Parent Spotlight: Doing it All as Evening MBA Students and Parents – Part One

In this Parent Spotlight, four third-year evening MBA students share with us what it is like to be a parent in the program. Part One highlights our first two students, Kerry and Paul. Their stories, outlook, and work ethic is inspiring, and their support systems strong! It’s been a special experience learning more about each of their families and lives… enjoy!

Thank you so much for agreeing to open your lives a bit, and share with us what it’s like for you to be a parent and an Evening MBA student at Foster. To start, can you tell us a bit about yourself, and your family?

Kerry (2)

Kerry: My family is my 6-year-old daughter, Fiona, and me! Some days are hard – being a single mom means that on the days I have my daughter I’m doing it alone, with no back-up support for the days when I don’t feel well or woke up on the wrong side of the bed. But most days are pretty great – her and I have formed a bond and relationship that would look different if our lives were different. She is the best human, and I’m so grateful she’s mine.

Paul: My wife, Shavonne, and I have two beautiful daughters named Siena (age 2) and Kathryn (age four weeks). Both of them were born during the MBA program. Our first was born just a couple of days before our very first Accounting midterm and our second was recently born over the summer. The topic of 1) when was the right time to have a family and 2) when was the right time to get my MBA came up many times over the years. We ultimately decided that neither could fully be planned around and, rather, we would just roll with the challenges and do our best to balance both.

paul

You’re going into the third year of the program. How have you made it through it thus far? What can you share about your support system?

Kerry: I am very lucky in that my daughter is with her dad at the Kerry 4beginning of the week, which aligns perfectly to when classes are offered for the Evening MBA at Foster. The tricky part with scheduling comes into play with group meetings/assignments/projects. It takes a lot of planning ahead of time for me to arrange who will watch my daughter on a weekend day. I am very lucky to have a fantastic support system in my parents and one of my best friends, Jenny, who committed to being there for Fiona and me prior to me ever being admitted to the program. The others in my support network are there for me when I’m exhausted, emotional, and feel like giving up. It takes an army to go back to school.

Paul: I consider myself extremely fortunate to have a partner who is willing to deal with an (at times) absentee father and husband and bear most of the day-to-day parenting duties. I will also give a shout out to my two cohort teams in the first and second year of the program. Both were more than accommodating and understanding of the demands of having a young family. I am very thankful to those groups.

Siena and Mom

Kerry, your daughter is six years old, and will remember this time in her life. What have been your goals as a parent through this experience?

 KerryKerry: As a parent, you’re constantly looking to use situations to teach a lesson to your child. Going back to school is the ultimate lesson for my daughter. I’m trying to teach her that she can do anything – there are no limits to her dreams. She just needs to set attainable goals, focus on the task at hand, and be herself. That’s how I got into UW! She sees how hard I work for school when I have to take off for school meetings on the weekends, or when I put her down for bed and she asks me what I’m going to do and I say homework. She sees how tired I am, but I tell her it’s all worth it because I really want this. She doesn’t necessarily understand that I’m doing this for us, that I want better opportunities and to be able to provide for her more, but she will eventually.

 Paul, you have had two kids during the program! What has that been like for you? How do you prioritize?

Paul: Getting an MBA at Foster while being a parent really adds a unique dynamic to the experience. We made a conscience decision to have our kids at an age where they wouldn’t remember me being in school and busy every weekend. We hope that by the time I graduate my older daughter will just be ready to form those core memories with Dad around! Summers are especially important and I have intentionally not taken classes during this time so that I can devote my non-work time to family and friends.

SienaKathryn

As a new parent, I feel more driven than I have ever felt. That drive carries over to my day job as well as the classroom. On the other hand, I often feel a tug-a-war for the limited amount of time I have—which has been the most difficult part of it all. I’d love to get to know my peers on a deeper level and fully immerse myself in all that Foster has to offer, but finding balance is a day-to-day challenge.

I am sure you have learned so much about being a parent through this process. What is your advice to other parents who go back to school?

 Kerry: One thing I’ve learned is to try not to get lost in being in school mode 24/7. It is important to take a night or two to not do homework, and to be with friends or family. Halfway through my Kerry3second year, I felt like I wasn’t connecting with my daughter enough, so I established “Fancy Dinner Fridays.” This is a designated time where we sit at our table over a “nicer than usual” dinner, sparkling water in our wine glasses, and toast to the week we just finished. Setting aside this time has brought us closer together, and allows us to slow down this crazy fast life we’re in to focus on us and reconnect!

Paul: I think one of the things that has been transformational for me personally is weekly planning. Devoting an hour every week to planning and introspecting has helped me to live with more intent and direction. I think our classes in behavior science and leadership have been the most important in being a better parent and balancing everything. Having a toddler is like have a tough employee at times. How do you motivate them? How do you make sure they feel you value them? The leadership classes also helped me identify my core values. I find weekly planning centers myself around those core values and guides time allocation.

Siena 2

Huge thank you to Kerry and Paul for their thoughtful responses!

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