From Dave Jackson, Senior MBA Admissions Officer
MBA programs for working professionals provide an inherent challenge – how to manage the competing priorities of work, school and a personal life. Many wouldn’t think of adding to that mix perhaps the ultimate challenge, caring for a new baby.
Nevertheless, working professional MBA students at McCombs have demonstrated that it can be done with the right planning, prioritizing and support network.
“There’s never a ‘right’ time to have a baby,” says Denise Xue (Texas Evening MBA Class of 2017), a financial analyst at Intel who gave birth to her son Daniel on April 9, 2016, during her fourth semester in the program. “Having a baby while getting an MBA is certainly not easy, but I never regret it one bit. You will be extremely busy, and feel challenged both physically and emotionally, but at the same time you will also feel proud of yourself for the things that you accomplished.”
Here is some advice from Denise and other recent parents for those contemplating parenthood in combination with their Texas MBA:
- Plan Ahead – To say time management is imperative would be an understatement. Adding parental responsibilities means students have to plan even more proactively. “One of the most important things I do is to work ahead in school,” said Kirk Geohegan (Texas MBA at Houston Class of 2017), a server engineer at ExxonMobil whose son John was born on Feb. 4, 2016, the night before a class weekend during his second semester. “I do reading or part of an assignment every day so that I can spend time with my wife and son on the weekends. If an emergency comes up at a home or work I have plenty of time during one of the other days or my weekend to catch up.” Kirk also uses his lunch hour at work to study so he has more time for his family at night.
- Be Honest About Priorities – When something as significant as a baby comes into your life, it’s certain that other things will need to go away, at least temporarily. Kristi Johnson (Texas MBA at Dallas/Fort Worth Class of 2016) delivered baby Alaina on July 6, 2014, exactly one month before her Austin Intensives in 2014. She was able to work with her boss at Corning, where she is a market development manager, to reduce her work travel to less than 25 percent while restructuring her work day to 7 a.m. – 5 p.m. Kristi also reduced her workout schedule to one day of soccer and the occasional run, but she says she felt more productive in both work and fitness even as she scaled back. Kirk and Denise agree that they’ve become much better at maximizing their productivity by taking on both parenting and an MBA at the same time.
- Accept Help – A student’s spouse, parents, co-workers and extended family are among the many resources these new parents tap into to help them. All three parents agree that a supportive spouse is most important, not only for managing responsibilities, but for providing emotional support as well. In addition, parental support helps the spouse with responsibilities while the student is in class. Kirk said his parents and in-laws came to the hospital so he could get to classes the weekend after his son was born, while Denise’s parents helped to care for Daniel while she took her international trip to China.
- Timing Is Everything – Kirk and Kristi both discussed with their spouses the advantages of having a very young child while they were in the program, and in the end both decided it was better to take time for an MBA now rather than when their child was older. “My wife and I knew we wanted to have a child,” Kirk says. “We figured that it would be easier to go through the program while she was pregnant and our son was a baby rather than when he was a toddler.” Kristi admits that while it was hard to miss the sight of her daughter rolling over for the first time, “getting to see her at almost 2 and singing ‘Let It Go’ from Frozen as she colors is far better than rolling over.” (Kristi’s second child, son Isaac, was born July 21, two months after her graduation)
- Stay In The Moment – Work, school and parenting are all demanding activities, so Kristi advises, “When at work, be at work. When doing family time, do family time. When in school (or doing schoolwork), focus on school.” Nevertheless, some creative multitasking can work. Denise held her young baby in a carrier while he was falling asleep in order to free her hands to do homework. All of the parents advise clear communication with your study group and professors and have found them all to be supportive as they go through this major life event.
But even with the best preparation, all the responsibility can feel burdensome at times, and perhaps Denise sums it up with what could be the working professional MBA’s credo: “When you feel overwhelmed, remind yourself why you’re getting an MBA and power through it.”