Pascal’s Wager Applied to No-Baby Regrets
I bet Pascal never dreamed he’d show up on a baby(ish) blog 350-some years later, but he also probably couldn’t have imagined millions of viewers tuning into to find out if Snooki’s going to wet her pants again in public. But here we are. Let’s chat about him and his wagers.
Regret is a dish best served cold
I was lunching with a lady at work – Amy – before I quit work and became a Lady who Lunched. The subject of babies came up, as it’s wont to due when you’re sitting across from a pregnant person. I mentioned that Drew and I were riding the fence, and Amy said that she and her husband waffled on the issue for years before she had her first kid at 37. I asked her what swung the pendulum, and here’s what she had to say:
Ask yourself two questions:
1. If you had a baby, would you ever regret it?
2. If you didn’t have a baby, would you ever regret it?
Amy’s answer key, and presumably most people’s, is that no. 1 is an emphatic NO, and no. 2 is at least a MAYBE. Unless you have a true demon on your hands (perhaps the children who cameo’ed in last Monday’s entry?), once the kid is there, the odds of you wanting to hand it back to the stork seem relatively low. I do realize that people unprepared for motherhood hand back babies all the time (apparently foundling wheels are coming back into style in Europe! Those crazy Euros.). But I’m talking specifically about people who’ve thought long and hard before deciding to have a baby.
As for number 2 – wow, how are we supposed to answer that? I don’t know, maybe, yes? Are these good enough reasons to take on the enormous responsibility of having a kid?
Pascal Gone Baby Crazy
This whole options grid thing got me thinking about our old pal, Blaise Pascal. Famous not only for his flowing locks, Pascal is the originator of Pascal’s Wager. A highly simplified explanation of this wager is that:
Although God’s existence (or lack thereof) cannot be proved through reason, people should wager that God exists (and live accordingly) because:
- There’s a lot to be gained if you believe (namely, admittance to heaven)
- There’s little to be gained if you don’t (in fact, you might risk going to hell)
The Maybe Lady Baby Wager
Taking Pascal’s grid approach, the baby-regret options might look something like this:
Hmm. So not having a baby is the only opportunity for eternal regret? And having a baby is the most likely way to ensure happiness?
Something’s Missing Here…
Pascal’s been criticized for oversimplifying the issue and neglecting to take a few things into consideration (the ability – or lack thereof – to force a belief; what you’re missing out on by living a purely virtuous life; etc.). The same is probably true of the Maybe Lady Baby Wager.
- The Hidden Costs: If I thought I had the opportunity to own a helicopter with a tiger airbrushed on the side, and I missed it, would I regret that? Probably. But am I willing to work my tail off for the next 30 years to be able to afford that? Possibly, if I loved what I was doing. But if I didn’t truly enjoy it, or it prevented me from doing other things I loved like playing chess in the park with stray dogs? Then no.
- Other Regret: Any time you choose one road, you’re not choosing another. Maybe you would have been a famous NASCAR driver, or 18th century royalty, had you not spent all that time birthing and mothering babies.
Well, Now That That’s Solved!
Okay, anyone else as confused as I am? I suppose this wasn’t a very helpful post. And coming up with that Maybe Lady Baby Wager grid was almost as mentally exhausting as writing a college term paper. Except I was less hungover.
But in case you’re not thoroughly befuddled yet, I’ll leave you with this quote from Arthur Miller:
Maybe all one can do is hope to end up with the right regrets.
Okay, but which ones are those?! *Sigh*