Women who know are adamant: begin now. Today if possible. Perhaps this very second. There’s nothing quite like seizing the present moment when it comes to working towards your career goals. Current Georgia Tech Scheller MBA students Danielle Hall and Catherine Weems were determined to make the most of their now moments and get their MBAs while simultaneously starting and growing their families.
According to Hall, Executive MBA student and mother of ten-year-old Christian and 5-month-old Ellaina, the best time to start anything is now. “There’s never a perfect time for anything,” she said. “If there’s something that you’ve been wanting to do, take the time and make it happen, because life is just going to keep going. There will be more to balance and calculate and take into account at a later time. Now is the best time.”
Weems agrees that while now may not be perfect, it is best, even if it includes juggling work, school, and starting a family. Weems knew it was time to start a family around the same time she knew she wanted to develop a more acute business acumen to broaden her career opportunities. She started her Evening MBA with a now or never mentality. Her baby boy, Emmett, was born half way through the program. Emmett is now a one-year-old, and Weems is even more confident about her decision to have a baby when she did. “Once you start a family, the kids get older and you get busier and busier,” she said.
If now seems daunting, Hall and Weems would be among the first to admit that that’s because it is. But their accomplishments at the office, in the classroom, and at home point to the fact that getting their MBAs now is not only doable, but deeply rewarding.
Here are their five tips on how to tackle an MBA while mothering.
1. Make a plan
Both Hall and Weems agree that making a plan is crucial to success.
“Planning is very important,” said Hall. “We've created a family calendar that includes all of the MBA weekends, along with any other school group sessions that I have. They're all on the calendar so that our week can be based around that. I asked for that before starting the program so that my family understood that I'm making this commitment, and we're doing it together.”
Weems’ family also uses a fine-tuned calendar. “It's not even, what does the next month look like? I have a daily plan. I have a weekly plan. And then I have a monthly plan. Beyond that, we have a family calendar that we put everything on, and that’s how we navigate the three. My husband and I just figure out where we can and can't flex, and then we adjust.”
2. Make time to listen
“I've been doing a lot more listening lately, because I don't have as much time to give to my family right now,” Hall shared. “Being a mom and wife and working and going to school, I have to listen a lot so that I understand where other people are coming from. My son was acting out a little bit, and I had to be an active listener to better understand what he needed. I've been planning time with him based on what I thought he needed, but I realized the need to listen to what he's saying so I can give him more of what he says he needs.”
3. Give yourself grace without the guilt
Even with the best laid plans, there will be failures. “I often miss planning, and I miss listening,” Hall admitted. “So, I give myself grace. I can't do it all, but I'm going to do my best.
“One of the things that I have grasped is that people have plenty of potential,” Hall continued. “Potential is Infinite, but capacity is a completely different thing, and some days I just don't have the capacity to make dinner. I don't have the capacity to have a deep conversation, because I was reading ethics all day, and I don't want to talk. I just want to turn my brain off.”
Part of giving herself grace, Hall realized, was communicating boundaries and being clear about her needs.
4. Focus on one thing at a time
Weems is well-acquainted with the chaos of trying to balance everything. “I have been in a situation where my son is playing at his little activity table,” she recalled. “And I’m on a school call. My husband was supposed to be home 20 minutes ago, but he had a big work meeting that ran over. So, I'm feeding the baby Cheerios as I'm working on some client interviews for the TI:GER program. And it feels a little crazy.”
“But where I can,” she continued, “I'm going to focus on my child and having that quality time, even if it's just 20 minutes a day where I leave all my technology in another room and sit and play blocks with him. Or maybe I give him a bath and give him my full attention.”
5. Don’t sweat the small stuff
“I don’t let the small stuff bother me,” Weems said. “Maybe it’s 9:30 at night, and we are having grilled cheese for dinner. That just what’s happening. That’s the best I could do. That’s what we had time for. Maybe your kid doesn't have the same shoes on their feet when they head out the door. It'll all be okay.”
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