There’s been some ink out there of late on how not having kids is the greenest thing a person can do to help the planet. Less do we read how those who really want to do the green thing deal with also really wanting kids.  Writer and ecological advocate Shannon Hayes talks about her road to stopping at two kids, and her story illustrates two key points about how and why we decide to have kids or not.

At the beginning of Hayes’ relationship with her then boyfriend now husband, they agreed it would be better for the Earth if they did not have kids. A few years later …

…it turned out she longed for a child, and came up with rationales as to why it could be a good thing, such “a new generation would be beneficial to our rural agricultural community with its population in decline” and yet with just one child, they would still be “contributing to a net population decline.”

After the first child, Hayes got this “screaming, raging, passionate desire” for a second, and came up with rationales for having a second child, such as she couldn’t bear to see her first born daughter without a companion, and their rural community still had a serious lack of children.

Whether they relate to the first or second child, Hayes’ rationales or justifications have something in common with those who decide not to have children—it starts with emotional desire. Like with Hayes and others who want children, wanting kids starts with deep seated feelings, and the rationales and justifications follow to support those feelings.

When we don’t want kids, it works the same way. The lack of desire is the root from which concerns follow, such as population concerns, financial concerns, etc.  Either way, it starts with our level of emotional desire to have children. When the desire is not high, it is easier for the rationales to kick in.

But getting to what’s behind the desire leads me to the second point. After two kids, Hayes went through a period where she had that emotional desire for a third child. But unlike a lot of people, before just going ahead and having the third, she wisely tried to sort through her emotions. She had to ask herself, “…what was I hoping for with just one more?”

She realized that part of it was to “stay young.” She did not want to surrender “to the youthful vibrancy that surrounds childbearing.” She also came to see that she was confusing “biological fulfillment with creative fulfillment.”  Some soul searching made her realize having another child would serve as a distraction for her–a way to sidestep other personal creative challenges she knew lay ahead of her.

Whether it be kid number one, two or even three, getting to the root of the desire means answering self-reflective questions like, What is the experience I am looking for in having a child (the 2nd, 3rd child)?  Is having a (or another) child the only way I can get this experience? With some self-exploration, one can come to realize that the true origins of the desire may not always mean having a child (or the next) after all.

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