Managing an MBA and Motherhood

Gil K.“I’m applying for Wharton this year, I have a daughter… All my MBA friends are saying that it’ll be impossible…”

Prospective students who are moms reach out to me with common concerns, even those with extremely impressive backgrounds and years of work experience already balancing careers with family. As a mom, it’s easy look at Wharton’s sea of largely single and childless students and imagine getting lost.

Last year, with the support of WWIB, I partnered with Andra Ofosu, another Class of 2016 mom, to become official Mother’s Liaisons and to begin developing resources and a support system for current and prospective business school students who are also mothers or considering parenthood during their MBA.

As a second year Wharton MBA with two young children at home, a third expected this winter,
and a husband who’s a physician in residency, I’m here to tell you it can be done. Here are some things I’ve learned along the way:

 

1. Getting an MBA with kids, pregnancies, and recruiting is doable: When I was deciding whether I should accept my admissions offer I was a mother of one, pregnant with my second child, and hoping to one day have a third. Still, I was sure that getting an MBA was the right next step for me. My husband works long hours, nights and weekends, but together we reasoned that the timing could work out for our family (and by ‘work out’ I mean it was the least worst time we could think of).

Gil and TomBefore making my final decision I met with the one and only “Dean of Happiness.” He told me: “You all shape your own experience…some students live in the suburbs with a backyard, kids, a dog, and a goldfish.”

Yep, that’s us…

A year later, after a great summer internship with DaVita Healthcare Partners, I am pregnant with my third child, living in the suburbs with a backyard, a Pug named Hobo, and a mini-van. I’m unsure whether we can fit a goldfish in the mix…

 

2. Applying agile management, sprinkled with a pinch of “sometimes”: Each MBA mom manages the MBA in her own way, and while we could all definitely use more resources, we are all making it happen.

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In my case, my husband and I both want to be equally involved with raising our children, while also nurturing a career. We do our best to do both, support each other, and have time for each other. Mostly we try to be flexible, agile, and respect that life always offers more “sometimes.”

Sometimes you are on your way for a coffee chat, with a company you really like, and your 6 months old gives you a chocolate covered hug; sometimes you have to change your whole outfit in 2 minutes.

Sometimes you have a meeting, but your spouse is late because someone crashed on I-95, and a slew of urgent patients flooded the ED; sometimes you take the meeting over the phone, and the world keeps turning.

Sometimes you travel for your summer internship and when you get back you find out your car was traded off for a mini-van. Sometimes you find yourself grateful for something you don’t want.

 

3. Taking negotiations class is key: All MBAs need to know how to negotiate! It’s one of those skills with a positive NPV that you’ll never be able to quantify. As a parent, negotiating is a skill you need more than most, because you WILL find yourself out-negotiated by a 5 year old in a red super hero costume and a Darth Vader doll, who feels she really has to have a goldfish, because all princesses do. You WILL try to negotiate her down because you already have two kids, a Pug named Hobo, and a busy spouse, and the last thing you need is a goldfish. You WILL end up promising her a lollipop and more iPad time, while wondering if you could have “gotten more.“

 

4. Searching for other examples, and learning from them: Doing an MBA pregnant, or with kids, is not only doable, it’s happening all the time. Here are a few more examples:

 

2015 MBA graduates:

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Abby Holmes
Industry: Wealth Management
Children: Started Wharton with a 6 month old daughter, pregnant second year (son born just two weeks after graduation)
Summer Internship: Equity Research on a Large Cap Portfolio team at Brandywine Global in Philly
Full time placement: Client Advisor at WMS Partners, a multi-family, fee-only wealth management firm in Towson, MD

Danika Fry headshot

Danika Fry
Industry: Pre-Wharton: Consulting at Accenture / Post-Wharton: Investment Banking
Children: Started Wharton with 2 girls (age 2 years and 4 months), pregnant second year (third daughter born right before graduation)
Summer Internship: Wells Fargo Securities, Investment Banking
Full time placement: Barclays, Investment Banking, NYC

Evelyn Tee headshot

Evelyn Tee
Industry: Consulting
Children: Started Wharton with a 2 year old boy
Summer Internship: Boston Consulting Group (Washington D.C.)
Full time placement: Boston Consulting Group (Washington D.C.)

LW Headshot

Louisa Wandabwa
Industry: Financial Services
Children: Graduated with a delightful 8 month old daughter.
Summer: American Express
Full time: American Express


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