Byline: by Dave Mills
AFTER much soul-searching, I have finally come out of the closet. It was pointless denying it any longer. Judging by the sniggers and knowing looks, everyone probably knew already. So I just came out with it: 'I want a baby.'
I want to cradle the little mite in my arms. I want sleepless nights and afternoons in the park. I want to spend a small fortune every Christmas and moan about house prices in school catchment areas. In short, I'm broody.
I've felt this way for a few years -- even before my two-year-old niece Ruby came along and melted my heart -- but it's not something I felt comfortable talking about beyond my close circle of friends.
In fact, for a long time I didn't even admit it to myself. The sad truth is, there's still a social taboo against men expressing their longing for parenthood.
It's fine for us to say we'd love to have children 'some time in the future' and it's perfectly acceptable, even cool, to be a doting dad once they're born, but it's somehow unmanly for us actively to yearn for a child of our own.
But when little Ruby was born, I found her so adorable that I had to confess to my brother that I wanted one as well.
And I had to choose my words carefully when I discussed my feelings with my 32-year-old girlfriend Jennie. We've only been together for eight months, so it's a bit early for a full-on baby conversation. Luckily, she didn't scarper when I told her about my broodiness. She is keen to have kids one day, too.
of course, being a woman -- instead of a 34-year-old man -- Jennie is much more up to speed with her ideas about motherhood. Broodiness is natural territory for thirty-something women. The female biological clock is brutal and unforgiving.
unlike men, who produce new sperm every day, women are born with all the eggs they will ever have, about two million.
By the age of 30, almost 90 per cent of them have been released. By 40, there are, on average, just three per cent left to play with. The emotional consequences of missing that biological deadline have been well documented as more women risk waiting longer to find the perfect partner or climb the career ladder.
Male baby angst is less talked about.
The common assumption is that men are in no rush to give up their freedom and settle down. They are nagged and cajoled, and sometimes duped, into fatherhood, rather than choosing it for themselves.
Mothers are still seen as the main carers in the family, but new evidence suggests that men can be just as gooey-eyed as women when it comes to babies.
Researchers have found that men have exactly the same emotional reaction as women -- measured by blood pressure, heart rate and skin temperature -- when presented with smiling or crying babies.
Other studies have highlighted men's positive attitudes towards fatherhood. Some 93 per cent of men questioned in one recently said their role as a father was the most important in their lives. Meanwhile, a survey by the national Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy in the U.S. found that young men are more likely to be 'pleased' by an unexpected pregnancy than young women. My own baby hunger has not led me to such extremes. It has come as a gradual awakening, not a sudden, impulsive craving.
I had three serious relationships during my 20s, but marriage and children were never on the cards. I was too busy doing all the things you're supposed to do before settling down and being a grownup -- travelling, partying and enjoying the freedom of being child-free.
Like many men, I sailed through my 20s unburdened by even the faintest ticking of a biological clock. The number of new dads in their 20s has almost halved since 1974, while the number waiting until their late 30s or early 40s to start families has …