family size and the Earth - Mothering Forums
View Poll Results: How many children do you have or plan to have?
1 21 13.29%
2 44 27.85%
3-4 59 37.34%
5 6 3.80%
as many as you end up having! 28 17.72%
Voters: 158. You may not vote on this poll

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Talk Amongst Ourselves > family size and the Earth
USAmma's Avatar USAmma 04:05 AM 06-01-2002
Hi Mommies,

I first want to say that I don't want to offend anyone here, or judge them. I just wanted to pose a question and see if we can talk about this.

Most of us here are into being earth-friendly and all that. I've been thinking about how many children we want in our family. Ideally 3 but it's probably not going to happen because we can't afford it. We will probably settle on 2. But even then, as I learn how humans are crowding out other species, using up natural resources, etc, is it selfish to have more than 1? Even if we use cloth diapers and bf and try to be as enviromentally friendly as possible, the reality is that each human being on this earth needs resources to survive. Eventually our children will want their own homes, drive their own cars, have more kids, etc.

I guess being in India and seeing how terribly crowded it was there, how there were more people than jobs, how many were living on the streets while the few elite were driving the new imported SUV's. They have a government campaign to promote family planning, hand out free birth control, educate, and have slogans painted on taxis. Everywhere I went I saw the upsidedown black triangle with the words "We two, ours one" and "One family, one child." Apparently it's working and many are only having one or two. And then I come home and read about women having 5 or 6 babies via fertility drugs.

How do you balance your concern for the Earth with planning the size of your family?


khrisday's Avatar khrisday 05:51 AM 06-01-2002
It is an interesting topic. My husband has always said that we are two people, it's acceptible to make two new people to replace us but no more. If we wanted more we would have adpoted.
daylily's Avatar daylily 10:45 AM 06-01-2002
This topic has been hashed out here before. It's something I struggle with, because I have 4 children, but the environment is my big cause. I am trying to leave the smallest footprint possible on the Earth and to teach my children how to live responsibly. I can think of several childless people or smaller families who produce way more waste and pollution than we do.
Piglet68's Avatar Piglet68 11:33 AM 06-01-2002
The only reason I feel having one child is not good is because I strongly believe in the benefit of having siblings, even just one. But I too have often struggled with the realization of just how much of the earth's resources we here in the "west" HOG. I take issue with the idea of "go forth and multiply" as having any relevence to our world today whatsoever. I don't see how anybody can have this attitude and not be completely blind to what goes on outside our "golden borders".

Infant mortality is virtually unheard of here. Our grocery stores are overflowing and there is plenty of room for everybody. But that doesn't mean, IMO, that we should just multiply out of control because we can. I also have a troubled time dealing with the moral issue of artificial fertilization techniques that result in "litters" of five, six, even seven children at a time. I don't think it is healthy for one thing, for mother or the babies, and given what we know about our planet's resources I'm not sure it is morally just either (though such events are rare enough that I still consider it something to ponder, not judge upon!).

Infertility is one way that Nature keeps the population under control, as is disease, famine, drought, etc.. We here in the West have managed to largely avoid or overcome all these issues. So why should we, on the one hand, fight so hard against Mother Nature and then turn around and say we should all have as many babies as She allows? Just doesn't make sense to me.
oceanmommy's Avatar oceanmommy 12:56 PM 06-01-2002
This is a tough one because it is so personal to so many. We have just one child and - MAY - have 1 more. This is for several reasons, one of which is the human population problem. I think down the road we might foster a child and/or adopt if/when we are ready for more kids.

Another big reason is because we believe a child needs so much one to one time with parents, and we want to be there fully for each child. Plus I am kind of selfish and want to do other things in my life when DD is a bit older and doesn't need me quite so much of the time (and so intensely)

ekblad9's Avatar ekblad9 03:01 PM 06-01-2002
Well, this isn't my favorite topic. My MIL uses this against us each time we get pregnant and have another baby. We may have five children but we are way better on the earth than many people that we know with less or no children.

First of all, we live in a very tiny, three bedroom house. The same size that we would live in whether we had one or two children. I recycle absolutely everything, use cloth diapers, breastfeed forever, buy things at resale shops, cook most foods from scratch, and use everything until we absolutely HAVE to buy new. We have way fewer garbage cans out by the road than most of the people in the neighborhood.

