Friday, April 14, 2006

Should You Get Serious About Marriage in College?

A thoughtful woman in my family class posed this question in her journal for me:

In my experience, many of my girlfriends do not want to pursue “anything too serious” during college, in their words, “I am young, I don’t know where I’m going to be next year and I want to keep my options open.” The mutual feelings among college males about their uncertain future, and natural inclination to short-term sexual relationships, creates this liminal space as well. … It seems a career track is problematic for women all around when it comes to marriage and family. Aside from providing extra resources, it works against marriage in general. Although it can be overcome, it seems like the pursuit of a career almost always works as an antagonist to family and the pro-marriage ideas. This is the most frustrating realization I have come to in this course. Have I misconstrued it?

I don't think careers are antagonistic to marriage and family. Indeed, smart women need brain food and challenges, as smart men do. Family is great, but it is not all you will do in a long life. However, delaying marriage in favor of your career throughout your twenties does run a risk of making family impossible.

I would counsel an opposite strategy – you don't want to get too serious about careers now, because who knows what spouses and children the future will bring. Family first, then career, is the more likely strategy to let you "have it all."


Anonymous said...

and a formula that applies equally well--or should--to both sexes.

Gruntled said...

Yes, though men's and women's different biological clocks make the question more urgent for women.

SPorcupine said...

Marrying soon after college also has some career plusses:

1. You've chosen a mate so you save all the time you'd spend "being on the market" or "playing the field."

2. You go out to work every day from a base of emotional support, and you come home to it every night. That makes you stronger.

3. Physically, your home base is likely to be more comfortable. When our friends in graduate school were cooking Ramen noodles in their one third-hand pot, my husband and I were cooking full healthy meals in the pots and casseroles that came to us as gifts. We both benefitted from practical gifts from both parents. Even when each us was earning very little, we each knew the other's pay was coming in. That sort of thing makes it far easier to concentrate on career.

4. With two earners, one of you can take risks while the other provides stability. I was able to lead a nonprofit from startup to major earnings because I could work for less in the early years.

5. If your career requires high heels, you need someone who loves you enough to rub your feet when the heels come off.

Gruntled said...

Backscratching is another early benefit.