I’m waffling on becoming a mother in 2024—and statistics show I’m not alone

Baby fever is a dictionary-defined term for a reason, and, yes, I’ve got a serious case. I can’t resist the idea of adorable, tiny toes or hearing a sweet, little voice call you “mama” for the first time. Time and time again, I’ve heard moms say that the bond between mother and baby is simply divine. It’s also something that only other people in the motherhood club can truly understand. And I want to know what that’s like. 

As someone who has been fortunate enough to score high on the mom lottery—my own mother is a wonderful person and we get along like chips and salsa—I fully understand where my yearning for motherhood comes from. I want to replicate the relationship I have with my mother with my own child. I want that beautiful, can’t-explain-it, you’ll-have-to-go-through-it-yourself kind of love that mothers often describe when they talk about motherhood. 

But at the same time, mothering in 2024 is a completely different experience than it was for my own mother and our Gen X and Boomer parents in general. I’m stuck in a “should I or shouldn’t I” battle with my own anxieties about becoming a mother and bringing a child into the world considering the state of things—and I’m not alone. 

According to Motherly’s seventh annual State of Motherhood survey, Gen Z moms signal a continuing birth rate decline. 

Here’s what else the survey found:

  • Today’s moms under 30 are 2 times as likely to NOT plan for more children than moms of the same age in 2019, citing financial, childcare, global, environmental and medical concerns (69% in 2024 vs. 35% in 2019)
  • 33% of younger moms feel that the need/desire to work combined with inadequate childcare support contributes the most to not wanting to have more children

What does it mean to be a mom in 2024?

Being a mom in 2024 means you have to contend with a long list of systemic parenting challenges. That’s not to say that our parents had it super easy. But today’s parenting woes are undoubtedly heightened by technology and shifting societal norms.  

In raising tomorrow’s leaders, moms are at the forefront of it all. Contemporary moms are navigating uncharted waters—and they’re mostly doing it alone. Studies have shown that social support is crucial during postpartum and beyond. But today’s moms don’t exactly have the “village” that moms in the ‘60s and ‘70s or even the ‘80s and ‘90s enjoyed. Research supports this idea of having a “personal safety net”—a community of family and friends that show up for moms when they need them. However, that kind of social support is not a reality for the majority of moms today. In Motherly’s 2023 State of Motherhood survey, 51% of moms reported that they hadn’t been out without their child in the past month—an increase from the 38% that was recorded the year prior. The concept of sharing the physical and mental load of parenting is a thing of the past. Today’s moms can barely get a minute to themselves. 

The modern mom constantly pivots as new research-based evidence comes to light just as much as when social media-based advice changes, seemingly overnight. Between figuring out a healthy amount of screen time, establishing online safety rules that work for their growing children, navigating the exhaustive dance of work-life balance, choreographing childcare schedules and finding their footing in a never-ending cycle of changing family dynamics, moms in 2024 are expected to handle it all—and look like they’re enjoying it, too. Part of my dilemma stems from these types of modern day motherhood challenges. I’m already losing sleep just thinking about online safety or how to keep growing and enjoying my career while also not missing out on any important milestones. The constant juggling sounds daunting even if it is ultimately rewarding. 

Continued birth rate decline in the US

The state of the world today also clearly plays a big factor in people’s decision to have kids or grow their family, and it’s a major one in my estimation, too. Social media makes it easier than ever to access live news from almost every inch of this earth. From economic recessions to wars, we are being fed more information than ever before—and while a global perspective is eye-opening, it can also be downright scary. When you take into account the rising cost of childcare and environmental concerns—I’m not surprised to learn that Gen Z moms are citing those factors when it comes to family planning

One report found that the annual cost of raising a single child in 2024 is now up to an estimated $25,714, a 42% increase from 2016. By the age of 18, that adds up to an estimated $462,852. Those numbers account for childcare, transportation (gas) and food. Note that this does not even touch the amount of expenses accrued for single parents who have to come up with creative solutions for many of these issues. 

In any family, the person who does the grocery shopping (most likely moms!) will tell you that they’ve noticed rising food prices for the past few years. Childcare follows a similar pattern. A survey conducted by Care.com found that parents spend, on average, 24% of their household income on childcare, with 35% using their savings, too. To put that into perspective, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) suggests that childcare is considered affordable when it only costs 7% of a household’s income. Of course, the childcare cliff has only exacerbated this issue for parents all around the country. 

Finances are a huge factor when it comes to considering expanding your family. But so is the state of the world and environmental factors. Environmental concerns are typically the least-talked about societal issue, and so if Gen Z moms feel like they’re screaming into a void—I completely understand. As recently as 2022, the UN Secretary-General proclaimed that “we are passed the point of no return” regarding the climate crisis. It’s very distressing to hear a global leader state that our children or other future descendants will be forced to rebuild in the aftermath of a catastrophe. Each additional person adds to the overall carbon footprint, which, for me, raises ethical questions about their quality of life. All of which makes the decision to have more children in the face of the climate crisis multifaceted and complex. 

We are not living in pre-internet times like our parents, raising children without any knowledge about what’s happening in countries around the world or the financial state of our own country. Blissful ignorance is not even an option anymore—which just makes the full-time job of “Mom” that much harder. The Pew Research Center reports that 70% of the public says it’s more difficult to be a mother today than it was 20 or 30 years ago. I can’t help but wonder if this is a trend that will continue as global issues become more and more pronounced. And if that’s the reality, I also wonder if I can truly thrive in motherhood—or if I’ll be left floundering.  

The reality is that moms have—without a doubt, no contest whatsoever—the hardest job in all the world. Two things can be true at the same time: Moms are forced to make parenting work against all odds and that resulting journey can make motherhood incredibly beautiful. Will it be for me? I hope so. 

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