We have chosen to have a large family, partly our choice, partly our religious beliefs.

If I'm adding to overpopulation with my large family than so be it. I wouldn't eliminate a single one of them. I am raising them to be environmentally concious and good human beings. I figure there are people out there with one kid who can't even say that.
zealsmom's Avatar zealsmom 03:12 PM 06-01-2002
I voted '1', but would like our family to grow through adoption.

We are Zero Poulation Growth people!
ekblad9's Avatar ekblad9 03:32 PM 06-01-2002
I would also like to add that we would gladly adopt 10 kids if we could but we have looked very deeply into it and cannot find an agency that will allow us to. My husband has type 1 diabetes and epilepsy and no one will even let us fill out an application due to this.
zealsmom's Avatar zealsmom 03:47 PM 06-01-2002
I have a epilepsy too, but have not found it to be an issue. Then again, we are not limiting ourselves to any country of origin and it is much more difficult to adopt in the states. We have friends that have adopted in Cambodia, Vietnam, China, India. There are so many options.
sleepies's Avatar sleepies 04:27 PM 06-01-2002
we are only having two. but not because of any earth friendly reasons.

im not really into much "environmentalism", but i do think most people on here either are or claim to be.

i do agree that over population is a big deal.

i also think that people should be free to do as they choose.

i guess you have to pick your battles or causes.
Missgrl's Avatar Missgrl 04:27 PM 06-01-2002
eckblad6~~~~oh I loved what you said and that is so true!!
I have friends that don't have any children that are destroying
the Earth way more than I am with 2 children!!! Plus, who else better
to have many children than AP/Earth conscious people???? The Earth
needs our children to educate everyone else in the future!~
IMO it's not HOW many children you's how you raise them. Be it
1 or 10 of them!!!!!

greenmama's Avatar greenmama 04:52 PM 06-01-2002
I agree, this is a hard one. So many great ap moms have sooo many kids. My dh had two from a previous marriage (now grown... I had them for their adolescence... great fun) So we weren't all that comfortable having any since we are for zero pop. growth also.
We did have dd and his first wife re-married and had one also so four adults had four kids. dh had a viscectomy 2 month after dd was born.
At the time we thought if we decided to have more we would adopt. Now I just can't decide. Siblinghood was REALLY hard for my step-kids (they hated each other.) and me and my siblings are not really that close.
But I remember as a kid thinking that my single child friends were sometimes difficult to play with and "brats" and said I would never raise a single child. I decided in high school that I wanted to have one and adopt one.

But now I wonder how could I possibly give two kids all the time and attention that I give to my one. I'm not worried that I wouldn't love them the sam. I just worry about the number of hours in the day.
daylily's Avatar daylily 05:09 PM 06-01-2002
I used to receive mailings from a "zero population growth" organization. I question whether it is the same one some of you have mentioned. The mailings I read always had alarming statistics about what over population is doing to the *US's* environment, but then went on to explain that our population is growing *mainly because of immigration,* followed with a message telling us to keep immigrants out. I can't help but wonder if this group is trying to disguise racism with environmentalism. If people from poor countries come here to a country with good health care and easy access to birth control and good nutrition, isn't that better for the earth in the long run?

PS--I am NOT calling any of y'all racist. I'm just wondering if there is one organization called zero pop growth, or if the mailings I recieved were from a different group altogether using another organization's name.
greenmama's Avatar greenmama 05:20 PM 06-01-2002
You are right there are definate right wing anti immigration people who try to use this arguement to get more left wing environmental types into their camps. It is also why Sierra Club and others have some problems with the issues.
Population Growth can only be looked at as a global issue and a personal issue, not a national issue. When you throw national lines into it there is a whole wealth of social justice issues which cloud it.
Super Pickle's Avatar Super Pickle 05:43 PM 06-01-2002
It is true that the majority of the US' population growth is due to immigration. I don't see that as necessarily a bad thing, but knowing that makes me perfectly comfortable with having as many kids as we want. But we also hope to do international adoption after bearing 2 or 3 so we can give some of our time, resources, and love to children who don't have families.
I agree with what some of you have said, which is that it's not how many kids you have, but how low your household's impact is. A 5-child household that recycles, composts, eats low-impact,passes down clothes and cloth diapers, etc. is probably not worse on the environment than a fast-food eating, disposable-using, 3-car family with only 2 kids. It's not how many people we have; it's how the majority of us are living so wastefully. And, IMO, having lots of siblings is a great way to learn about allocation of resources, responsibility towards others, and basically that you're not the center of the universe. Every child is another chance to stretch your heart and learn more about unselfishness and real love.
I heard a quote by Mother Teresa that I just loved, which went something like this: "How can anyone say there are too many children? That's like saying there are too many flowers!"
ekblad9's Avatar ekblad9 06:03 PM 06-01-2002
Zealsmom - We didn't limit ourselves to any particular country or age of child. My dh's epilepsy is very severe (I'm sure you know there are different levels) and he has severe complications with his diabetes. We have looked into several different options. Eventially I plan to become a foster parent. We would never limit ourselves to a certain race or country, EVER!

