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: Gregory
"Having only one child means that there is time for us as a couple as well as our children. We are able to give our child more in terms of time than we would be able to if we had more children and the bond between the three of us often draws comment. We are able to afford to buy more sustainable foods and fuels. With luck we won't have to struggle to pay for school trips and family holidays. Sometimes it is hard thinking that our daughter will never know what it is to have a sibling, but it would be harder to think about her not knowing the forests, the woodland animals and insects. As humans, the single greatest thing we can do to halt the mass extinctions we are causing is to have fewer children. The choice is hard, but doing what is right for the planet rather than ourselves often is hard."
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: Simon
"My wife and I both work full time, so we wanted what spare time we do have with our daughter to be quality time. In addition, we are both aware of the extreme environmental challenges faced by our planet and wanted to be part of a responsible collective that mitigates this impact by having a small family. For the same reason we also went vegan in 2015. My wife and I adore our daughter, she brings us so much pleasure because we appreciate her. A small family is like a glass of good wine - enjoyable and something to be savoured!"
Family Talk: Becca
“I loved being pregnant and having young children but I always knew that I would only have two children because of population concerns. I've got two hands and so even if it is just me with them, I've always been able to keep them safe and close. There is enough time in the week for them to have their own interests and for me to take them to the activities that they want to do, and still have time for myself. We can afford to pay for their interests and have nice days out, but most noticeably, we can afford to buy a cup of tea and a cake if we go out for a trip. When I was a child, with six of us in the family, it was never an option to buy a drink or a snack.”
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: Asha
"While I absolutely love children, I decided not to have my own. Not having children is the biggest gift I can give to ensure the existence of wildlife and our beautiful planet Earth. In addition, I can live my life to max without fear or reservation. It opens up time for me to learn, understand and dedicate my life to things that are bigger than me, and matter more than my existence or the continuation of my DNA."
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 firstname.lastname@example.org with your reasons for choosing to have two or fewer children and your experience of life in a small family.