Parents in Wharton’s MBA Program for Executives find different ways to balance work, school, and family. Students figure out what works best for them and their families, including how to handle childcare, how to manage weekends away from home, and how to get the most out of the EMBA program.
We talked to a few students and alumni about their experience finding this balance. So what’s their advice for those with families who are thinking about Wharton’s EMBA program?
Keep in Touch with Your Class Manager
Dr. Marie Laure Romney, WG’18, Assistant Medical Director of Emergency Medicine Department at Kings County Hospital Center, is a second-year student on the Philadelphia campus and calls Brooklyn, NY home. Marie had her third child during her first year at Wharton.
Childcare: Marie’s husband works full-time so the couple moved her mother from Chicago to their home in New York to help care for their children during school weekends. Despite having a very organized calendar at home, there are still times when things don’t work out as planned. In those instances, her husband steps in to “pick up the pieces.”
Experience: “After having the baby, my classmates were very supportive. It was amazing to see how much they cared. That is part of what makes the Wharton EMBA experience so unique – you build deep bonds that you wouldn’t have a chance to build if you were just going home every day after classes.”
Advice: “Stay in touch with the staff, who are there to help students. My class manager checked in frequently to see what I needed. She even arranged a larger hotel room for me to share with my mom and baby when I was nursing on school weekends. The staff feel like family who are concerned about me as a person and not just as a student.”
Create “Weekend” Time with Your Kids During the Week
Maggie John, WG’18, Senior Process Engineer at U.S. Oil and Refining, is a second-year student on the San Francisco campus. A single parent of two young children (ages 11 and 5), Maggie commutes from her home in Seattle.
Childcare: Her father moved in with her to watch her children on school weekends.
Experience: “Going back to school as a single parent was a significant concern. The entire family was embarking on this new journey and it was important for me to minimize the impact on my kids’ lives. But this was an important cause and I wanted my children to see me work towards my goals.”
Maggie says her classmates are a “tremendous source of support,” especially the four other single parents in her cohort. When working in teams, she makes a point to talk to members about her schedule limitations. “I always tell my team when there are certain parts of the day when I’m not available. Everyone has their own limitations and we are very supportive of each other.”
Advice: Maggie converted Tuesday evenings into “weekend time” to make up for time away at school. Instead of focusing on school, they do something fun like going out to dinner or to a park. She also recommends establishing limits. “I’ve become deliberate with my time. I am comfortable saying no to commitments outside my goal areas,” she explains.
The Keys to Making It Work are Planning and Communication
Based in the greater Philadelphia area, recent alumnus Nick Lupisella, WG’17, Associate Director, U.S. Biosimilars Immunology Engagement Strategy Lead at Merck, didn’t have a long commute to campus, but finding balance for school weekends was still a priority.
Nick was a father of one with another baby on the way when he started the program — but by the time he graduated, he and his wife had three kids under the age of 3.
Childcare: When Nick was accepted into the program, he and his wife had conversations with their parents to let them know they may need extra support. “They have been a tremendous help and are always on-call to lend a hand,” he said.
Experience: “We have plenty of challenges like our kids getting sick, high-profile work projects – whatever life throws at you. Everyone comes into this program with high personal expectations and great work ethics, but we soon realize that other parts of our life do not stop and we need to figure out a routine while working together to succeed.”
Advice: “There are times when it is extremely challenging to find balance and you need to take a step back and try again. The keys to making it work are planning and communication. It’s very important to have your partner on board with this program as it is a big sacrifice for them too. You need to align expectations so you both understand the time commitment and the reward.”
Be Thoughtful about What You Can Do and What You Cannot Do
An engagement manager at ZS Associates in San Diego, Akshay Mehta, WG’18, is a second-year student at the San Francisco campus. He and his wife welcomed their first child during his second term in school.
Childcare: “My wife and I had a conversation around how we would manage having a baby while I am in the program and came up with a plan. I also tell her my schedule in advance so we can find times to connect. I don’t want her surprised by anything or to feel like she isn’t a priority.”
Experience: “Be transparent with your study team and let them know if something comes up at work or home and you need support. Then, in the next assignment, do more than your share. Everyone is busy and needs support from time to time. By being honest and proactive with your classmates, you build trust and they will provide that support.”
Advice: “It’s hard for ambitious people to say no, but lack of sleep takes a toll. You need to learn to create boundaries and be thoughtful about what you can and cannot do.”
Don’t Be Afraid to Delegate
Recent graduate Erin Talbot, WG’17, Senior Vice President, Strategy and Analytics at LightStream, SunTrust, now lives in San Diego, but commuted from Washington, D.C. as a student on the Philadelphia campus.
When she applied to Wharton, her son Jacob was 1 and she had her second son during the program.
Childcare: “I applied in Round 1 so that I would have more time to make arrangements if I was accepted. When I was admitted, we started making deliberate choices to make our routine more manageable. My husband decided to dial back his work, we moved into the [city] to cut down on commuting time, and we hired an au pair.”
Experience: “Of course I was concerned about how all of this would work, but I also was confident that it would be OK. As a parent, you’re already used to juggling a lot of commitments and concerns at once. You’ve learned how to manage busy times at work when your baby isn’t sleeping through the night and you’re exhausted. I knew that the EMBA program would be challenging and require a lot of time, but I already knew a lot about time management.”
Advice: “If you’re a new parent or thinking about expanding your family during your time at Wharton, I’d say go for it. Everyone at Wharton has some type of personal challenge he or she had to overcome to participate in the program. Being pregnant is just a more visible challenge. There were actually seven new moms in the class following mine. If you do decide to come to Wharton and grow your family, know your limits and be very honest about what you can and cannot do. You will need a good support system, and to delegate some things. But having a baby shouldn’t hold you back from doing this program.”
— Meghan Laska
Posted: February 9, 2018