Needless to say, some of our readers were incensed at “third-wave feminist” Julie Shiller’s characterization as “selfish” for the graduates of elite colleges who want to be stay-at home mothers–and plenty do, according to a New York Times article by Louise Story (See “You Want to Be a Full-Time Mother? How Selfish!,” Nov. 7).

N.S. e-mails:

“So what does Ms. Shiller propose these educated women should do? It seems to me she is saying two things:

“1. Educated women should not become stay-at-home moms because they have an obligation to ‘fight for gender equality’ – because of their granted privilege. As an educated woman, I owe my success to a granted ‘privilege’ – and in return, I must fight for the good of all women. What bullarky! I owe my success to my SELF–by working hard and overcoming adversity. If I was born rich, I owe my success to my parents. What parent wants the legacy left to their children classified as ‘granted’ to them by society? Successful people are successful either from their own deeds, or from deeds of others who chose to pass on to them this success. Who is Ms. Shiller to want to take that success away and classify it as granted to them by strangers who never earned it either? Educated women don’t owe anyone their life choices!

“2. Educated women shouldn’t marry men capable of providing so they can be stay-at-home moms. To do so makes you look lazy and selfish. So she thinks educated women should marry losers who can only provide for themselves and not their families? Should we marry losers now? Would that make her happy? Educated women choose men who are their equals – which tend to be men also of education and secure earning potential. Believe it or not, we prefer our companions to be our equals, too.

“Sad is the day when many people share Ms. Shiller’s views – mothers will no longer be valued and men will be viewed as just wallets so we can breed. Since when does ‘society’ take a priority over your family? If we all learned to put our children and families first, maybe society wouldn’t be as screwed up as it is now.”

And Pam e-mails:

“I was surprised that neither Story’s article nor any of the commentary I’ve seen about it mentioned that the young women she interviewed may be rationally responding to the increasing number of hours that they will be expected to work when they graduate.

“As a recent graduate of an Ivy League college and law school [’00 and ’05] who worked in management consulting for two years and will return to a big city law firm next fall, I know what the hours are: 60 hours per week at a minimum, and 80-90 hours a week during the most intense phases of projects (in consulting) or cases (in litigation).

“An overwhelming number of Ivy League graduates go into four fields: Of my graduating class five years ago, about one-fifth of  the students went into management consulting, only slightly fewer into investment banking and medical school, and a slightly smaller share into law. I don’t have the exact figures, but I would bet that about 75 percent of recent graduates have wound up in one of those four fields, at least for a time. None of them offer much time for a life outside the office. To get a 45-hour work week at my consulting or my law firm, you must go ‘part-time’ and accept a salary reduction of about 50 percent. Considering the travel for consulting, the late hours investment bankers and medical residents work, and the fact that we are all constantly on call via Blackberries and cell phones, it’s not really that surprising that these students look at their future and announce that they would rather not combine young children with that work schedule.

“Even if you hire a nanny per child–as one of my bosses with three children under three did–you are hardly being a mother if you can see your children only if you wake them before 6 am. If you expect to marry another Ivy League grad in the same or similar field, then you are well aware your husband won’t be home either. The suggestion that our careers ought to be measured by our success by age 35 is preposterous; our generation will probably work much longer than our parents’. Spending five or ten years with our children is not a repudiation of employment for women, it’s a repudiation of grueling work schedules and increasingly unrealistic expectations on the part of firms.”

Excellent letters both, making important points that I hadn’t even thought of.