Marianne Kraczek: Starting a family at the Yale School of Drama against all odds

By Marianne Watts Kraczek

For the Deseret News

Published: Saturday, May 11 2013 5:00 a.m. MDT

Editor's note: This is an excerpt from "Choosing Motherhood: Stories of Successful Women who put Family First," published by Cedar Fort.

Motherhood was not on my mind the summer I took a temporary receptionist position at a large international communications company in suburban Washington, D.C. I was 19 and had finished by first year of college.

When I found out I would be answering phones for the vice president of public relations, I was thrilled. I was a journalism major at the time and was considering an emphasis in public relations.

The vice president exemplified a high-power career woman and had the wardrobe to match: dry-clean-only suits and name-brand shoes. When she was in her large corner office with a wall of windows, she was always busy meeting with important people. She was also often away on business.

Sitting outside her office at the receptionist's desk, I pictured myself with her job. I wondered if I would enjoy it and if this was the path to pursue. I found time to talk to her about working in public relations and we discussed internship opportunities. I also worked. Since this was before cellphones and BlackBerrys were in everyone's hands, I took all of her calls and learned when to interrupt her, when to take a message, and when to pretend I was taking a message.

It was when her little boy called that I started to think not about career tracks but about motherhood. He was about 6 years old. He called all of the time for his mother, but I always answered the phone. Often I was able to immediately transfer the call, but just as often I had to tell this boy that his mother was busy, either in a meeting or out to lunch or on the phone with someone else. When I would tell the VP that her son was on the phone again, I could see some anguish and wondered what she was thinking.

Then I thought of my own mother who stayed at home with me. I took for granted that she was always there. She was there when I came home from school. She was available to take me to lessons or to a friend’s house. She spent time with me when I needed her. When I called her, she always answered the phone.

After six weeks working as the receptionist and a child’s go-between, I decided that whatever it took, I was going to stay home with my children. I had a lot of time to think about that decision. It was 10 years before motherhood became a reality for me, and I had no idea how difficult it would be to stick to the decision I made at 19.

I went back to college that fall and later felt impressed to change my major. Instead of working in public relations, after graduating from college I taught social studies at a high school in Las Vegas. My future husband, Mike, was the theater teacher. We were friends for some time before we started dating. When he told me about his plans to attend graduate school, I knew I was in love because I felt sad at the thought of him leaving me behind. Fortunately, he didn’t want to leave me behind either.

Shortly after our marriage, Mike started applying to graduate programs around the country. While I supported his decision to go, I was concerned about starting a family. Already in my late 20s, I had a strong desire to be a mother. I was impatient and didn’t want to wait another three years. I instinctively felt Heavenly Father would not have us wait long either.

Remembering the promise I made to myself to stay home with my children, we discussed options for mixing parenthood and graduate studies. There were no easy solutions. With these thoughts weighing on us, we decided to delay baby plans until we knew where we were going. To prepare ourselves for the changes ahead, we started living on one income and saving as much money as possible.

When Mike was accepted to the Yale School of Drama, he almost turned the offer down. The cost of tuition worried him. Yale offered only limited financial support. Other schools offered tuition and stipend grants, and we could have avoided more debt. My husband, always conservative with money, nearly walked away from an amazing educational opportunity.

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