My Responsibility

There’s a small local bookstore in my neighborhood. I like books. I like supporting the town. So I shop at this bookstore.

The books are used. Sometimes I have to settle for Olivia Saves the Circus instead of the original Olivia, but they’re both cute, they cost less than three dollars and I’m giving my money to members of my community, rather than some faceless chain store.

Once when I was looking at books and Magoo went on a crazy 2-year-old rampage, one of the store owners brought over some toys and played with him until I was ready to check out.

They have an unlisted phone number and no computer. They take cash or checks only. They keep an index card listing of the books you’d like to purchase so that if a copy comes in, they can give you a call. The store smells like my grandma’s basement, not really in a good way. I love this bookstore.

Then a couple of days ago a friend who recently moved to the area said, “I know you like that bookstore but I just don’t feel comfortable going in there with my 3 kids. They have a big bumper sticker right on the door that says ”˜Reproductive Responsibility — 2 is Enough!’”

I was dumbstruck. Nah! She must be mistaken. I’ve been in there tons of times and I’ve never seen that. She was pretty sure she’d seen it. So I took a peek the next time I was driving by. Sure enough, right at eye level, just above the OPEN sign is a good sized sign proclaiming that I should stop having children to save the planet.


I came home really upset. What right do they have to tell me how many kids I should have? Who are they to judge the reproductive choices of everyone on the planet? I was offended and I told Dan that I simply wouldn’t shop there anymore.

As usual, he remained calm despite my 28-year-old rampage and waited for me to join him in his happy place. Then he said something about how we choose not to live in a cave somewhere because we want to be part of a community and learn to get along with people who think and believe differently than we do. The owners of the bookstore are kind people and they’re our neighbors.

So now I’d at least like to talk to them about the sign. But what do I say?

First I want to ask them to explain their position. Then I want to explain mine.

I have the right to choose how many children my family can love, nurture and provide for. I have a religious belief that God created the earth with resources enough and to spare and that having and lovingly raising children is a spiritually fulfilling and earth-building endeavor. If we’re running out of resources, then we should be wiser about how we use them, not be controlling how many of us get to use them. If all the caring and educated people in the world start limiting their offspring in order to save the planet, won’t the very people who are the least well-equipped to care for and teach children become the ones who are having the most of them?

I feel like I need to say something if I’m gonna keep shopping there, especially if we decide to have another baby. Putting my personal feelings and religious beliefs aside, I just don’t think it’s their right to judge anyone else for their decision. I also don’t think it’s appropriate to place a sign like that prominently at the entry to your place of business.

This entry was posted in around town, get serious, parenting, signs, world domination. Bookmark the permalink.

80 Responses to My Responsibility

  1. I’m dropping in via Kerflop.
    This is why I love the internets… this kind of thoughtful and diverse kind of discussion makes for great reading… !

    I find it interesting that you’d consider not shopping there because of the sign.

    Personally, if I knew the shop owners I would casually bring up the matter, but it would be out of sheer curiousity. i.e. “So… what’s up with the sign man?”

    But I think I would leave it at that. Everyone has different opinions. Everyone feels strongly about one thing or another. These people just chose to advertise it on the front door of their store. Perhaps this topic is a little off-putting, but to me it’s not worth a boycott. But that’s just me! 🙂

  2. Emily R says:

    I’m with Stephanie. They’re inviting discussion and opinion sharing by posting their opinion so publicly. It need not be a big emotional threat conversation. I think it’s good to understand people, and that’s hard to do without open discussion. In the end, if they choose to continue with something that makes you uncomfortable and unwelcome, you can drop them, because they chose to end the relationship just as much as you did. It’s a mutual break-up, and you both can be sad about it. I would be.

  3. Michelle says:

    I remember when I got married my SIL asked how many kids I wanted and I said five! She then shared her two children philosophy, that she was only having enough children to replace her and my brother. 9 yrs. later I only have two kids and we’re done. Only because that was our choice as a couple; we have a child with autism and can’t handle another one, financially or emotionally. Now she she smuggly asks me what ever happened to five kids?

