It is a challenge to juggle all the demands of a MBA program but how do you manage that while being a full time mother? This is the first of a two part post featuring student mothers at IESE. Blanca Gómez-Zamalloa Atiénzar [BG] and Rocío Pardo Martín [RP] (Class of 2017) both had babies in their first year. How did they cope with their pregnancies?
It must have been big news to find out you were pregnant during the MBA! What was your initial reaction? Knowing how intense the MBA program is, did you have any concerns?
BG: I was very happy when I found out I was pregnant because I wanted to live the experience of being a mother without the need to work, so I can spend more time with the baby. The timing was perfect because Gonzalo was born on the exact day we finished the first year!
RP: The truth is that having a baby during the MBA was in our plans. My husband and I knew we wanted to have kids, and we were already married for a year when I started the program. The real challenge for us is to balance family life and professional development, and this is a challenge that does not necessarily become easier after the MBA.
Furthermore, MBA program leaves sufficient time for students to think about their career journeys, explore new fields, spend time with colleagues, discover a new city, even travel… why not start a family and enjoy that as well? For me, this turned out to be the perfect timing. Now, as a second year student, I got to enjoy one month of Christmas holidays with my family and not many mothers get that luxury!
I’m sure your partners and families must have been excited as well! How have they been supporting you during this process?
BG: My husband was just as happy as me because he is also doing the MBA, so he could also spend more time with the baby! He supported me during the whole process and he was even able to come to the doctor with me 100% of the times so I felt that it was not only “me” but “us” during the whole pregnancy.
RP: The support of my husband, Claudio, was crucial. He changed jobs to come to Barcelona and always has my back so that I can devote time to my studies. My family gave me full support as well, especially my mother who is an IESE full-time MBA alumnus and also had her first child during her studies. This served as a first-hand example that doing an MBA and having a baby is completely possible. Her support and encouragement helped me organize myself so that I could enjoy my maternity and the MBA at the same time.
How have the school, your classmates and professors been supporting you through the process?
BG: My classmates and professors helped me in everything I needed. My team mates were very accommodating when I had doctor visits during the year. Professors allowed me to change exams so I could leave school two weeks before classes ended. The school also supported me by facilitating talks with my professors and provided me with everything that I needed during my pregnancy. My biggest challenge was figuring out my summer internship, which was required for me to graduate. I ended up working on consulting project for a retail family business which was more flexible so it worked out well.
RP: From the very first day I received all the support of my classmates. They shared my happiness and they’ve been very caring throughout the year. I believe they also felt like they were a part of the pregnancy as they watched my tummy grow day after day! As we say now, baby Claudio is also from “Section C”.
What was it like being pregnant during the MBA? How did your MBA life change?
BG: I did not find any difference between my life and the rest of the students due to being pregnant. I went to every class, did the same amount of work, went to every single event and trip that I wanted to go for…
RP: My MBA life didn’t change at all. The MBA didn’t require any physical effort that I couldn’t do. Moreover, having to eat breakfast and leave early in the morning made morning sickness disappear quicker, and being so engaged with the courses in a way erased all the discomfort of the last months. In fact, during pregnancy I had the most wonderful time at the MBA because I remember sitting in class and feeling special. Well, maybe there was one drawback: studying at the library – my belly didn’t fit well under those tables!
Well now that you both have healthy baby boys, how have you been adjusting to motherhood? How did you prepare yourself to juggle all your different responsibilities?
BG: As I said, I was very lucky with the timing so I started the second year with a 3 month-old baby. What my husband and I did was to take courses on different days so that one of us was always around to take care of the baby. I am very happy with this schedule because I can be with the baby full time many of the days and when he sleeps I have time to prepare cases (same for my husband).
RP: I wanted to maximize my time at home after giving birth to take care of the baby, so I took a few intensive courses before the due date to lighten up my schedule after his birth. Later on, I found some difficulties in finding the right balance. I wanted to master the case preparation and discussions, the assignments… but my days had become unpredictable and very hard to plan ahead. I learned that I couldn’t be the best student and the best mother at the same time….and that it didn’t matter. I am a mother, because I have a son and that’s a real wonder. And at school I try to make the most out of it, leaving aside perfection and seeking for efficiency in everything I do.
You two almost make it sound easy! What is the biggest challenge you have faced having a child during the MBA so far?
BG: Balancing the time to do more things that are not related to the baby or cases and classes. Our IESE social life has slowed down a little compared to last year but we are in love with our new baby-related activities so we feel very happy about it.
RP: The biggest challenge without a doubt has been breastfeeding. I am running all the time! My son was only 10 days old when I returned to classes. I had to juggle breastfeeding with class attendance for a couple of months. During this time, what I missed was chatting with friends after class and staying at IESE for lunch and to prepare cases. I had to literally fly back home where my baby was patiently waiting for me.
Any words of advice to mothers or soon-to-be mothers planning to do their MBA?
BG: Do it! It is an amazing time to enjoy your baby and from my experience it is 100% compatible with the MBA. It is true that my case is a relatively easier one because we are both doing the MBA so we can coordinate, but in other cases you can always find a person to take care of the baby when you are at class!
RP: For both women and men, I think that having clear life priorities in place is the key. The MBA typically takes place in a stage of life that is very relevant, between 25-35 years old. In those years you define your future, professionally, but personally as well. Don’t forget about your personal life. Define the personal life you want to have and make room for it in your plans. For mothers-to-be I would say: it’s always a good time to have a child and at the same time you are never totally prepared for it, so don’t wait to be! What I guarantee (like any mother would) is that always and anytime it’s worth it.
Thank you Blanca and Rocio for sharing your stories. In the next post, we will feature another student mother who brought two young children along with her to Barcelona and find out how she manages her family life.