I'm glad to hear that so many people agree that it's what works for you that's best. We absolutely LOVE having a large family. I think I said that earlier but wanted to say it again. I don't begrudge people that choose to have a small family and don't feel that I should be judged for my choices.
glh's Avatar glh 06:03 PM 06-01-2002
Piglet68- I had 2 children using fertility drugs after 2 years of infertility and 3 miscarriages and then years later we had 2 more children without fertility drugs (my second baby died when he was 3 1/2 months old, so I have 3 living children). I don't think you can understand the pain of infertility unless you have gone through it. Using the argument that it is nature's way of controlling the population reminds me of those people who say it is "God's will" when you lose a child. I don't think they would say that if it was their own baby who suffered and died in their arms. Using the argument that the earth is overpopulated, why don't we all adopt? Or is giving birth only for those "special" people who have no problem conceiving? What about childbirth, do we not ever intervene because that is what "nature intended", that some babies and mothers will be lost. OK, maybe I'm being oversensitive here, my losses happened many years ago, but it still hurts when I remember all the insensitive things people said.

I also want to add that when women conceive many children at once using fertility drugs, it is most likely the doctor's fault. When I was on pergonal, I had an ultrasound and a bloodtest everyday. If I produced too many eggs in a cycle, treatment was discontinued for that cycle. Multiple births (especially more than twins) are dangerous for mothers and babies and that is why any competent infertility doctor tries to avoid them.

Oh and fwiw, my ds18 who was conceived on fertility drugs is graduating from high school this month with honors and 3 college scholarships. He plans to teach 4th grade after college and he is an all around nice kid. I'm glad he is here.

Thank you Super Pickle for your kind words.
Super Pickle's Avatar Super Pickle 06:13 PM 06-01-2002
glh I'm so sorry for your loss, and for the hurtful things people have said to you. (((hugs))) How sad for you to go through infertility, miscarriages, and then to lose a born baby. Women who have gone through that kind of tragedy and are still functioning are made of something incredibly strong.
peggy's Avatar peggy 09:17 PM 06-01-2002
edited because this subject makes me crazy...


Mom to Sean, Tim, Meghan, Bryan, Molly and Grace
Piglet68's Avatar Piglet68 09:32 PM 06-01-2002
glh - oh my god I totally did NOT mean my post the way you took it!!!! I am so sorry if I gave you the impression that I didn't think artifical fertilization methods were "right".

I have absolutely NO problem with artificial fertilization. I have not had a problem with infertility myself, but during my stint on a TTC board I made friends with women going through the pain of infertility and learned a heck of a lot about it from them. I am absolutely all for treatments that can help a woman have a baby and would never, ever suggest otherwise!!

What I was getting at is that because we have such wonderful things as infertility treatments, plenty of food and the money to withstand drought and famine, the technology to improve both quality and duration of life.....that to turn around and say that controlling the birth rate is somehow "going against mother nature" would seem hypocritical to me.

And I totally agree with you that the problem with the supertwins phenomenon is the medical practice of implanting multiple embryos, like you said I think it is too risky. I'm not saying that women should not seek out fertility treatments!