  4. Thea says:

    An excellent post! I’ve thought about this often over the last few years, and now that my husband and I are expecting our first, it gains a new gravity for me. What really dictates how many children we have?

    A friend of mine is adamant that two is too many, and we’ve gone politely and passive-aggressively around and around about this. I think you make an excellent point as to the difference between using the resources we have in a conservative way, versus limiting how many people should be allowed to use them – it seems to me that a better, more long-lasting action to raise our children well, regardless of number, than to reduce the number of children being raised to consider things like this.

  5. I agree with above posters about how great this intelligent conversation is on your site! I’ll definitely be back for more.

    I think the store owners most definitely DO have the right to poster their store with their political beliefs–and isn’t that ability one of the things that makes them different (and more loveable) than the box chain stores? Additionally, that they post controversial ideas like this on their front door suggests to me that they’re pretty open to conversation on the subject. Regarding the issue itself: if they’re thinking about conservation in ANY way, I think it’s a good thing. I agree that no one should tell us how many children we can have–clearly, it’s a personal decision.

  6. Tracy says:

    That is one of the most offensive things I’ve ever read! I read this awhile ago and was immediately worked up since I have 3 kids. But I’m still worked up even when trying to look at this objectively. And considering my 3rd was conceived while using 2 forms of birth control; I guess God wasn’t really in a ‘reproductively responsible’ that night. or day. Whatever.

  7. jk2boys says:

    If you know the book store owners pretty well (and feel comfortable talking to them), I would just kindly mention that a friend of yours (with three kids) saw the sign in the window (about 2 is enough) and doesn’t feel welcome to their store (And you just wanted them -the owners, to know).
    At that point you will probably find out if they really think babies are taking over the world, or if they just put the sticker there as a joke.
    If they’re serious and defensive I would drop it and I would feel uncomfortable going there.
    If they’re serious but friendly, I might say somehting like: when I have 3 kids can we still be friends? (BIG SMILE). ‘Cause I do like shopping here…
    them: do you plan on having 3.
    You: yes…so, can I still shop here? (BIG SMILES).

    I don’t know if the coversation would actually go that way, or what would caome next, but I think the important thing is that they know that someone isn’t coming to the store because they didn’t feel welcome, because of the sticker in the window.

    And to make things really interesting you could kindly suggest to them that your third child will be so intelligently raised in a loving family that in 2030 he/she will discover the answer to all our problems….Personally I hope you have a boy and that you name him Pedro and that he will run for President and we can all wear vote for Pedro shirts and he’ll win and we’ll finally have world peace and everyone will live happily ever after.
    Is that too much to ask?

  8. KYouell says:

    Oh, so many comments. I feel late to the party.

    Like Amy (#12) said, the U.S. is not currently overpopulating the planet. I differ with Becca (#39) in that I don’t think the replacement rate is births v. deaths, but births + immigration v. deaths + emigration.

    This article from the October 2006 Smithsonian Magazine is where I got my facts. Maybe they just don’t want to collect Social Security? I hope that Carrie (#45) is right and they have a sick sense of humor. Maybe they really have 6 kids? Maybe the sticker was put there by the previous tenants of that space and they couldn’t get it down?

    I also agree with Schnozz’s (#48) suggestion that judging someone’s actions as inappropriate does not mean that you are judging that person. I’m very careful to tell my son that hitting is bad behavior so that he never, ever thinks that Mom thinks he is a bad person. Same idea, just with grown ups.

    I would broach the topic with the store owners. Perhaps writing out what I think beforehand to make myself more thoughtful and less reactionary during the discussion, but I would still talk to them face-to-face.

  9. I think it’s incredibly innappropriate for them to post a sign like that. Not only is it judgmental, it’s bad for business. But I’m curios to know why they would do it. Let us know what you find out

  10. Adria says:

    I’m always a little taken aback when people want to proclaim their controversial and offensive views to the world. Although I did once sport a bumper sticker that read “Human milk for Human babies”… Ah, to be that naive again.

