Smaller families can free people to devote more money and time to other aspects of their lives, such as friendships, careers, travel and activities that give them pleasure. Those who choose to be childfree will have very much more freedom, including (if they choose) to do other things to help protect the planet or help others.
People who do want to experience the pleasures and challenges of becoming parents will often find raising their children much easier if they have a small family. Children can be very expensive and having fewer opens up lifestyle choices that may not be possible with more.
Having more time and energy to devote to the children you do have can also make parenting more rewarding and fun.
Children in small families can do better. While family dynamics vary hugely and kids grow up happy in families of all sizes, many children benefit from greater attention from their parents and the opportunities that arise from fewer siblings. They can learn social skills and understanding from spending more time with children from other families and from being involved in adult activities. They can be more self-sufficient, mature and well-behaved. In fact, some research in 2016 suggested that each additional child in a family can have a negative effect on how well his or her siblings do in later life.
While nuclear families are still the norm, in the 21st century, families come in all shapes and sizes. Choosing to be a parent also does not have to mean making children of your own and bringing more people into the world. Many parents choose fostering and adoption, providing loving homes to children who might otherwise go without.
Family Talk: Anthea
“Family life with one child was happy and fulfilling, enabling us to do things not otherwise possible within a larger family.
Although we could, perhaps, have allowed ourselves another child, I now constantly try to convince our grandchildren that the whole world has to think very hard indeed about reducing the birth rate if the planet is to survive. The trouble is that babies are too nice! But better to have fewer of them and enjoy them than too many and put the planet’s survival at risk.”
Family Talk: Grace
“Before we had a mortgage or a car or a pension or wrinkles or a credit card, we saved up to travel around the world. We saw and did lots of fantastic things, and visited places with gazillions of people per square mile and other places with no-one as far as the eye could see.
We’d seen a lot more poverty than riches and it didn’t seem like rocket science to us that if we had two children, we could give them a better start in life than if we had to split our time and finances between three children or more. We were also acutely aware of how quickly the global population was increasing, and while we did want to have children, didn’t want to add to what we saw as a problem.”
Family Talk: Kevin
“When I was 23, I got a vasectomy. I’ve never regretted it for a moment. My reasoning was that there were too many people on the planet, and plenty of babies if I wanted to adopt. Eventually I married and thereby acquired stepchildren AND a foster child. And now I’m older and have all the lovely grandchildren anyone could want. I wish everyone could be as happy as I am with my grandchildren!”
Family Talk: Jenine
“I’m around 55 years old, happily married since I was 22, and childless. Neither of us ever really wanted to have children. It’s not that we don’t like them! I love my nieces and nephews and my husband is a teacher so looks after kids at school all week. However it is so much nicer to be able to borrow someone else’s children and then hand them back when they start to get tired and stroppy!
How wonderful to have the ability to be spontaneous: when we’ve wanted to go out on a whim we’ve never had to rush around looking for childcare. Then there’s the joy of uninterrupted sleep all night every night, and long lie ins at weekends…”
Talk to us about your small family
Do you have a small family by choice? We’d love to hear from you! Send an email to email@example.com with your reasons for choosing to have two or fewer children and your experience of life in a small family.