia Ann Hewlett, made the front cover of TIME™ magazine. Commenting on the factors surrounding delayed motherhood among career women, it was to become the subject of fervent debate on both sides of the Atlantic during the following months. In Britain, the same book was published under the title Baby Hunger: The New Battle for Motherhood.

a vivid picture of women who are caught between public success and inward longing for motherhood – baby hunger

Ms Hewlett, founder of the National Parenting Association, had originally named her book Baby Hunger, but had had to rename it in the face of strong opposition by many who found it offensive, among them some of the women featured in the book. Despite this, the book was published under the original title in the UK. It is this book, and the controversy surrounding it, which has been a major factor in establishing the term baby hunger and the related adjective baby-hungry, used most commonly in baby-hungry women. The book features a series of case studies, painting a vivid picture of women who are caught between public success and inward longing for motherhood – baby hunger.

Predictably, connotations of an emotive phrase such as baby hunger depend ultimately on the sympathies of the user. Often, as in Hewlett's book, it has a rather pro-maternal emphasis, for example 'Women face the trap of baby hunger', a headline in The Observer on 17th March 2002. Conversely a Guardian article published just a few weeks later bore the headline: 'Why men shouldn't get trapped by baby-hungry women'. In this article, baby hunger is used in the same context as so-called Woman Terror – the idea that many men are bulldozed into fatherhood by a woman's fervent desire to have children as quickly as possible:

'So what is Woman Terror? It is the feeling described by … Bert who found himself a father and married in his 20s to a woman who … was only interested in him because she was suffering from baby hunger …'

The Guardian 25th April 2002

by Kerry Maxwell, author of Brave New Words

This article was first published on 11th July 2003.

Open Dictionary

Dunning-Kruger effect

the phenomenon by which an incompetent person is too incompetent to understand his own incompetence

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