Becoming a parent is one of the most rewarding decisions a person can make, but, according to a philosopher, it’s also one of the most illogical.
L.A. Paul is a philosophy professor at the University of North Carolina and leading expert in the philosophical study of transformative experiences, which involves looking at major life experiences and how they can impact and, in some cases, permanently change people. Paul has found that becoming a parent changes a person in such a dramatic and unpredictable manner that it is basically impossible for someone to know whether or not they will enjoy being a parent until they actually become one.
“It’s going to change who you are, it’s not clear that there’s a straightforward question about which life is better,” says Paul. “In each life, you’ll develop values about that way of living. You can’t make this decision by projecting yourself into your future self by knowing what it’s going to be like and deciding if that’s the way you want to be. It’s just not rational.”
Paul is not just speaking from a philosophical perspective. She is speaking from her own experience of becoming a mom and finding herself changing in core, fundamental ways. And even though most people are aware of how much becoming a parent changes a person, Paul insists it cannot truly be understood by someone until they experience it themselves.
“One of the deepest and most important features of being a parent was epistemically inaccessible to me,” she says. “There’s a way in which I am a different person. I’m metaphysically the same person but I’m a different self.”
According to Paul, becoming a parent is on par with such transformative experiences as going to the moon, going to war, taking certain drugs, or being spiritually reborn. As there really is no way to know who a person will become once they have children, having children is, therefore, an inherently irrational decision.