Commentary: I’m Prioritizing Family and Marriage as a Gen Z Woman

by Michaela Estruth


“When I grow up, I want to be a mom.”

These are common words to hear from young girls; they aspire to be just like their own mothers.

But all of a sudden, once those young girls become women, those words become less and less common.

Has that maternal desire faded?

Perhaps. But might there be another explanation?

The question, “What do you want to do?” is a constant ask of every 18- to 22-year-old. College-aged adults like me are just beginning independent lives and discovering the world of opportunities while also discovering a culture of commendation or condemnation. Depending on where we go and what we do, others will either praise us or persecute us. And young adults know this. We can feel it every time someone asks us that question about our future plans.

If I were to respond to that question with “I want to get married and be a mom,” the average American would stare at me and blink. Then they’d probably say, “Right, but what do you want to do before that?”

This mindset is just one of the factors contributing to America’s declining birth rates. America’s birth rates reached a record low of 1.6 children per woman in 2023, below the necessary replacement rate of 2.1. The birth rate had been on a rise for the past two years, which many experts attribute to the COVID-19 pandemic. But the statistics now show the continued decline and the lowest rates since 1979.

This decline cannot be reduced to one factor. The cultural “success message” that delays marriage and family, however, should take some blame.

Last December, Statista reported on U.S. Census Bureau data showing that the average marrying age for men is 30.2 and for women is 28.4—a marked increase since the 1950s when men married around age 23 and women around age 20.

Along with getting married later, men and women are also having kids later. Twenty percent of women have their first child after the age of 35, according to a July 2022 article from the National Institute of Health’s News in Health. The article opens explaining why women may postpone starting a family: “There are many reasons you might wait to have kids. You may want to focus on your career. Or save some money first.”

These are some of the common arguments against getting married and starting a family at a young age. Shouldn’t young women like me first go to grad school, perhaps law school, or at least make a worthwhile living? Don’t we want to travel, let loose, and have fun?

Of course, all these reasons aren’t inherently wrong or even necessarily unwise, but the point is that people are starting families much later, and often putting off doing so for the sake of perceived personal accomplishment or enjoyment.

And therein lies the heart of the issue. The cultural sermon preaches “you first” to every young man and woman looking to start adult life. “Do what you want to do. Marriage and family will come later.”

But here’s the blunt truth: Marriage and family doesn’t just happen to someone. They take time and intentionality. Dating requires patience and thoughtful consideration before making a lifetime commitment to another person. Marriage requires self-sacrifice, a love that is rooted in commitment, not mere sentimental feeling. And a child demands that same self-sacrifice every minute of every day. Being a father or a mother means putting the child’s needs above your own. It means instruction, love, discipline, provision. These are exhausting responsibilities, and yet the most fulfilling. But sadly, the exhaustion and selflessness of parenting causes many to postpone the joys and blessings that overwhelmingly dominate.

On May 15, Evie Magazine posted an article on X highlighting actress Rachel McAdams as a mother. In the post on X, McAdams is quoted as saying that motherhood is the greatest thing she has ever done, despite years of living the independent dream.

“Your life is not your own anymore,” McAdams said. “But I had 39 years of me, I was sick of me. I was so happy to put the focus on some other person. I waited a long time. I’m having more fun being a mum than I’ve ever had. Everything about it is interesting and exciting and inspiring to me. Even the tough days — there’s something delightful about them.”

For McAdams, the famous actress lifestyle wasn’t satisfying. But motherhood was.

Even though women are still having kids—something that will hopefully never stop—many women aren’t doing so until much later in life, instead pursuing immediate self-fulfillment and enjoyment. Unfortunately, this mindset is also often imposed on a family. One kid is enough work already, so why would two exhausted parents have another?

Today, a family with more kids is stereotypically deemed Catholic in reference to the Catholic doctrine that opposes contraception. But maybe that family of seven just loves having a big family. One thing is for sure, though: That eldest child was born well before the mom turned 35. That mother wanted to prioritize being a wife and a mom.

So no, I’m not advocating for every 18-year-old woman to go get her MRS degree. But I am saying that prioritizing marriage and family isn’t a waste of time, energy, or money. In fact, it is an investment in a bright future of laughter and love. So don’t let anyone tell you to not get married and have kids—starting a family is likely the best decision you can ever make.

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Michaela Estruth is a rising senior studying history and journalism at Hillsdale College, where she is the senior editor of Hillsdale College’s The Collegian and host of various radio shows. She is a 2022 graduate of WORLD Magazine’s World Journalism Institute and a writing and editing intern for the Colson Center.






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