“Wow, a full time job, EMBA, and two young kids – how do you manage it all?”

I get this all the time. I’m not being conceited saying this, I really do get asked this all the time.

Depending on the day it either makes me feel like a superstar or a total fraud.

If you’re a mom considering an EMBA, listen to me. Come closer. Look at me when I’m talking to you.

There are not many of us and there are good reasons why. Juggling a full-time job and an EMBA, a full-time job and kids, and an EMBA and kids – these are all hard to do. Doing all three at the same time might be insane.

But here’s the secret. Managing all three at once is not that bad. It might even be easier than ‘just’ two at a time.

Why? You have to create systems, you have to get a support structure in place and you have to let go. For me, doing this degree has required I step back from the management of every single detail of my children’s lives. This is not always easy to do but I am convinced we are all happier for it.

Obviously this may vary based on the ages of your children. I would not recommend trying to juggle work, EMBA, and newborn (especially not if it’s your first baby). My kids are still quite young – especially my 2-year-old – and ideally I’d have waited until she was a bit older. But for my own reasons I decided this was the time for us.

So here are some lessons I’ve learned and some advice (moms can’t resist giving advice; feel free to ignore):

  1. You will miss out on time with your kids. You will feel badly about this. Some days you will feel terrible about it. If your kids are still quite small, they will play on this and make you feel worse. “I hate London Business School, I hate it!”
  2. Your classmates will take trips to Germany for Oktoberfest and Italy for ski weekends. You will be tempted to join them until you remember how much they need you at home. This will bother you less than you think.
  3. You will not do all of the required reading for your classes. And you won’t even bother to look at the ‘recommended reading’.
  4. You will take the required 6 electives and not a one more.
  5. Where you once carried diapers (nappies) in your bag, you will now carry case studies to read during any free moment. Your retention will be lousy, so take good notes.
  6. The support of your employer will be imperative. If your boss is not on board with your doing the EMBA, switch jobs before you even consider it. You simply cannot feel apologetic across all parts of your life. My advice is that you remind your employer – in a soft, ‘we’re-all-in-this-together’ sort of way – that supporting working moms is good for the business, good for society, and good for his/her career (because it is).
  7. The support of your partner will also be make or break. He will need to do more parenting to make up for your absence. If you’re like us (and most couples), this will be an adjustment. But it will also be great for your kids. You already know this, but now you will have to put it into practice.
  8. You will need more help around the house. Spend some money, it will make a bigger difference than a new pair of shoes or a nice bag. We have a housekeeper. I send out the laundry, get milk delivered, buy all of our everyday groceries online, and order healthy prepared meals to keep in the freezer. Most vitally, we have an au-pair who lives with us. I know, I know – you can’t imagine having a stranger living in your house. You will get over this when you realize how important it is to have an extra parent.
  9. You will need an extra parent. This will be difficult for you to accept sometimes. But your au-pair will become a vital member of your family (if not, fire her and find another).  Although you will feel sad and even jealous watching your children cuddle her when you head out the door for an early-morning class, your children will learn that more people than their parents find them lovable and fascinating and maddening. They will learn to be flexible and accommodate differences.
  10. The EMBA passes quickly. Just as you had to grit your teeth and get through sleepless nights, tantrums, and toilet-training, it will all be worth it in the end. My daughters are already anticipating 7 July, the date I receive my degree. They have no idea what it all means. Someday, maybe they will. But at the minimum we will all celebrate having done this together.

8 Responses to “Motherhood and the EMBA”

  1. avatar kaunteya says:

    Wow! This is amazing.. I have forwarded your story to my wife. Truly incredible. Congrats on managing this

  2. avatar Farhan Lalji says:

    This is true for most EMBA students, balancing a job, a family, social commitments and professional advancement are tough. I used to describe it as constantly having to juggle four balls when I can only juggle two well, at any one time I’m dropping something. It’s all about keeping the right balls up in the air. Nice post.

  3. avatar Elizabeth says:

    Thanks for your replies. I think it’s definitely tough for all EMBA students but I argue it’s particularly difficult for mothers. Why? Because mothers most often – not always, but in the majority of cases – play the role of primary parent. And the EMBA coincides with a period of time that most women are focusing on family, not career.

    Just a quick perusal of the statistics supports this – in my class of 78 students, there are only 3 mothers. One has a child who’s just left for university, one has a child who is 6 or 7, and there’s me.

    Yet amongst my male counterparts there has been a baby-boom! I don’t know the numbers, but of the 50+ men in the programme, I’d estimate more than 50% of them are dads. I think at least 10 babies have been born to dads in my programme since we started in Jan-2010.

  4. avatar Diane Hoeft says:

    What a refreshing and inspiring take on your experience. Real and honest!

  5. avatar Annabel says:

    After reading your article, I really think you have done a particular good job. It undoubtly has been very difficult time for you, but you were so determined and you have done it! Congratulation to you and your supporting partner!

  6. avatar Nav says:

    Hi Elizabeth,

    We have just had our first baby in Dec and are contemplating the EMBA for my wife for next year (when our little girlie will be 1).

    Your post is timely and extremely informative – will probably look at applying for the Sep 2012 intake rather than the Jan 2012 now.

    The end result is to do the best in the EMBA course as you probably won’t do another Post-Graduate degree for a while.

    I can empathise with the challenges – especially the extra parent part.

    Well done and thanks once again!!



  7. avatar Jerry says:

    I would like to commend you for a job well done, managing your time. Being a parent is tough, what more if you have other important things to do. You are a one tough mommy. Keep it up.

  8. avatar Anabela Figueiredo says:

    You are an inspiration. I am also a mother of two applying for the January 2013 intake.
    If I get in, I know its going to be difficult. But I’m ready to let go, delegate and empower.
    We already have an au-pair ready to start and its great to know that someone with a similar profile has made it and has felt its been worth it!
    Thank you so much for sharing!