I got married the same year I decided to apply for business school. Then, for job related reasons, my new husband and I had to spend 6 months living apart. Once we were finally reunited, we knew we did not want to wait to start our family. But there I was, with my dream business school acceptance in hand. Starting a family and going to school felt like two incompatible goals.
I set about speaking to as many MBA friends as I could, and their advice was almost unanimous: “Don’t have a baby in school, it will be too difficult!”
The few friends that gave more measured responses advised that I consider having a baby second year, if I wanted to go ahead. I weighed all the advice and still decided I really didn’t want to wait to start my family or get my MBA. My personal mantra has always been: “Where there is a will, there is a way.” So I accepted my place at Wharton and left the timing of the baby to fate.
Sure enough, I became pregnant four months before Pre-Term. My son was due December 31st, in the small window between Fall and Spring semesters. We honestly couldn’t have planned it better if we tried!
I arrived in Philadelphia not very far along. I felt like a balloon, yet most classmates could not tell I was expecting (which led me to wonder whether everyone just thought I had a beer gut).
As I got to know my classmates better, I began to tell more friends, and the support I received was overwhelming. I sought counsel from the MBA Office on my options if my son was early or late. If I couldn’t sit for an exam, the MBA Office would work with my professors to figure out a work around.
Although first semester was relatively smooth, I didn’t expect life to be easy once my son, Selom, arrived, and it hasn’t been a walk in the park. Making arrangements for care while in class, trekking back and forth between home and school while breastfeeding, and attending classes on very little sleep have been just a few of the challenges. However, these pale in comparison to how rewarding it has been to spend time with Selom, while staying immersed in the rich learning experience that Wharton has turned out to be.
One of the biggest concerns raised by friends who didn’t think business school and a baby were compatible was the ability to network, socialize, and be involved in extracurricular activities. While I have sat out on events like White Party, Walnut Walk and the Ski Trip, I have still built a strong network of close friends by finding various ways to socialize, whether over coffee between classes at MBA Cafe or a meal at my apartment. The supportive community I have found at Wharton (including my amazing Student Life Director Eric Morin) has made it possible to be involved in various extracurricular activities, including SLF and club boards such as Wharton Africa Student Association.
Popular belief is that, for women, going to business school and starting a family are mutually exclusive. However for me and several other mothers I’ve bonded with at Wharton, this is in fact one of the best times to have a baby. School gives you to the flexibility to structure a class schedule and activities that fit with life and responsibilities at home.
Last year, I partnered with another Class of 2016 mom, Gil Kaminski, to work closely with WWIB to ensure all mothers get the resources and support they need to have as rewarding a Wharton experience as mine. My hope is that, with time, examples like mine will become less uncommon at top business schools. All strong-minded, ambitious business women who are also thinking about motherhood should know that you can start a family and go to business school simultaneously, a rare instance when you can have your cake and eat it too.