Princeton mom sparks debate about finding a husband early

Published: Wednesday, April 3 2013 9:33 a.m. MDT

Princeton mom, Susan Patton and radio talk show host Stephanie Miller debate the issue of looking for a spouse while in college.

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Should women think about marriage while in college?

Susan Patton may have had her own opinions on this topic, but it wasn't until she submitted a letter to the Daily Princetonian early last week that her opinions became open for all to critique. Patton is now not only known as one of the first women graduates and 1977 class president at the Ivy League school, but now also for her views on the importance of finding a spouse while in college.

Patton's letter was geared to the women on campus regarding their marriage opportunities. She begins her letter by referencing several phrases from popular discussions about this topic such as Anne-Marie Slaughter's article in the Atlantic and Sheryl Sandberg's "lean in" statement from her latest book. As a Princeton grad herself, Patton stated she wished she had heard a different type of advice early on.

"Forget about having it all, or not having it all, leaning in or leaning out — here's what you really need to know that nobody is telling you," Patton wrote. "For most of you, the cornerstone of your future and happiness will be inextricably linked to the man you marry, and you will never again have this concentration of men who are worthy of you.

"Here's what nobody is telling you; Find a husband on campus before you graduate. Yes, I went there."

Although Patton did not marry a Princeton man, she has two Princeton sons and addressed her audiences in the letter as the daughters she never had. But some of her advice has not been as well received, especially Patton's comment regarding the time frame a college girl has to find a spouse.

"Here is another truth that you know, but nobody is talking about," Patton wrote. "As freshman women, you have four classes of men to choose from. Every year you lose the men in the senior class, and you become older than the class of incoming freshman men. So, by the time you are a senior, you basically have only the men in your own class to choose from, and frankly, they now have four classes of women to choose from. Maybe you should have been a little nicer to these guys when you were a freshman?"

Limiting women's relationships to older men and classifying senior-aged girls (22-23 as the national average) as somewhat 'old news' has drawn the ire of many.

"The problem here is not the suggestion that Princeton women might want to get married someday, nor do I have an issue with the idea that they should consider classmates potential spouses," Nina Bahadur, editor of HuffPost Women wrote. "I met a lot of wonderful guys at Princeton who will probably make great husbands someday — not to mention the incredible women I graduated with who will make great wives. If and when they want to."

Yet there were several questions Bahadur posed in response to the article such as, "In what universe is the majority of a graduation college class ready to get married? " or "Why is the woman supposed to do all the looking here?" and "Do you really think Ivy Leaguers are the only smart people out there?"

Maureen O'Conner, with the New York magazine, also commented on the Princeton mom's remarks, "Now, some will argue that Patton is merely offering advice for women navigating an already-sexist world. But she's doing it by pushing women — and women alone — to define themselves by their spouses and to make life choices according to an outmoded understanding of romantic attraction."

But even beyond the question of women being defined by their spouse, Dr. Nancy Snyderman appeared on the Today show and simply stated that college girls are too young to consider marriage.

"They're too young to get married when they're in college," Snyderman said on the show. "Meet them and go on birth control, but don't get married."

But even with the backlash that Patton has received since the publication of her letter last Friday, she has made it known that she stands by her words.

"It's not that I'm anti-feminist," Patton told New York magazine. "I completely understand that not all women want to be married, not all women want a family, not all women are heterosexual. I get all of that!" But "women go to college for a lot of reasons. Women go to Princeton for the very rich academic experience that Princeton provides and has provided for 250 years. I'm just saying, if as a young [Princeton] woman, you are thinking that you would like to have not just professional success but personal success as part of your life happiness, keep an open mind to the men that you're surrounded with now."

Patton is not the only woman who has made a stand for considering earlier marriage. Star Jones told Today.com, that as a 50-year old without children, she has noticed that something is missing.

"I had a plan of action, I had a strategy and it all came to fruition. I did everything I was supposed to do and everything I wanted to do professionally," she told Today.com. "And there came a time when I looked up, I realized that all of the stuff I wanted personally, I sort of let go to the back burner."

Monique Ruffin is producing a video series titled, 'Moms Changing the World' and discussed the benefits of working mothers in her article on Huffington Post.

"Moms today are at a new crossroad, and Sheryl Sandberg's Lean In (blog) has initiated a fresh conversation about women and work. It seems to me, however, that what's still missing from the conversation is an appreciation for the unique perspective and life skills that moms bring to the workforce.

Lisa Miller, with New York magazine, also highlighted a feminist mother who notes the benefits of staying at home with her children. Miller explains that for Kelly Makino, being a stay-at-home mom was the best decision she could have made.

"Her sacrifice of a salary tightened the Makinos’ upper-middle-class budget, but the subversion of her personal drive pays them back in ways Kelly believes are priceless," Miller wrote. "She is now able to be there for her kids no matter what, cooking healthy meals, taking them hiking and to museums, helping patiently with homework, and devoting herself to teaching the life lessons — on littering, on manners, on good habits — that she believes every child should know."

Sarah Sanders Petersen is an intern for Deseret News where she writes for Mormon Times and other feature articles. She is a communications major and editing minor from Brigham Young University.

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