[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]Harold: I’m not a mother and it is something I can never be…so I’ve asked my colleague Chelsea to share her thoughts on mixing motherhood and an MBA.
(written by an MBA mom, Wharton ’16)
Part I: Planning
At 29, an Army Veteran, and bringing a husband of six years, I was a bit above the median age for completing my MBA, and definitely thinking children in the near future. Overseas deployments and various operations in the Army had slowly convinced me that there would never be the perfect time to start a family. That said, my first daughter entered the world during finals week of first semester in my second year at Wharton.
I had tremendous support from the Wharton community. Peers offered to babysit, and I took them up on that offer. Female faculty offered use of their office for pumping, though my daughter’s daycare was only a 5-minute walk away (Huntsman Hall now has lactation rooms). One instructor allowed me to take a final from my apartment with my 4-day old daughter on my lap. Of course, I also had the support of our Wharton Mothers group. As an added bonus, UPenn has a Special [Baby] Delivery program, which allows for heavily subsidized medical care!
When choosing an MBA program that works for you, as a mother or mother to-be, there are a few “game-changers” to consider:
Is there a formal or informal group of women that support one another? It may be helpful to have women to vent to after a sleepless night, or a fellow student taking care of three kids with a physician spouse share her secrets for success.
Is it offered through the University…without a two-year wait? Are there other options nearby? Will a nanny or regular caregiver be required (or desired) for evening networking, an erratic schedule, or to cover during interview season with a sick child? Is back-up care offered through a family resource center?
If you are a new mom, you don’t want to be sprinting across campus to avoid pumping in a closet or routinely missing the first ten minutes of class.
Again, if you are planning to be a new mom, is there maternal/pediatric care nearby? All those appointments add up, so the ability to minimize time to/from appointments by choosing on-campus care is key! Additionally, some schools offer programs to reduce or negate maternity and hospital costs, but it may depend on your school insurance eligibility.
Flexible Class Times:
What activities are important to you: coaching kids’ sports, attending school plays, time for nursing, dinner with family? Prioritize these, and make sure you can make class times work—some programs offer evening classes or intensive weekend options, which can free up some of your day-to-day activities. Other programs have one weekday without classes to devote to recruiting, homework, or personal enrichment.
Kids and Partner Clubs:
Is there a way to involve your whole family—those who matter to you—into the school? You will be completely immersed, and having opportunities to spend time with families and classmates together (yay for efficiency) is key!
Do you like to drive or walk? Do you want to live in a smaller community (such as Johnson or Tuck), or be in the hustle and bustle (such as Stern)? Some neighborhoods are filled with kids and puppies, others with jazz music and cocktails. Check out the area, either by asking current students or on a school visit.
Think about your professional goals, your learning style, and other typical B-school considerations to find your top schools. Then, go down that short list of schools and see how your mama style fits with that school.
As a mother, the financial decision has a bit more weight. Are you willing to take on debt within your family unit? Do you have a spouse or significant other that can help support you? Have you looked at scholarships to make life easier?
Finally, you may want a top-tier MBA. I’ll be honest, it takes dedication, lots of planning, and commitment. For some moms, their family situation dictates. Maybe your lifestyle only allows for a couple of classes per semester so you can focus. Maybe an online program with one or two on-sites required, or one close to your current location, is more desirable. If you aren’t ready to commit financially or mentally to a new city or a full-time program, don’t do it. However, if you are ready to commit, babies and b-school can mix—I’ll talk more about that in Part II.
Overall, I learned that what schools offer makes a big difference in your overall mom experience. By prioritizing what is important to you, you can do what you love, take out some of the unnecessary activity, and enjoy your time as a mom.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]