    I have heard of the “only 2” movement. And I’ve had it explained to me. And as a mom of 8 kids, I’ve come to accept that we are never going to see eye to eye on the issue.

  11. Sue says:

    I’ve enjoyed reading the comments and the conversation, but I really don’t understand why you would be offended or care what they think. I’ve been lurking for a while and you REALLY don’t seem like the type to manufacture drama. Why would you need to confront them? Who cares what they believe?

  12. Sue says:

    “I’m always a little taken aback when people want to proclaim their controversial and offensive views to the world.”

    But maybe to them, this is not controversial or offensive. Maybe to THEM, this seems like common sense. You just don’t agree with them. Should they confront you because they think it’s immoral to have 8 kids?

  13. Pingback: My Own Thoughts » Stating your opinion in your business

  14. Kelliqua says:

    I don’t understand the “I won’t shop there” because I don’t agree with every single opinion the shop owner has. Do you all check the religious, political and moral beliefs of every shop owner you go to? Would you ban a gift store because the owner is Republican if you are a Democrat? Would you not shop at a boutique if you are Buddhist and the owner is Christian?

    Why so defensive? I doubt the owners are “judging” anyone, there is no sign that says “Parents of more than 2 are unwelcome here”.

    They are just displaying their right of free speech. I also doubt they are trying to make anyone feel bad, the sticker does not imply judgement or malice to me (and I have 3 kids) any more than a sticker that proclaims “Pray the rosary”, “Support PFLAG”, or “Save the animals, Go Veg.”

  15. Eve says:

    Wow, I can’t read all of those comments, they’re hurting my head. All I can think about is that if we limited ourselves to two children only, we wouldn’t have the joy that is my River. Although he came sooner than planned, we did plan on having more, and we will have more after him. I love him with all my heart and he is such a very special part of our family.

  16. Prisca says:

    This is a fantastic post (Thanks for sending us, Kerflop!) and I’m impressed that different points of view can be expressed calmly.

    I’m with previous readers who advocate voicing your concerns if you simply must (perhaps with humor) and then deciding if you can still shop there.

    I absolutely refuse to shop in some businesses because of the political or moral choices of the owners. BUT, I’m also honest enough to say that I don’t subject every business person or place to that kind of scrutiny. If I know their concerns and don’t agree I don’t shop there. I don’t know if that indicates integrity or a lack thereof. I just know that I operate on a “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy. If they shove their beliefs (political, religious, social etc.) in my face and I don’t approve, I’m out the door. That’s my choice. Your post reminds me that perhaps I ought to ‘vote’ with my pocketbook more often. Check those big box stores out, too– if you don’t think they have political agendas then you’ll be quite surprised!

    I do also have to ask about this idea of a ‘God given right’ to procreate? I’ve got kids, but I don’t think it’s my God-given right to have them. What does that mean for folks who can’t have kids? God didn’t give them the same rights? That one’s a stretch for me. It’s like the ‘right’ to privacy. Is it constructed by our laws / social institutions or our biology? Just wondering…

  17. Veronica says:

    You might ask the store owner who he thinks will be paying his medicaid and social security. Oh, wait. that’s what I would ask him. You’re nicer than that.

  18. Heather O. says:

    One of the great things about this country is the freedom of speech. They have a right to post (almost) whatever they want in their store, on what is, presumably private property. You have a right to hate it, and tell them that. And you also have a right to not shop there. But don’t be surprised if they don’t take it down just because you think they are misinformed (which they are, by the way. The overpopulation theory is utter and complete nonsense. If they need proof, point to Germany, where the whole country is practically imploding, and where Angela Merkel is trying to come up with incentives to get people to HAVE MORE BABIES! Oy.) I’m on your side, though.

