What this Princeton woman wanted

Margaret Fortney’s article “What Princeton Women Want” may take some by surprise, but not me and probably not any of us, builders!

It was spring semester of my junior year at Princeton.  I was taking two biology courses, one physics, an elective, writing my junior paper, preparing for a summer of senior thesis research, rowing lightweight crew, and studying for the MCAT.

In many senses, I was doing too much (weren’t we all?), but in others I was forcing a square peg into a round hole.  The effect was not that I appeared outwardly overwhelmed, but that I began to lose my inner joy.  My smile was an outer facade hiding an interior void.  I was giving so much of myself to endeavors that were no longer meaningful that there was little left when it came to others.  In many ways I was losing sight of my God calling, or true vocation.  I had started off wanting to help people, but where had I gone wrong in the process?

Then came a vision–it was of me at reunions years down the road, elated at seeing a fellow MCAT gal.  While she regaled me with tales of medical school and residency, I imagined me stooping down to pick up a toddler.  The child and I eagerly listened and questioned, genuinely happy for her, and then parted together, joyful and content.  I was not a doctor.  I was a mom.  This was my calling.

I quit the MCAT soon after and experienced an undeniable peace in its place.  This was definitely right.  From there it became obvious that I needed to pursue my passion for teaching others.  I remember the naysayers: “You went to Princeton to become a teacher?”  An assured “yes” was all I could articulate at the time.  The world told me I was taking the lesser path, but all I knew was that I was truly answering His call even if it deviated from others’ definition of success.

Today it would sound more like this: “You went to Princeton to become a stay-at-home mom?”

Yes.  Yes.  Yes.  Yes.  Yes.  (That’s one per kid.)

Thanks be to God for women who answer the call to become physicians.  You care for my children; you are my heroes.

But for me, I answered the call to be a mom (always a teacher) and haven’t regretted the decision since.

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  • Kellie “Red”

    And come on, admit it, we are going for that record of most children for women Princeton roommates. We have to be close with 10, right!?!

  • Andrea

    Thank you for this post, B-Mama! I am not a mom yet, or even married, but I feel the same way, and have had similar visions when I imagine my future. It feels counter-cultural but it is what I truly want and feel called to. It’s great to read this and see that I am not the only one who has altered life decisions in order to answer this call!

  • Kellie “Red”

    B, the link isn’t working.

  • Bethany “B-mama”

    I just hopefully fixed it… And while I’m here, might I give a quick “‘atta girl” to Margaret for her courage in writing this piece. I don’t think I would have had the guts, let alone the conviction to write something like this even by senior year. Thanks to her for challenging the Princeton and worldly mentality in such an open way.

  • I had a very similar vision my sophomore year, Bethany! I switched from pre-med to psychology, figuring that I could still help people, just in a different way – I had wanted to be a neonatologist, and realized that I would have 10+ years after college of intense medical training which would make it very difficult to have babies. I wasn’t dating anyone at the time, and hadn’t even gotten to know my husband yet, but couldn’t imagine that I would want to wait until I was in my mid-30’s to get married and have children. I guess I was pretty confident that I would meet my future husband soon!

  • Thanks for sharing this. I am a Princeton educated former teacher and now raise my daughter. It is great to see young women speaking up for a right to choose their paths.

  • Juris Mater

    Thanks for sharing this, Bethany. I hadn’t seen the article yet.

  • I am wondering what you all think someone should do if they hope to be a full time mom later on? I guess not take on graduate school debt that will oblige a demanding career is one thing? Once married, a couple can try to live on less from the beginning, while they have two incomes, to prepare for only having one? Perhaps where and in what kind of house you live matters, because again if you were locked in to a mortgage that required two salaries, it would make it hard to leave your job?

    My father always said that everyone should take a child psych class in school, which would have been a good thing, I think, for me to have done, I”m sorry I didn’t listen.

    In general, I can’t say I felt so strongly called to staying at home until I was sort of stuck there, and then began to embrace it with time, perhaps this was how it needed to be for me. I took the LSAT when I already had two children, so I was still thinking then about going back to work, but I got pregnant with twins, so that was like a big “duh” moment, that I needed to be home at least for a while.

