A question I am often asked is, "Can I do an MBA with a young family?" For me, the "right" time to do an MBA coincided with the "right" time to start a family, and this seems to be increasingly common among women I talk to.
Whilst the clash of these two life events may seem like a recipe for disaster, my experience has been increasingly positive. My baby was born during my second year of the MBA and has made me a better student and leader whilst revealing unknown strengths.
Becoming a parent and caring for a small baby has forced me to live in the present, plan better, procrastinate less and has enabled me to understand and appreciate the lives and commitments of others. Motherhood has taught me patience and honed my negotiation skills and my son has shown me how to make the most of every moment and celebrate the small things. He has made me appreciate that time spent doing my MBA is time for myself - to improve myself and set an example for him.
Here are some tips and tricks I have learnt whilst juggling a baby, work, MBA and life:
A concern that so many women have when returning to work and/or study is the pressure of getting things done.
To navigate the MBA with a baby or young family, either your partner needs to take on the lion's share during study time or the jobs need to be outsourced. Being rational about outsourcing can go a long way. My cleaner costs the same as a weekend cafe brunch and I would also have my grocery shopping delivered.
I relinquished control over in-home decisions by assigning them to my partner. Decisions concerning dinner and laundry may seem trivial but they can be draining over time. By letting go of the small decisions I had more energy to focus on my MBA, my work and my son.
Whilst pregnant I (optimistically) signed up for three MBA subjects to be completed in the 6 months following birth. However, I managed to complete one! A baby changes so much – don't be afraid to go at your own pace. The MBA is very flexible and the University of Sydney staff and facilitators are accommodating to new parents.
There is pressure to "have it all": the perfect baby, home, career, MBA. While I believe it is possible to do it all, it is not possible to do it alone.
An important lesson was the willingness to be vulnerable and ask for what I need. Priding myself for my independence, it was hard for me to ask for help. However I found by doing so, I built stronger relationships with colleagues, friends and fellow MBA students. A great deal of trust is built when you ask someone to do you a favour. This has been an important lesson I have taken forward in my working life.
There are so many of us juggling parenthood and study and we all have different tips to share. The MBA provides a fantastic network with a great deal of experience and expertise for you to draw on both professionally and personally to help you navigate your own unique journey.