  19. I do also have to ask about this idea of a ”˜God given right’ to procreate? I’ve got kids, but I don’t think it’s my God-given right to have them. What does that mean for folks who can’t have kids? God didn’t give them the same rights? That one’s a stretch for me. It’s like the ”˜right’ to privacy. Is it constructed by our laws / social institutions or our biology? Just wondering…

    The term “God-given” refers to an inalienable right – one that is not provided by the state and cannot be taken away from an individual unless a person is guilty of a serious crime against the state (i.e. life, liberty, etc.). While there have been a few cases where judges have ordered people to stop having children, these have been highly controversial to say the least. Most recognize the right of a person to have children as inherent to their status as a human being.

  20. Prisca says:

    I was really addressing the theological implications of the statement, but I appreciate the reminder about case law. I know we fight very hard to make sure people do have reproductive right to have kids (let alone not to), but I get worried when we call them God-given because it makes a very clear statement to those who cannot conceive.

  21. Lesley says:

    I have not read all the comment, there were wayyyy to many for my buckety brain to handle. ;0) I am mom of 4 and if I had stopped at two many people, who love my kiddos, would be missing out on knowing them. I can not imagine my life without ALL my kids and I would hope parents everywhere would feel the same way.
    I wonder how many kids the store owner has? How many siblings?? How many grandkids? ect…..

  22. Irene says:

    I very much think like you do on this. However, I wouldn’ shop from someone with whom I do not share similar views, especially if they are too eager to publicize their opinions. I might try a conversation with them on the matter, see how militant they are. If they insisted, I’d state my opinion, wait to see what they do, then if they insist look for another bookshop.
    I find it unethical that all this pressure is put upon European, and Christian populations whereas people who don’t have as many means to support themselves are left to produce scores of offspring. It is suicidal that people across Europe and the US are actually embracing these ideas.

  23. Thanks everyone. There’s too much here to adequately respond to everyone and all your great points. The net result of the discussion is that I feel much more chilled out about things. I do plan on continuing to shop there but I will write a letter to the owners, which I will not deliver, to help get my thoughts straight and when the time feels right I will bring it up. Some of you gave GREAT ideas of what to say in a casual way just to see if I’m welcome in the store after I have my next kid and to let them know that there are people who are uncomfortable with it. I do fully understand that they have freedom of speech and belief and I’m grateful we all do. But like some of you have said, if they didn’t want me to exercise my freedom of speech and speak to them about it, they shouldn’t have put their freedom of speech on the front door of their store.

    I’ll let you know how things go. Thanks for the great discussion!

  24. I hate stepping on people’s toes, but here goes:
    For all the people who insist that there’s no risk of overpopulation, do you really believe that there’s no limit? How many people can the earth hold? 10 billion? 100 billion? 1 trillion? 100 trillion? At some point there must be a limit.
    The limit is less dictated by the number of poeple than by the amount of resources they use. Yes, we’ve gotten better at getting resources out of the planet, but we’re also digging deeper and spending more resources to get those resources (so the net gain is getting less and less). In addition, the byproducts of using those resources are overwhelming the reserve capacity of our planet to handle them (carbon dioxide, heat, pollution, etc.).
    So while the number of people on this planet may not physically take up a huge chunk of the land mass on the planet, in order for those people to survive they need large amounts of good farming land to be fed. I did find one estimate of 1.2 acres of arable land per person the minimum to maintain adequate nutrition, so the family of four living on 1/4 acre would also require 5 additional acres for food, thus bumping up the amount of land required from 650,000 mi^2 to 13.6 million square miles. In addition, each person needs a minimum of 700 gallons of water per day for all their needs (presumably including growing food, we’re using more like 1450 gal/day now), so any of this land without adequate fresh water supply isn’t usable.
    Yes, right now we’re maintaining our comfy lifestyle by having lots of extra room but also by living of the backs of third world countries. Many of the current and future conflicts are driven by lack of resources or trying to get more resources. Remember thet while the US only accounts for a tiny bit of the world’s population, we account for a huge chunk of the world’s resource use, so 1 US person uses the resources of 30 or so third world people.
    The idea that we should be free to have kids with no consequences is just like running up your credit card: eventually the bill will come due. Will you be able to look your kids in the eye and say you did everything you could so they would have a good future?

