are about to tell you all the many reasons why
they do, and you do not have that kind of time.
I find that people—especially women—
focus on the plot way more than the character.
I met with a prospective student one summer. I knew her only by her sterling reputation,
so I was beyond excited when she reached out
to me about the graduate program. She started
our meeting with a disclaimer—she was going
to have a baby. I was thrilled for this stranger,
congratulating her for the good news, and, of
course, reminding her not to give her narrative
away to the baby or her husband. She promptly corrected me by saying she wasn’t actually
pregnant yet, but she wanted me to know her
frame of mind to give our conversation context.
Now, this isn’t unusual. Many of the women
I talk to mention this right up front. I think it’s
great to voice our desires. And, as their potential advisor, it helps me know what kind of life
they are striving for—which is helpful when it
comes to career counseling and course selection.
But the reason for mentioning her interest in having a child was because she couldn’t
decide if she wanted to take the program I
administer—which is a traditional in-person
program—or one offered at another university
Again, that isn’t an unusual conflict, and I’ve
heard many potential students express it. She
thought that an online degree would offer more
flexibility, which would be helpful whenever a
child arrived. Now, there’s a lot of data that sug-
gests online programs are actually more time
consuming, but I could tell that wasn’t really
the direction our conversation needed to go,
or the real root of her dilemma. So, I asked her,
“Which one do you want to do?”
She laughed and said she would much
rather take the program in person. She loved
having conversations with her classmates, get-
ting to interact with the professors, the camara-
derie of school, etc.
So, her conflict wasn’t between an online
program and a traditional one. Her conflict was
between plot and character. She clearly had a
preference. And the reality was, her preference
wasn’t detrimental to her other plot points—
her future kid won’t know the difference. But
women continually jump to the plot point
before they’ve thought about the character.
One of the biggest fallacies women believe
is that plot governs character. And they believe
that the major plot point of parenting is immediate sacrifice. So, they start sacrificing before
they are ever asked to. I’m not saying parenting doesn’t come with some sacrifice; it does.
And you never know what issues or challenges
will come with each child. But by and large, my
kids aren’t the ones asking me to sacrifice. The
sacrifice my daughters ask me to make is to
get off the couch and get them goldfish crackers, not to give up on my hopes and dreams.
Yet when women are ready for motherhood, they start clearing their lives of all the
things they really want in preparation for all
If we think about character first, then logical plot lines flow from there. The prospective
student can choose to do the program she
wants and make the arrangements with the
baby around that. But if she jumps to plot first,
picking a program she is less excited about
just because she thinks the plot dictates that,
then she is not only putting plot before character, but she’s handing over her narrative to a
person who does not even exist yet.
So, if you’ve got a hold of your narrative,
and you’re writing yourself as the hero, then
accept the plot points that make sense from
the point of view of your main character. Which
is you. Remember? The hero.
Dr. Meg Myers Morgan is an assistant professor
at the University of Oklahoma and is the author of
Harebrained: It seemed like a good idea at the time.
Her upcoming book Counter Offer: How to Negotiate
for the Life You Want—a work and life guide for
women—comes out 2018 from Seal Press. Meg may
be contacted at megmyersmorgan.com.