Not much more than a month ago, I watched all the pictures being posted on Instagram of the Class of 2015 graduating from Dartmouth College’s Tuck School of Business. I could hardly believe that I had been a graduate of Tuck as long as I had been a student there. Having been in the real world for two years had me reflecting on my experience at Tuck versus my experience over the past two years.
I am currently a Senior Investment Officer at Mass PRIM having joined in April 2014 after taking time off having my second child a few weeks after graduation. And the last year has been crazy trying to manage a two-career marriage and two children. Now that we are about to embark on a third child a thought occurred to me… Having a child at business school was an incredible time to have children.
My husband and I entered the MBA program at the Tuck School of Business in Hanover, N.H., in August of 2011. Our daughter was seven months old at the time, and I am pretty sure everyone thought we were crazy. I searched for advice from someone who had embarked on the same journey we were starting but found none. Surely this could be done? I was beginning to have my doubts but never once thought of not doing it. I left a job I loved for this experience, and I was going to try it.
PINK EYE & LICE MADE A NANNY A BETTER SOLUTION
Our first issue was childcare. Day care was the obvious option because it was cheap and we were about to have two very expensive years. Plus, I liked the safety in numbers aspect of day care. However, after the first two days included a pink eye and lice scare accompanied by notices stating our daughter needed to stay home for a week in the case of lice, we realized that with no support network (we just left all our friends and family behind!), we needed a nanny. Luckily we had an interview with a woman that day who was responding to our Sittercity ad looking for evening help since after all, business school is all about the social side so we were going to need a sitter at night. We liked her immediately but found she had committed to nannying a child for a classmate of ours that we had yet to meet. She was going there after meeting us and we asked her to explore if they and she would be interested in a nanny share. They were and that worked out very well, but eventually she worked just for us full time.
The next two years involved lots of activities for both us and our daughter. Many times I was pretty sure that she had a larger network as a “Tiny Tuckie” than we did as students. She came to some parties and stayed home for others. Our classmates babysat for us when there was a gap in coverage. I was able to attend her activities of which there were many – gymnastics, swimming, music class, Tiny Tuckie parties, lunches in the cafeteria, etc. Because I only had obligations for class and study group time in the first trimester, I had a lot of flexibility in my schedule for two years. In addition, the amount of time off around holidays and breaks gave us time to travel together or have staycations in the Upper Valley, which was the best vacation we had.
Our summer between first and second year proved the most challenging. Having both picked careers in an area where internships aren’t usually solidified until late spring, we found ourselves without a nanny for the summer (she needed to accept a job and we couldn’t promise her one) and nowhere to live/work that was in the same city. The logistics of getting summer internships for a family were proving very difficult. Fortunately, we were at Tuck. I am not sure we could have done what we did without an extremely supportive school, both administratively and from classmates and alumni. Since I wanted to return to a similar role post-graduation and didn’t need more experience, I decided to do a paid project for one of Tuck’s Education Centers.
FINDING SUMMER WORK THAT ALLOWED THE FAMILY TO STAY TOGETHER
My husband found a summer project for a local firm that gave him a bit more experience in the area he was pursuing and the flexibility to stay in the Upper Valley and enjoy everything the summer has to offer there. It was a great time that was both productive and memorable. We spent days at the many local lakes with our daughter, explored the water parks, visited family and began to look for full time jobs.
We both graduated with honors and had our second child a few weeks after graduation. (As an aside, graduation gowns make for excellent maternity clothes.) I went back to work early in 2014. Since I have been working full time again, I see a lot less of my kids. I don’t get to attend many of their activities. Scheduling activities is a lot more difficult because I just don’t have the time. I recently missed my daughter’s last day of school celebration because of a Board meeting at which I was presenting. It was very upsetting. My husband was able to attend, thankfully.
The recent missed party combined with the graduation pictures I was seeing, reminded me of how wonderful the two years at Tuck were for us as a family. We had an amazing amount of time together. We got to experience all the activities business school students partake in (and there are a LOT of activities) but also were able to be involved in our daughter’s life at a level not possible in a dual-income family. The Tuck faculty and students were instrumental in helping us succeed on an adventure we couldn’t find a role model for at the beginning.
FIVE THINGS TO CONSIDER IF YOU GO TO SCHOOL WITH CHILDREN
I am so thankful for those two amazing years and encourage more women to attend business school while their children are young. Since my graduation, I have spoken with others who have traveled a similar path and only wish I could encourage more people to do the same. Women need to take a lot of time out of the work force to have children and there is no better time to do it then while attending business school. The flexibility and time off are invaluable to spend with your children while they are young. It comes with its challenges for sure, but those are far outweighed by the benefits.
If I had given myself advice before getting to Tuck, it would have been to put a support network in place before I even got there. The challenges of having children while at business school can be alleviated by taking steps to putting together a good support network early on at business school:
- First, find a nanny or someone that can help if your child is sick and cannot go to day care. A nanny is more expensive but gives you the flexibility to go to school even when your child isn’t feeling well. You cannot call in sick to class like you can with a job; a very subtle but huge difference between school and a career.
- Second, make sure you have a place for visitors to sleep. It was with the help of visiting family and friends that really allowed us to succeed and take advantage of all that business school has to offer. We were able to go on a trip to see Warren Buffet and attend overnight parties, but also manage to find time to take at-home-tests on weekends with the help of overnight visitors.
- Third, network not only with your new classmates, but with the other families that will also be at school. They will provide invaluable help to you both as a social outlet but also when you find yourself in a bind. I have many very close friends from Tuck, some were students and others were partners, but I probably spend the most time now with the partners who also have children and we can have playdates together still. Often it was the husband that was my classmate, but it’s the wife that I have the most in common with.
- Fourth, try to put together your summer internship as early as possible so you can set up or transfer your support network to your summer location. By figuring out your location for the summer early, childcare and housing can be more easily found. Or you can always take a summer off – I found most potential employers did not think my mini internship was odd at all but thought it was really nice that I was able to spend a summer enjoying a lot of family time.
- Finally, bring your children to as many events as you can. At Tuck, our daughter came to Thursday Tucktails and not only did she enjoy running around with other kids, she helped us make friends with all types of classmates. Everyone loves to see a little kid running around and it facilitated our ability to make friends beyond those the most similar to us. The biggest problem we faced is that I am pretty sure our daughter was more popular on her own than we were combined – a good problem to have.
I’m not sure we could have successfully attended business school at any school, but at a school that is supportive like Tuck, it was definitely possible, even incredible. So to all women who are considering business school, think outside the box and consider attending while you have young children. It is an excellent time in life to spend more time with your children while adding to your resume at the same time.
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