We had the so-called “Princeton Mom” on Morning Joe this week, and you could say that her letter and new book, advising college women to spend a third of their time looking for a husband if they want a traditional family, has touched a nerve. It’s caused this stir because, well, the truth hurts. Young women may dismiss her message, or the way she stated it, but the bottom line is your chances of finding a mate does diminish as you get older.
Patton’s point, that women at Princeton should be spending 75% of their time in college looking for man, may have been a bit extreme, but there is an important message in her madness. Whether you’re a young coed at a school like Princeton, or starting your career at a fantastic law firm, or off on an incredible Peace Corps trip—it’s at those kinds of places and experiences, that usually take place in your 20s, where you’re going to meet interesting, smart, engaged people. So if you do want to get married, I think Patton’s advice to be actively thinking about finding your potential mate at this time of your life will be very productive (or reproductive?!).
When I give speeches to young women who are interested in a career in television, my most important piece of advice actually is ‘don’t forget to get married’. If you want a family—which of course not everybody does—but if you want a family, I, like the Princeton Mom, think you are kidding yourself if you can put pursuit of that goal off until your 30s. Having a family is probably the most important decision you will make in your life and if it’s something you want, your options should be open as should be your eyes.
I’ve always had an aggressive ambitious career. But it would be nothing without my husband and my girls to share it with. When I was fired—at the age of 39—from CBS News, there’s no doubt it was a devastating day. But I remember walking up 57th Street as I left the building for the final time and literally reaching around my shoulder and patting myself on the back. As lonely as I was and as sad as I was for losing a career 20 years in the making, I was so proud and so comforted to be going home to two of the most fabulous little girls I could ever imagine.
I know the Princeton Mom rubs people the wrong way, but put your fears aside and listen to what she is saying. You may not like it, but she is technically correct. And if you truly want a family and a partner in life, do the math and follow at least part of her message.