Choosing to play the dual role of an ambitious MBA student and an attentive mum at the same time is probably not everyone’s cup of tea. But as choice, I believe it is doable. Here’s why I think so.
A typical MBA candidate is full of ambition and bursting with talent: A stellar professional record, outstanding grades and exceptional leadership are the minimum qualifying criteria. To then choose to crack the GMAT and commit to spending tens of thousands of pounds, and a year of your life to get an MBA is not an easy decision to make. It’s no wonder that, in the past, top MBA schools have largely been filled with ambitious and single males from affluent backgrounds.
Brilliant women, in spite of their education and ambition, often choose not to invest in an MBA, and arguably, those who desire motherhood have even more reasons not to go. Having a child is no mean feat. If you are an ambitious twenty-something, having a kid (or two) often means opting out of a demanding commitment at a critical time of your professional life.
USING A MATERNITY BREAK TO GMAT PREP
Though this might not seem to be the easiest decision to take, I believe choosing to be an MBA mum can be a rewarding choice. As a mother of two little toddlers, I received innumerable discouraging comments from well-meaning family members and friends when I mentioned that I was using my maternity break to prepare for my MBA. But for me, my maternity break was a perfect time to study and try something new.
After having achieved some professional growth and spending a maternity break with my little girls, this was the best time for me to pause and re-equip myself professionally, before committing to future professional challenges by pursing my MBA. This year so far has been fantastic for me and my family. Being a student means that I can decide my schedule and choose electives that best suit me, my ambitions and my family–a flexibility that a job in finance or technology might not have been able to provide.
MBA mums, are in most ways, no different from any other mother. My fellow MBA mums at Cambridge and I, like others, juggle classes, clubs and careers, but we also chat childcare and toddler tantrums in the Common Room. While we are lucky to be able to afford childcare and have supportive partners and families, when our regular childcare fails, sometimes our toddlers end up crawling around in one of the study rooms as we study macroeconomics and corporate governance.
DEVELOPING A ‘RESILIENCE FACTOR’
I also juggle my role as the president of two clubs at CJBS, and I often choose to go home over the lunch break to catch up with my little one. Nursery PTA takes priority over coffee catch-ups and weekends are all about parks, play-dates and then late-night revisions. The secret behind keeping up the balancing act is the “resilience factor” that we all have. The Cambridge MBA teaches you about multitasking, being patient and the ability to negotiate.
As an MBA mum, I am never apologetic about my ambition and desire to excel. It often takes more focus and intention on my professional and personal demands to ensure that I can maintain the balance. While I might not be attending the Cambridge balls and exotic events, the opportunity to learn at an outstanding academic institution and make some lifelong friends is priceless.
With an offer to join Amazon as a Senior Manager later this year, I continue planning childcare as well as prepare professionally for my new role months in advance. It is tiring, crazy, yet a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to learn from my brilliant cohort as well as enjoy my little ones’ childhoods.
Dipika Sawhney is finishing up her one year MBA at the Cambridge Judge Business School this spring. Before beginning her MBA, Sawhney worked as a journalist and was on the founding team of multiple startups. She has two daughters who are currently seven and three.