Again, I am really sorry if you took my post personally. It honestly wasn't meant that way! I am very sorry for the pain you had to go through and wish you all the best.
glh's Avatar glh 09:38 PM 06-01-2002
Thank you Piglet68-I guess I was being oversensitive. So many times I'm reading posts too fast while trying to nurse dd1-I guess I just took it the wrong way. You are always so gracious when someone has differences with you (((hugs))).
member's Avatar member 11:05 PM 06-01-2002
I am against ANY kind of regulation of women's fertility up to and including the "Earth" argument. You can have 20 bio kids and live an ethical life and do little damage to Earth. Eat veggie, use products that are Earth-friendly produced, reuse, recycle, etc.

DP and I have yet to decide how many bio children we will have but we know we will adopt and raise up to 7-10 children hopefully.

I do not wish to come as environmentally unaware, but as an Indigenous woman these kind of topics push my buttons.... my grandmother was sterilized against her will in 1973 along with thousands of other Native and Puerto Rican women.
USAmma's Avatar USAmma 11:05 PM 06-01-2002
Wow, such thought-provoking answers! I too had to ttc for a long time with dd and it's incredibly painful. Being pregnant was probably one of the most fulfilling and incredible things I have experienced, and so is being a mommy. I can understand why some would want to have big families.

I also agree that being earth-friendly with 5 kids is probably about the same as being non-earth-friendly with 1 or 2. My neighbors are always coming home with super jumbo packs of Pampers and I'm proud of my small fluffy stack of cloth dipes. :-) They also have a swimming pool and lots of grass (we have desert landscaping with a small patch of grass for dd), they have 2 cars including an SUV (we have one compact car, one bike and a bus ticket), and the list goes on.

About the immigration issue-- dh is an immigrant and I think that's silly to be against immigration because of population growth reasons. It's not like the immigrants are the same as being new people on this earth. They just transfer from one area of the earth to another.

I think this issue has been on my mind a lot as I think about next summer when we will probably ttc our second and last child. The thought of being my last pregnancy and newborn baby is sad, but realistically we just can't afford to have more than 2.

We live in a big LDS community so I see big families everywhere, and so maybe it just seems that more people are having kids than actually are nation-wide. I saw one very tired-looking mommy pushing a double stroller with a 1 and a 2 year old in it, a baby in a snuggli on her chest, and a preschooler walking beside her. That's what triggered this post.

I'll say it again that I don't want to judge people for the decisions they make. I just wanted to hear some different views on the topic. I hope that for the most part we are able to discuss without making offensive comments. But sometimes you can't help offending because people feel so strongly about both sides of this issue.

greenmama's Avatar greenmama 12:21 AM 06-02-2002
OK, I'm going to really try to say what I have to say in a way that allows the loving place that I am saying this from to come through. E-talk is such a tricky thing.

I have a really hard time with the positions being presented that being earth friendly or whatever you want to call it compensates for population growth. Individuals use resources and create waste, no matter how you slice it more people means more damage to the earth. The rest is just a matter of scale. The repeated references to how a family lives only accounts for that short period of time that you are living together. What about when those multiple kids become multiple households.

That being said. Population size is a global issue but an intensly personal issue. There are MANY social justice issues that cloud it and I would never want anyone other than the women having children to have any say on that decision (except maybe their partners, but there are social complications to that also.)

The decision to have numerous children is not the most environmentally appropriate decision, but that does not mean that it isn't the RIGHT decision.

Driving a car is bad for the environment. It doesn't matter if I get the most fuel efficient car, the best emission controls and whatever. I drive on streets that fragment habitat and do immeasurable environmental damage. It is not the most environmentally approprate decision, but for me it is the right decision.

When evaluating our environmental efforts we need to be very loving of ourselves and everyone else. I may do many things a week to reduce my ecological footprint, there are many thing that I'm not yet ready to do yet (like ditch that car). I need to forgive myself for those. And when I see someone not taking the steps that I've already taken I have to remind myself that they may be taking different steps. And even if they aren't I can't know what path they are on and where it will lead.

Since peggy edited herself, I will use her as an example. We all know that she is an amazing mom from the wonderful jewels she drops for all of us on these boards. Her decision to have six kids was not on the outside an environmentally appropriate decision. But as amazing as she is, I'm sure those are some pretty impressive people she's raising and who knows what one or a few of them will ultimately do for the good of the earth.
AnnMarie's Avatar AnnMarie 12:43 AM 06-02-2002
We have 4 but would love more. However, we can't so we are in the process of getting licensed for foster care. I think the earth is big enough for all of us to have 10 kids. It's just not big enough for the way we live these days.
ekblad9's Avatar ekblad9 01:07 AM 06-02-2002
I would like to add, without sounding too hostile, that we have acquaintances that are DINKS (duel income no kids). They have several homes in different parts of the country, each drives a large SUV, the waste is unbelievable! They don't want any children. Are they better than us, environmentally?

