Nearly half of Canadian women want to have more children than they are currently having, a survey found. OSV News photo/CNS file, Bob Roller

Marriage with kids opens us to adulthood

By  Andrea Mrozek
  • February 9, 2023

Fertility is dwindling the world over and there is, at long last, a discussion of this, very often as the problem that it is. Now we have another survey to help us understand the ins and outs of Canadian women’s fertility desires. Thankfully, it’s a good news story. 

A recent survey commissioned by my employer,  think tank Cardus, finds nearly half of Canadian women want to have more children than they are currently having. Fertility desires are the lowest they have ever been; however, the fact remains that many, many more women have unmet fertility desires than those who say they have “excess” children. Replacement fertility is 2.1 children per woman. The survey tells us we intend, on average, to try for 1.9, but we have only 1.4 in reality. Put differently, on average, women desire 0.5 more children by the end of our fertile years. 

Women in the survey who want to have children identified the obstacles they see to actually having children in the next two years. The top five included wanting to grow as a person, wanting to save money, focusing on career, believing kids require intense care — and the inability to find a suitable partner, which tied with wanting more leisure. 

These barriers are not insurmountable. For starters, we must begin by acknowledging the basic reality this survey displays: Many women want to have more kids than they do. 

For years, if anyone was interested in fertility at all, it was to say low fertility rates result from increased opportunity for women — a positive feminist script. Today, we bust through that mythology to learn women want to have more children than they do, but there are obstacles on the path toward achieving it. 

We also learn the obstacles are not purely financial. Sure, many women said they wanted to save more money first. But our policy discussions tend to fixate on factors that didn’t register very high in these survey results, e.g., housing and child care availability and costs. 

It’s fair to say there are economic barriers to having children, but they partner with a cultural script that says certain things must be done before settling down into the perfect, sometimes much later, circumstances that might then involve marriage and children. It feels like some of us are still attempting to “find ourselves” at ages so old that we could be grandparents. (In reconnecting with a friend recently, I learned we are the same age. I’m the mother of a three-year-old and he is a grandpa times two.) 

We need to consider that “growing as a person” may take longer precisely because we delay marriage and children. 

Thus, we need to discuss marriage again as the serious entry point into adult life that it is. That’s the embedded back story in “no suitable partner” as an answer on a think tank survey. For many of us, marriage is still a marker of maturity — representing the idea that we are, as children of our parents, moving into becoming parents of our own children with all the responsibility that entails. In eschewing or delaying marriage, in declaring it as a nice thing but not necessary, we are by extension, also timing ourselves out of having the number of children we want. 

For my part, on demographic change, I remain hopeful. We have women who want to have kids but feel it is not an option right now. Part of the change will lie in cheering, encouraging and boldly declaring that having kids is an amazing ride, the adventure of a lifetime. Yes, it does come at a near-term cost to some forms of leisure — but at the end of life, few will say they wished to have watched more Netflix. 

Neither does more kids mean the end of meaningful choice for women, but the beginning. We have ceded public commentary for far too long to some fringe faux feminist voices — those who declare the one thing most likely to bring meaning and joy as an unnecessary, even negative pursuit. 

There’s urgency to the discussion, to be sure. The United Nations tells us that places like South Korea are at risk of losing half their population by century’s end. But in that country many women say they don’t want to have any children. In Canada, women want to have more children than they do. That’s “fertile” ground for fertility change in an upward direction. 

(Andrea Mrozek is Senior Fellow at Cardus Family. The survey can be accessed at

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