BY SUSAN PATTON
Class of 1977
Now that I know I have your attention…
It seemed to me that all of the wisdom that was being offered to you focused only on your professional development. I take it as a given that you will have a successful career that puts your many talents to productive use.
The advice I offer is intended to encourage you to pursue a more holistic approach to fulfilling your life’s dreams — if those dreams include bearing children in a traditional marriage. I want to encourage you to take full advantage of everything Princeton has to offer: a world-class education, as well as a community of people who share your appreciation for academic excellence and an intellectual curiosity. You have an extraordinary opportunity to find lifelong friends, and maybe a life partner with whom to form a family and raise children. If that’s what you want, I am suggesting that you multi-task during these undergraduate years.
This thinking is neither anti-feminist nor retrogressive. It’s practical. Simply put, there is not gender equality in all matters. The window of opportunity for men to marry and have children is almost limitless. You don’t have that kind of time.
In the 1950’s, women were encouraged to find a husband early because opportunities for women in the workforce were limited. They had few options, so they married after college and spent the next ten to fifteen years having children. If after graduating, you spend the next ten to fifteen years invested only in professional development, you will find yourself in your thirties and may have nothing but your career, limited marriage prospects, and a loudly ticking biological clock. Interesting how the same advice (find a husband early) is meaningful today, but for different reasons.
Pursue all of your dreams – – not just the ones that are politically popular. And don’t be afraid to want what you want. Don’t be shouted down by those who want you to want what they want – – instead of all you want for yourselves.
To those of you who have written to me to express your thanks for my confirming what you’ve been thinking, but were afraid to say out loud, I sincerely appreciate your thoughtfulness. No thanks were necessary, nor were your apologies. I understood why you messaged me privately.
Obviously, the opinions I express are my own, and as with any advice… you can take it or not. I wish you continued success and every happiness.
Susan A. Patton ’77