Perhaps my children will not go off and live as they have been raised. I hope they do but what can a mother do but teach? But what about me? I wasn't raised environmentally at all. Now I live in an environmental way. Hmm, so we CAN do the opposite of how we're raised. What if everyone does? Or 50 % of the population? Then it evens out, right? Are we grasping at straws here? I really think so. It's impossible to figure out who makes the best decision in this case. We can never truly know. There are figures both ways, right? Should I be embaressed now when I walk down the street (trust me, you get stared at enough and asked "are those ALL your children?). So now do I have to assume that they think I'm unenvironmental too? That's a lot to think about. I think I'll just keep thinking that people that stare are rude.
AnnMarie's Avatar AnnMarie 01:10 AM 06-02-2002
Originally posted by ekblad6
(trust me, you get stared at enough and asked "are those ALL your children?).
I get that all the time too. The worst time was when we went in for a family picture the photographer asked if we were all family. LOL No, I thought I'd bring in my neighbor's kids for my family picture. : lol
ekblad9's Avatar ekblad9 01:12 AM 06-02-2002
This is so off topic but that happened to us too! How rude! Do I ask people with one or two kids "is that ALL you have, do you have fertility problems?". Of course not because it's NONE OF MY BUSINESS!

OK, you may return to your regularly scheduled topic!
sunmountain's Avatar sunmountain 01:19 AM 06-02-2002
We have four children, I just had my tubes tied after dd was born (we also have 3ds). I thought long and hard about how many we would have, dh didn't seem to have a preference and decided I would just "know" when the time was right to stop having children. We were done with three, but dd was determined to come through after all.
I think the point was already made about how to live a conciencious lifestyle, but I also believe we choose who we are meant to spend our lives with in this realm. Forgive me if I get too spiritual. Each one of us has lessons to learn and challenges to overcome. Part of my decision to have more than one or two children stemmed from my own life growing up with a sister who was 10 years older than me, and we didn't get along. I always ached for a sibling who was closer to me, or at least another I could turn to in good times or bad. I wanted my children to remember happy together family times, not times playing alone. That said, I am not against only having one child, this was just my experience.
If we concentrate more on making life rich for every child, I think this issue about how many we should have would take a back seat. We have far fewer resources than many of our friends who only have one or two, but I like it that way. Many, I'm sure, would be of the opinion that we are too poor for our family size (you name the gov't program, we qualify for it) but we also don't think we were meant to provide things like college funds or expensive clothes for our children. I appreciate the BA I have more so b/c of the hard work it took for me to earn it. Dh and I will enjoy the fruits of our own labor into our old age (hopefully), but the children will have to labor for themselves, including working by the age of 16 and paying for the things they want themselves. I paid rent any month I was home after I turned 18. It made me very responsible. I no longer rec'd an allowance or spending $$ after the DAY I turned 16, and had to cover the cost of lunches bought at school, my bus ticket, etc... as well as any clothing outside of my school uniform. Our children will either go to a private highschool or be homeschooled, and either way will hopefully leave a positive impression wherever their lives take them.

As far as the low infant mortality rate in the US, this isn't entirely true. We actually have one of the highest in the industrialized world. Mostly due to our severe problem with interventions at birth.
Maya's Avatar Maya 01:36 AM 06-02-2002
We've always said we'd have just 2 kids (replace ourselves). But, if you're trying to live in an environmentally-responsible way, I agree with whoever said that you have to think about the issue globally... people are always shocked at the growth rates in places like India and China, and I (before marriage, kids, etc.) used to applaud the 1-child policy in China, thinking that it was appropriate given their populations. But now when I put myself in their shoes, I just can't imagine the GOVERNMENT telling me how many children I should have ... the thought of it makes me feel really rebellious. I don't think I could handle it!
p.s. I'm not at all anti-government (being a transplanted Canadian, I wish the U.S. government would do a bit more to help the general public... but that's another issue!)
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