Alumni Column – Colgate Women: Expert Jugglers!

Kelly Lehmann Johnson '94

You men out there take note: Colgate women are a special group. They are smart, interesting, creative, athletic and some day they may choose to become mothers.

Stop you in your tracks?

Well, that’s where many of us thirty-something Colgate alums find ourselves – stopped in our tracks. To get into Colgate, we (that goes for you current students and us alumni) were told we could achieve anything. We worked hard in high school. We found interests to keep us busy out of school. We prepared for the dream of having it all.

At my five-year Colgate Reunion, a classmate of mine and I attended a panel of older Colgate alumnae talking about how they juggled life as they got older.

What I heard from them is something I want all college women to hear now: Don’t expect to have a smooth transition into starting a family. You have to work at it. At the time, I didn’t believe them. I loved my job. I had married my Colgate sweetheart. I’d show them! Yet it was hard and remains a juggle.

A best-seller from 2005 called Perfect Madness: Motherhood in the Age of Anxiety talks about leaving the workforce not just having short-term consequences, but also long term, as you are not paying into social security. Learning to accept those trade-offs or to find ways to work around them take a lot of energy. We are Colgate graduates — and we should be able to do it all! And you can. Just know that it will take the skill set you are currently developing every day to be able to weigh the pros and cons of what works for you to balance your outstanding careers-to-come with your family.

There are numerous books also on the presumed “war” between stay-at-home moms and working moms. And if there’s something educated women could do, it would be to stop making those discussions continue. If there was a one-size-fits-all solution to family and career balance, the world would be a very dull place.

A more recent 2007 book titled I Was a Really Good Mom Before I Had Kids: Reinventing Modern Motherhood caught my eye. Are we to think we’re really “reinventing” anything? No. But post-Title IX girls (anyone born after 1972, like yours truly) don’t often think about the opportunities that have been “givens” in our lives, but weren’t for women before us.

Think back to the positive attributes of your parents. And as you go out to change the world, try to make sure that you prioritize those family skills along with your careers. Remember, your child may be a Colgate student someday. Can we women achieve anything and still dream of having it all? Yes! Just remember it will take the same hard work that got you to Hamilton in the first place. Your dream is just starting.