Many people today seek to live in a more sustainable and environmentally friendly manner. They travel less, or in ways that cause lower emissions. They use energy efficient methods to heat and power their homes. They recycle what they can and seek to minimise their food miles and food waste. These are all to be welcomed, but they only reduce a person’s impact to a limited extent and only for their lifetime.
Your choice about how many children you have is much more important. Each additional child will have more impact on the environment and consume more resources. And the impact will continue for that child’s life and the lives of all of his or her descendants.
You may decide not to have children. Parenthood is not compulsory and many people lead satisfying and fulfilled lives without having children of their own. You may prefer to adopt or foster rather than bring additional people into the world. If you do decide to have children, please consider how many to have when you think about the sort of world in which you want them to live. It is the biggest environmental decision you will ever make. In addition, there are other valid — and often personal — reasons for choosing to have a small family.
If you already have a large family, we are not asking you to feel guilty or apologize. People can end up with large families for all sorts of reasons and children are only one form of consumption, albeit they are usually the largest discretionary item. What’s done is done. Having a large family need not stop anyone appreciating the threat rising consumption and population poses to sustainability and supporting the family planning provision, women’s empowerment and small family messaging that will encourage future parents to have small families.
Women are still much more likely to bear the principal burden of childrearing. Having a smaller family enables women to have a full and fulfilled life in other spheres of activity.
Quality of life
Children can be tiring and expensive in time and money. For those with less money, a smaller family provides a better quality of life: more time, more money and a greater ability to make time for social life, personal interests, career success or simply relaxation. Everything is easier, from getting out in the morning, to transport, cooking, shopping and laundry. It also shortens the number of years spent in childrearing, makes it easier to keep working and means that there is more space in the house. In short, it is easier to maintain a ‘sense of self’. Many indeed find that ‘One is fun. More is a bore.’
Quality of parenting
It simply is easier to be a better parent with a smaller family. You will have more time and money with which to give your child or children the best possible education, meet material requirements and offer a good start in life. In addition, you may have better relationships with your child or children and be less prone to worry. With fewer children, going on visits, trips and adventurous holidays and including the youngsters in adult activities is much easier.
Quality of childhood
Children in small families can do better. There can be less sibling rivalry and a greater opportunity to develop an independent and rounded personality. They can be more likely to benefit from meeting children from other families and from being involved in adult activities rather than being cocooned in an insular set of siblings. They can be more self-sufficient, mature and well-behaved. Research has shown that single children do just as well in later life as other children.
You also need to avoid unwanted pregnancy.