Princeton mom: Women have a 'shelf life'

April 1, 2013: 8:14 AM ET
susan patton princeton
Susan Patton, a Princeton alum and mother, told female students to find husbands at school before they graduate.
NEW YORK (CNNMoney)

Susan Patton isn't about "leaning in" or "leaning back." She seems to be leading the discussion about women in a whole different direction.

In a letter titled "Advice for the young women of Princeton" published in the Daily Princetonian last week, the Ivy League alum said the path to happiness lies in their ability to land a husband during their four years at school.

"Find a husband on campus before you graduate," she wrote. The letter went viral, causing the college newspaper's site to crash.

Patton said that men have a broader time frame in which to build a home and a family. Women, on the other hand, have what she called a "shelf life."

"Unlike the men on campus, these women have a time clock," she said in an interview with CNNMoney. That's why she said she wouldn't give the same advice to her two sons, both of whom are Princetonians.

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"Women who spend the first 10 years after college... career planning find themselves in their thirties a little panicked,' she said. "From a sheer numbers perspective, the odds will never be as good to be surrounded by all of these extraordinary men."

What made these men extraordinary, Patton said, is that they would share the same love of learning and intellectual curiosity.

Patton, who graduated from Princeton in 1977 and went on to run an executive coaching business in New York City, said she spent most of her twenties focused on her professional life. At 30, she married a man who did not go to Princeton.

She wrote that "ultimately, it will frustrate you to be with a man who just isn't as smart as you." The couple recently divorced.

"I wish I had ended up with a Princeton man," she said.

Sheryl Sandberg's advice for men

Patton said she has read Facebook (FB) chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg's modern career women manifesto "Lean In" and heard the "can women have it all" chatter.

What she says is missing from the conversation is the personal component. That's why Patton said she felt compelled to share maternal advice with the Ivy League daughters she never had.

"Focusing on your career is wonderful," she said. "But while you're on campus surrounded by these smart men, make it one of your many missions to find your life partner."

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