Balancing Act: How to Manage Grad School With a Baby
One of the things I have enjoyed the most about business school is how extremely diverse my classmates are. There are people from all over the world and all walks of life, and it’s been really interesting to hear everyone’s individual perspective.
I’ve been especially blown away by the people I’ve met who are raising a family while going to school. I can barely get my laundry done; I can’t imagine how they’re balancing everything!
If you’re a parent thinking about going to b-school (or a student thinking about starting a family), you’re probably curious about what the experience is like with kids. To help you out, I talked with Eunice Dove, a member of my class and an amazing mom to her 10-month-old, to get her perspective about how things are going and get her advice on making it all work.
How are you liking business school so far?
I've loved business school. It's great being in an environment where I'm surrounded by people openly talking about managing all aspects of their lives and not just how to maximize profits for the next quarter or fiscal year.
I didn't realize how I would change after having a child and the ways in which my life would need to change in order to accommodate it. At b-school, I've really appreciated having the opportunity to explore more ways that my life might change. I’m learning about new industries, roles, and geographies, experimenting with how I want to integrate my career with family life, talking about the impact of large changes with my husband, and enjoying being able to have my child come with me to school and be a part of this environment.
Is there anything that’s surprised you about what it’s like to be a parent and a grad student?
I made myself imagine the worst before coming to business school. For example, I prepared for days where I would have to operate on no sleep, for times when I would feel pulled in every direction, and for situations where stress would be put on my marriage.
It's actually not been as bad as my worst nightmares. What's surprised me the most is the interaction between student moms and stay-at-home moms. It's hard to generalize, but when I used to live in NYC, I was part of a moms’ group that had a very positive, mutually helpful relationship between the two groups. Here, I don't see as much interaction between student moms and stay-at-home moms. It's probably my own fault more than anything, as I simply don't have the time to reach out and engage, but I do find it a shame. B-school, like university, is something of a time to explore, and it'd be interesting to explore issues that affect both groups in different ways.
What are some of the things you think about when prioritizing how to spend your time? Have you been able to find a balance between school and family?
I remember once reading that stay-at-home moms spend an average of something like 15-17 hours a week with their children. Working moms spent an average of closer to 11. A classic overachiever, I aim to spend an average of 15 with my son during the week and then a large chunk of time on the weekends.
To do this, I prioritize being with my son for a few hours before he goes to bed—say from 5:30-8:30 PM—and the other 21 hours of the day (and night) I spend being a student. There are some days when I don't see him nearly that much, and some days when I don't see him at all, which is sad, but I try to make it up to him. I've been lucky in that I've had exceptionally good, high-quality childcare that my son loves.
What resources and support have you had during school?
My mom gave up her career as a physician in order to raise me, and she actually regretted it. Given her experience, she’s been one of my biggest champions and sources of support. After it turned out daycare wasn’t going to work out, my mom went out and found and interviewed a wonderful woman to watch my son during the day. I’m also lucky that my husband is able to work and provide financial stability. I know that there are women who don’t have support at home, either from their spouse or other family members, and I feel for them, because their jobs may sometimes feel tremendous and insurmountable.
Unfortunately, not everyone has been so supportive. After my son was born, I needed to travel for a b-school interview. I asked my son’s pediatrician if could I formula feed him just while I went to the interview, and she told me that she couldn’t believe I was interviewing “at a time like this.” Later in the appointment, she complained about the lack of structural resources available to women. I asked her how she expected the situation to change if women gave up going to things like business school interviews because they didn’t want to formula feed their children for six hours. There are certain situations where opting out means preserving an undesirable status quo, and for me personally, that’s just not a good feeling.
Did you address the fact that you are (or were going to be) a mom in your application?
In my application, I wrote about becoming pregnant and seeing my husband's career take off while seeing mine come to a halt. I had no clue how I stacked up against other applicants, so I went in with the mentality that I just wanted to be myself when applying. I'd rather be rejected for who I am than accepted for someone that I'm not.
I hope I was accepted for reasons other than being a mother—I'd hate to have been the person who was admitted to “add diversity”—but at the time, motherhood was one of the largest issues in my life, so I wrote about it and didn't overthink it.
What is one piece of advice you would give to parents or parents-to-be who want to attend b-school?
Don’t let parenthood deter you. B-school is such a great experience if it's right for you. The resources you’ll have are so rich that there are times when you’ll find yourself choosing between going to see a CEO speak, going to a social event, learning about a new industry, or chatting to someone about a different company. It's just so much fun. And I think when you’re having fun during the day, the fun is infectious. It's energy that you can bring home to your child and family.
Two more quick things: First, definitely take the time to set up amazing childcare, because that will be all the difference between feeling anxious about what's going on at home and coming back to a happy household. Also, try to live close to school if you can, as it makes it easier to go back and forth during the day and opens up the possibility of bringing your children to campus.
Leslie Moser attends Harvard Business School where she is pursuing her MBA. Before going back to school she worked at Teach For America where she tried to tackle educational inequity one email at a time. Leslie loves to travel, eat Thai food, and watch reruns of The West Wing.More from this Author