    Now that I am homeschooling, I am much more into it, so I think of that as my vocation sort of more than the SAHM mom/wife part. But overall, I also think that I was always open to doing what my family needed, so I hope that I wouldn’t mind too much if working was what my family needed from me.

  • Donna

    Mary Alice that’s exactly what I did. Around senior year of college as God changed my heart, I realized that if and when I had children I would want to have flexibility to stay home with them. So when I did so well on the LSAT and could go to any law school I purposely chose to go to a bit lower ranked (but still great) law school that gave me a full scholarship so I wouldn’t be forced into certain jobs or lifestyles because of debt. (Also- not having six figures of debt at the end of it all freed me to take any legal job I wanted afterwards- not just the highest paying). I ended up marrying a husband with tons of debt from his law school experience- I can’t imagine what we’d have done if we’d both had it. When I worked as an attorney, we never relied on my income to sustain us. We bought a smaller house and kept our cars and used my salary to pay off debts. When the time came to have children we had no trouble with the transition to my staying home, and I still have a law degree in my back pocket if I ever need to work for some reason. I want to add that when I was in college my parents wouldn’t let me major in prelaw or political science- they insisted I major in something I could more easily get a job in if the law school thing didn’t pan out. At the time I was really upset by it, but now I have a double degree in journalism and PR and I’ve had unsolicited job offers in both those fields even since being a homeschooling mom of four. Those fields lend themselves to part-time work more than law does. I’m grateful for my parents’ far-sighted advice.

  • JMB

    When I was in college I imagined that I would work for a few years and then get married and have some children and stop working until they hit high school and then get a job at an office or school doing clerical work until my husband was ready to retire. It seemed like all my aunts and mothers of friends did that. Some went back to school for teaching certififations or nursing degrees, but nobody had a high powered full on career back when I was young. I still kind of see myself following that plan. I don’t know if my daughters will have that luxury because of the exhorbidant cost of college education these days. My parents were able to put 8 children through private colleges on my dad’s salary and some family money and none of us graduated with any debt. That’s not going to be the case with my children.

  • Mama Turtle

    I really liked this article; I feel bad that she is getting some serious backlash in the comment box.
    One thing I find interesting is that many commenters on that article argued that by staying home with children, the writer or her friend was depriving society of their talents and education. To me, that shows some pretty out of order priorities.

  • Loved this post. I went to the University of Chicago to become a doctor…and now I’m a stay at home mom too. I didn’t know this was what I wanted for a long time, but I’m grateful to be able to stay at home with my baby. Thanks for this reassuring piece.

  • Ted Seeber

    It appears that the Daily Princeton has censored it, not surprising at all.

  • Theresa W

    Great thoughts here. I had the option to go to med school but chose not to as I wanted to have a family and wanted to stay at home with my kids and see them grow up- seeing my brothers become doctors and working 100+ hours per week reconfirmed what I thought. Obviously you CAN be both a doctor and mother, but you can’t work full time at both jobs. Children grow up so fast and the thought of only seeing my children for an hour or so a day was depressing. I chose to get a degree in Pharmacy from Trinity College Dublin which, while hard work, is a lot more flexible and only requires one year of training afterwards. I’m happy I did, because almost as soon as I finished my course, I met a wonderful man which I married a year afterwards and we’re now expecting our first child. I have no regrets. I can always go back to Pharmacy if I want to.

  • AmaniS

    Funny how you can not find the article any more on their site.

  • Kathy

    AmaniS – I was also wondering why one could no longer access the article. This is the official reply from the Daily Princetonian. The article Bethany mentions above was published on January 7, 2013, so it falls into this explanation’s category.

    Editor’s note: Articles published between Dec. 2, 2012 and Jan. 13, 2013 were erased due to a server malfunction. We are in the process of re-uploading those articles. Thank you for your patience.

  • Kathy

    The Daily Princetonian has respoted the article mentioned above. Here is the new link.


  • Kathy

    I meant to type “reposted” the article.

    The original comments to the article are not there, though.