Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Student Perspective: Motherhood & the MBA

Here are the perspectives of a couple of MBA super-moms at Chicago GSB...
Preeti, Class of 2007, says:
"Admit it, many of you have written about having a balance in life in your application essay and there are a few of us here living that dream. I am talking about those of us who trot about with books in one hand and candy eating toddlers in the other! I know many of you will be making professional and personal decisions soon and family (especially kids) may be one critical part of the decision making process. As a mom who came to the GSB with a 2+ year old, I would like to take this opportunity to share with you how the night long group meetings work with nap times.

"To give you a background on myself, I am a second year student and my daughter is 4 years old now. When I came to school, my daughter was 2 ½ years old, my husband was going to continue working back in California and I was looking at 2 years of single parenthood at Business School with no idea of how to make it work in Chicago. I have had a ton of information, support and advice from friends, administration and even random strangers that have helped me make it work. I had an excellent summer internship and have a fabulous full time job offer. Today, my daughter considers the GSB more her school rather than mine (she claims it is prettier than her own school too!); she definitely has more friends here than I do and she also has a tentative scholarship offer from the friendly Financial-Aid lady, should she choose to pursue an MBA in the future!

"In my mind the challenges that you are likely to face at the GSB will depend primarily on the level of back up support you may have for your parental responsibilities. So if you have a spouse or partner who can share your load, loving grandparents only too willing to take care of the little angel or even a very good nanny (assuming you can afford one on the tight student budget☺) then let me assure you, you are in good shape. Most of us of course, will not have these blessed advantages and things like how do I manage childcare to how will I manage classes, recruiting or student groups will be high on your list of issues. Let me try and answer these questions to the best of my ability:

What are the options available in terms of childcare?

"Well, depending on where you choose to live these options will vary. Since most first year students prefer to stay in Hyde Park to be near school let me highlight the options here.
Schools and Day cares: Most day cares are willing to accept a child above the age of 2 years although there are a couple that accept younger children too. Some of the day cares and pre school in the area include Ray school, Little People Learning Center, Akiba Jewish Day school, Parents Co-op Day care, Lab school and of course all the public schools in the neighborhood. The University of Chicago website has a link to many of these and Google is always a useful ally when searching for the school that best fits your needs. Be warned that getting your child in any good school can require a lot of advanced planning and you may have to lay the groundwork now.
Baby sitters and nanny services: Hyde Park is good place to be if you are looking for baby sitters; students at the university generally can be reliable sitters and once you have built some trust in the relationship they can be good resources for those last minute recruiting dinners. Do not ever underestimate the student body within the GSB as well! My daughter has been baby sat by future bankers, consultants, corporate stars and VCs many times (in the spirit of the GSB’s affinity for numbers, let me also clarify that the ratio of men to women baby sitters has always been in proportion to their total presence in the class). Nannies are also available and I was put in touch with a couple of agencies through the administration here at the GSB.
Final word: Start researching early, develop childcare backups and form friendships with others in similar situations.

How will I manage parenthood with a full course load and with recruiting thrown in?

"Let’s be honest and accept that it will not be easy. Again, a lot will depend on the support system that you will have, but I truly believe that being at the GSB will give you a clear edge as compared to other schools. I am sooo thankful for the flexible curriculum and the ability to pick and choose classes that let me plan my time with my daughter. Besides being able to choose the level of the class that allows you to better manage your time, you also have class timing flexibility. I once scheduled an entire quarter of classes such that I could take my daughter to ballet and swimming classes. Since many classes are offered simultaneously in the full time, evening and weekend program, you can afford to stay at home to comfort your fevered child and yet not miss the valuable class discussion. The same holds for recruiting interviews and networking sessions. Most professors are very understanding and allow you to attend other sections to resolve personal conflicts. That being said, it can be tough that many recruiting events are held in the evening (or on the weekend) and you may be forced to miss out if you do not have a backup care provider available. With a little bit of help and a lot of organization, you will be fine even if you are like me and really do not have a steady support network.
Final Word: Schedule your classes such that there are makeup sessions to fall back upon, consider retaining a nanny for the recruiting season, ask friends to help you out with evening networking events.

