Just like her original piece, this essay by Susan Patton (now dubbed the “Princeton Mom”) is provoking a great deal of hostility.
(For the record, I have heard a couple of second-hand reports that Patton has made statements that I do not agree with. I don’t know yet if these reports are liberal smears or not. But I am only dealing with the logic of her March essay for Yahoo, because that is what I have read, not to anything else she may have said. Also, she says some dismissive things about single people. I think we need to realize that God does not call everyone to be married and those who are single should not be considered somehow less than whole.)
I know that you want to believe that you have lots of time to develop a brilliant career and have a wonderful family. But you don’t. By the time you graduate from college, half of your childbearing years are behind you, and the years from 22 to 35 will pass much more quickly than you can imagine. And if you’re even able to conceive at age 35, yours will be considered a high-risk pregnancy. Don’t delay having children until after you’ve established your career. That may be too late. You can make up for lost time on the job, but if you miss your opportunity to have your own children, it’s gone and it’s irretrievable.
A lot could be said about this advice, but what I notice first and foremost is that Patton isn’t telling any young woman to get married and delay a career.
What she is saying to young women is, if you want to have a home with a husband and children, then you need to get married and delay a career.
OK, I admit there are some hints that she thinks that, if you have to have one or the other, the family is more valuable than the career (see my caveat above), but I don’t see the opposition coming from women who only want the latter and are saying they decided to forego the former.
No, the opposition is provoked because she claims you can’t have it all because “nobody does.”
My response to the “But I haven’t seen the world yet” or “Aren’t your 20s all about having fun?” conjecture is that it’s all fun and games until somebody winds up a spinster with cats. Simply put, you don’t get everything. Nobody does. So we must make choices and prioritize. If seeing the world is at the top of your list, OK, but the world will always be there. Your fertility is relatively fleeting.
Notice again the “if” statement. If a young woman wants to see the world and the trade-off is worth it to her, then so be it. But the point is that there is a trade-off.
I imagine that there are women whose lives have managed to reach the point of “having it all.” But that doesn’t destroy Patton’s point. Lottery winners don’t prove that you should make regularly buying a lottery ticket part of your life plan.
Trotting out the relatively few women who can claim to have succeeded in this “having it all” goal is like the way porn star superstars are used to encourage the thousands of young women who ruin their lives for a pittance to get into the industry. You simply don’t have a reasonable chance of getting the outcome you want.
Which leaves me with the question: Is the appeal of feminism as preached to women at college based on a big fraud? Are young women being lured into career thinking based on a sales pitch containing a giant falsehood?
It seems to me that feminists, if they truly want to empower women, should be honest about the choices they face.