Heading off to business school is a difficult decision for anyone, but if you’re a mom with parental responsibilities, the decision is even tougher.
I have a good friend who was in this position a few years back. She wanted to pursue an MBA because she knew that she had the skill-set, and she knew that it would be a great opportunity for her to change her career path and enter the field she was most passionate about.
She also knew that it was her last chance. Approaching her mid-thirties, she didn’t want to leave going to B-school until it really was too late.
As a mom to two young children, she had to carefully weigh up the pros and cons. She agonized over her decision for a long time, and listened to advice from all sides. After much thought she decided to go to business school in the end. And now I’m going to share with you her “survival tips” so that you too can rethink the possibility of pursuing an MBA if you have chalked it off as “mission impossible”.
1. Set Priorities
As parents, you’re always setting responsibilities. But how often do you stick to them? From watching my friend, I saw that she struggled to cope with her lifestyle when her second child was born, and eventually she burned out. Why? Because she’d forgotten to set priorities. And she’d certainly forgotten to stick to them.
Your life as an MBA student will be divided between school life and home life. At times, you will need to prioritize your studies, but there will also be times when you need to put your family first.
This kind of juggling act is not always so easy. But once you start setting priorities and making calendars, you will find that it becomes almost second nature.
Don’t focus purely on your studies, but try to find a balance. You will feel much better for it.
2. Get To Know Your Classmates ASAP
There will be plenty of occasions at business school when you will be working in teams on projects. And while young students without too many (if any) responsibilities or ties will be able to devote their whole time to these projects, you won’t have the same kind of freedom.
For this reason, it’s super important that you set your stall out as soon as possible. Get to know your classmates, engage with them and explain your situation. They are far likelier to understand if you let them know as soon as possible.
3. Find Ways Of Working Remotely
There will be times when you’re at home instead of working on a project. As a mom, you can’t be in the classroom all the time.
When situations like this arise, you should consider alternative arrangements, such as Skype group calls, Google Hangouts, or another project management app that you and your classmates agree on. Project management apps are a great way to stay on track when you can’t be with your team in the flesh.
4. Develop A Network Before You Start
You will need a support network before you start your MBA. As well as preparing for admissions exams, women’s scholarships, applying for schools and going for interviews, you will also need to make arrangements for childcare and any other kind of support you can think of.
This will take some time, but the sooner you do it, the less hassle it will be. If you leave these arrangements until the last minute, you could end up with a major headache.
5. Disengage From Motherhood More Than Usual
I know. Disengaging from motherhood sounds upsetting. But it’s something you need to do. At first, it will seem unnatural, and you might feel guilty. But as long as you prioritize, and explain to your children as best you can about the big change in your life, things will go much smoother than you might think.
If you don’t disengage from motherhood more than usual, you simply won’t be as flexible as you need to be. Making new contacts and meeting investors and employers often means leaving your comfort zone, venturing out and meeting them on their terms.
Sometimes you might need to travel hundreds of miles to an overnight conference, or you might need to take a rain-check on your family dinner to meet a potential investor or employer. Be 100% present wherever you are, and your chances for success will soar.
All in all, it’s important to remember that, although surviving an MBA as a mom is not always easy, the long-term rewards can be amazing. Giving yourself the chance to create a career that you are passionate about spills over into your role as a mother. Providing your children with the real life example that anything is possible is more powerful than you could ever imagine.