Wharton MBA + First Baby: Why and How?

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When I got into the Wharton MBA program, I was recently married and one of the choices that I faced was whether I had to postpone starting a family until after my graduation. That was a difficult decision, as I always wanted to have it all: a great career and a happy family with kids, and I did not want to postpone anything. So I got support from my husband I decided to do both.

I was a bit scared as I heard how intense and rigorous the Wharton MBA program was, in addition to all of my friends with newborn kids trying to talk me out of such a joint venture. But I had a number of very good reasons to have a first kid during my second year at Wharton: a flexible studying schedule, great UPENN medical facilities, and a student health insurance plan that covered maternity.

Today I can tell that it worked out pretty well: I am in the last semester of my Wharton MBA adventure and my son Ryan is almost four months old. Friends often ask me how I did it.

First, it would not be possible without the love and support of my husband, who relocated from Washington, D.C. to Philly, and supported and inspired me through all my ups and downs at Wharton: all night studying for finals,  a stressful recruiting process, staying in shape during pregnancy, a summer internship in New York, and finally the birth of our son.

Second, I had to be in good health and stay fit. The amount of work that I undertook was enormous and to feel good and happy I needed to take good care of myself. During half of my summer internship, I had to commute from Philly to New York daily while being eight month pregnant. Still, I did my best to find time and workout daily, and I couldn’t count how many hours I spent walking and riding my bicycle along the Schuylkill River. Staying fit allowed me to feel good and get back to school the day after my son and I were discharged from the hospital, so I missed only two classes and did not have to catch up. I was able to get back into shape in a few months – and I even plan to compete in the Mr. & Ms. PENN competition next week.

Third, the flexible Wharton studying schedule allowed me to take a heavy load of courses during my first year, which freed up time in my second year. Using CourseMatch, I was able to play around with the classes I liked and needed for my majors, and picked my perfect weekly schedules. The MBA Program Office and most of my professors at Wharton have been very supportive – I was even able to take my son to the Corporate Finance review session with Professor Yilmaz! One good piece of advice I have for the new parents at Wharton is to teach your baby to sleep in any circumstances: be it class, student party, Wharton Pub, dinner out at a restaurant or a Wharton soccer match. The Wharton schedule leaves a lot of room for networking with your peers and a new baby never stopped us from hosting parties, Wharton Food Club dinners or Wine Club tastings at our place.

Fourth, the Penn Medicine staff and facilities are amazing. Before moving to Philly I figured out that the Penn hospital and CHOP (Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia) have amazing reviews and are located three blocks away from Huntsman Hall. To make logistics easy, I chose to live close to school and it takes me five minutes to walk to classes and to any hospital if needed. The staff of the Penn hospital deserves a separate article, but just to give you a bit of flavor, my anesthesiologist was a former McKinsey consultant from the New York office and one of the nurses I met was a wife of the Wharton MBA student from my class.

Of course I had to make certain trade-offs to follow this path, as I did not travel extensively with my classmates and have not participated in a Wharton Leadership Venture so far. But I’ve got my own leadership venture: my first kid while at Wharton. If you ask me what could be done to make this experience smoother at Wharton, I would ask to have part-time child care for Wharton MBA students on campus at an affordable price. That would make the choice of whether to go into the Wharton MBA program or start a family much easier for many ambitious young women who want to have it all. Having a kid at Wharton is very rewarding.

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