    Sorry, I was getting a little hot under the collar there, but I can’t abide people being willfully ignorant. If you know what you’re getting yourself into, that’s fine, but go in with your eyes open for God’s sake.

    If you really want to learn something rather than listen to idiots like me blather on about stuff we only tangentially know, read the book called _Collapse_ by Jared Diamond, it’s entertaining (ever wonder what happened to the residents of Easter Island or the Anasazi?) and eye-opening. Also, in the end, it gives hope. (I put a link to it at Amazon as my website to make finding it easy.)

    Anyways, that said, it’s true that unless you engage with the shopkeeps you don’t know if they’re judging you, and you may be just judging them. For all you know, they enter by the back door and unlock the front from the inside and neevr notice the sticker someone put on the door. Or maybe they’re Nazis. Or maybe they’re frustrated by the problems they see in the world. Or maybe they have six kids and are being ironic (or wish they had stopped earlier). Until you talk to them, you don’t know. As bookstore owners, they probably do want you to exercise your free speech. Use it.

  25. Kati says:

    Oddly enough I saw that sign on the bookstore for the first time yesterday on the way to music class. I had to do a double take and make sure it said what I think it did. Yep, it did! And yes I was surprised and distrubed. I’ll be interested to hear what kind of response you get from them!

  26. Lauxa says:

    Personally, I think population expansion is one of the biggest problems facing our planet. Either we’ll figure out how to handle it or we’ll end up with famines and plagues to force the issue. If we had our current level of technology and infrastructure with a tenth of the current population we’d have utopia.

    On the other hand, the more people we have the more stuff we can do as a planet. And maybe utopia would be boring.

    I liked Schnozz’s comment on how people judging each other is inevitable. I think that if they prominately post an opinion on a controversial issue, this is an invitation to debate. A friendly heated political debate is one of the great joys of life, in my opinion…

  27. jonb says:

    I agree with Lauxa. Also, I’m not so sure what’s so shocking about somebody stating their beliefs and opinions in the form of a bumper sticker. We see it every day, from politics to religion to what radio-stations we listen to. Perhaps it’s that it’s not on a bumper, but rather a small-business’s storefront? It may not be in the business’s best interest to post such a statement, but they clearly feel strongly enough about the issue to risk losing customers because of it. Which–if you ask me–shows how passionate they are about the subject.

    You should most certainly go in and talk to them. After all, that’s why they have the sticker there to begin with–to spark debate. Just be ready to do just that, as I’m sure they’re prepared for one.

  28. Amy W says:

    First (coming from a librarian here):
    They are a bookstore – have they read Margaret Haddix’s Among the Hidden? (for you non-children’s lit. readers, it’s a book based in a 2 children per couple only society 🙂

    My DH said we could only have 2 kids, ’cause 3 fight over the who gets the windows in the backseat. We ended up with three. But that third one was 15 years after the first two.

    All fun aside – honestly, if you can care for them, have them. If you can’t care for them then don’t.

  29. MamaToo says:

    Good to hear (from a more recent post) that you decided to wait to bring it up. That seems wise and neighborly. Perhaps they’ll see your life & family, and change their mind (not only about posting the sign, but the view in itself).
    I appreciate the way your post, and decisions, have been gracious toward your neighbors. Your children are learning from your example, and that is certainly something that will benefit future generations of our planet!

  30. Natalie says:

    LOL. Being the oldest of 7 and a young mom to 4 children 4 and under planning on having as many as God allows, I can laugh as I remember as a young child, seeing an episode of Captain Planet.
    We weren’t allowed to watch that show for some reason or another, but I clearly remember the one time I did and it still cracks me up.
    The Planeteers(sp?) were gazing into the future somehow and saw that one of them had 6 kids!!!
    It was literally the end of the planet, bc this man’s 6 kids were consuming all our resources! The planeteers were furious and went on to explain to the CHILDREN watching the show that to have more than 2 was dangerous for our planet!
    My fave bumper sticker? “Birth Control is for Sissies!”
    In jest of course, bc there are MANY people out there I do not want to see reproducing…sorry was that ugly?

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