How about managing study groups, extra curricular involvements and other student activities?

"If you have managed to read up to this point you may have seen a theme emerging! Yes, as always, it is up to you to make it work. It will help to have study groups that are understanding of your scheduling needs or are game for the occasional group meet with a curious child around. My approach has been to schedule my classes and group meets while my daughter is at school and then schedule net meetings and chats when required.
As far as student group involvement is concerned there are some activities that require more time commitment than others and you will have to pick and choose what you want to be involved with. My advice would be to go for quality and choose an activity or role that is manageable (both in terms of your and your family’s requirements) and something you really believe in. This will ensure that you do not feel stressed about the demands on your time and can continue to contribute effectively throughout your GSB stay. There are plenty of opportunities at the GSB that will give you a very good networking platform with your peers and with alumni while not requiring an extended time commitment. Besides, having a child puts you in a different league and I will bet that you will end up meeting and becoming friends with a set of people that you may never have known if it was not for your child. Of course there will be times when others may feel that you are overloaded and preempt your choice with their decision of not letting you take on a role but that just gives you more time than what you budgeted for with your family!
Finally, on the social scene, yes, you will miss out on the TNDC, the international exchange program, and a couple of formal events that are “Adults only,” but when you have a unique, direct-to-home entertainment package waiting for you at home who is really glad to see you every time, you can live without being the life of the party at other events!
Final word: Choose your battles; be prepared to miss out on some opportunities and try to pair up with adjusting or like minded people for course work.

Finally, the biggest of all worries….Am I doing the right thing for my child and for me by choosing to return to school?

"I will admit that I had many concerns that were very personal like what if my daughter was uncomfortable and unhappy and grew up ill adjusted? Was I being selfish putting her and my professional life on equal footing, asking her to adjust maybe too early in life? I was concerned that it would be a stress on our family with my husband half way across the country and my child would feel the change. We have had to take a hard look at what we want as a family and all three of us have made adjustments but overall the process has worked out well for me. My daughter is a very outgoing and friendly who has been thoroughly spoiled by my colleagues at the GSB and I believe the kind of exposure she has received as a 4 year old is not very common. Obviously, a major portion of the credit for my success goes to my husband and daughter both of who have adjusted exceptionally well. But I feel that another major component of my success has been the GSB itself with its flexible curriculum, very understanding administration (I have had staff help me out when I have been in a real bind) and the faculty who extend the flexibility even further. I don’t think I could have done this at any other school. Finally, I am fortunate to have some very, very good friends and colleagues who have been crucial in helping me make this work. They are closer to us than even family and I feel that the network that I have formed with this group will stand the test of time. All in all, it has been a fun ride and with some great moments thrown in.
Final Word: Was it worth it then? Definitely! Would I recommend it? Surely! "
Maria, Class of 2007, has similar sentiments:
"I am a second year at the GSB. When I started the MBA program, my baby was 4 months old. My husband works in consulting and travels frequently, so, we built the structure (daycares, nannies…) as if I were working.

"I was also a consultant in the past and I do not think that managing an MBA with motherhood is much different than being a consultant and having a baby. The only difference is that when you work, you earn money to maintain the infrastructure. You need to keep in mind that when you study and have a baby you will require the infrastructure, but you will not be earning money. It is something to consider in your budget.

"I have been able to manage doing two internships, getting offers from the companies that I am interested in, getting good grades and being involved in the community (e.g. helping first years with recruiting). Most importantly, I have enjoyed a lot of time with my baby. The benefit of the GSB is that you decide your schedule; the courses, professors…you have flexibility so you can adapt your schedule to the baby’s. You just need to be very organized and plan ahead as if you were working. Obviously it is challenging, but it is a lot of fun! And just one last advice: do outsourcing of all the work of the house!!!! The time that you spend with your baby has to be “quality” time. Have somebody to do the laundry and clean the oven…and you play with your baby when you are at home!"

Want to discuss this topic some more? Head on over to the Chicago GSB Discussion Forums