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Fridays from the Frontline: Juggling Motherhood and the MBA at HBS

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How many times have you heard someone liken pursuing an MBA to drinking from a fire hose? Between the coursework, student clubs, networking, recruiting—there aren’t enough hours in the day. Now imagine doing it as mom to a three-year-old.

Katie Colgary is a second-year student doing precisely that—juggling motherhood and the MBA at Harvard Business School (HBS). She graciously agreed to share this recent blog post with Clear Admit’s readers, in which she reveals how she does it, as well as what resources are in place at HBS to help make doing it possible.

Colgary is clearly no stranger to challenges. Before coming to HBS, she spent seven and a half years as a nuclear warfare officer in the U.S. Navy. She left the Navy in later 2012, welcomed son Lincoln not long after and spent two years at home with him before joining the HBS Class of 2016.

We found her post incredibly inspiring, and also packed with great practical tips for other women contemplating juggling motherhood and the MBA. We think you’ll enjoy it, too.

This post has been republished in its entirety from its original source, the Harvard Business School MBA Voices Admissions blog.

What do you enjoy most about being a mom?

My husband and I have one smart and adorable little boy. His name is Lincoln, and he is a charmer. He just turned three earlier this month. My favorite thing about parenthood is sharing the experiences with my husband and watching Lincoln develop into an inquisitive and engaging little kid. The dinner conversations we have now are quite entertaining.

Were you nervous about juggling motherhood and the full time MBA program? 

Absolutely! The transition from full-time mom to full-time student was not easy. Fortunately, my husband is the most supportive guy ever, and we have been able to share the parenting load. I would NOT be able to do this without his support and encouragement. We do not have any family in the area, and although we are used to moving around frequently and not being near family, it has been more challenging now that we have a child to care for.

The logistics aren’t always easy, but most of the time they are worth it. Some students have FOMO (“fear of missing out”) and worry about missing out on the plethora of social activities during RC year. I have the other kind of FOMO. I worry constantly about what milestones I might be missing and what my son is learning and doing during the day.

Fortunately, I realize that my decision to pursue an MBA at HBS is an investment in his future as well as my own—and there’s nothing as sweet as hearing him say, “Mommy goes to Hahvahd. I want to go to Hahvahd” in his mini-Boston accent.

Have you connected with other women on campus who are getting their MBA while being moms?

One of my closest friends and classmates is another student mom, Annette. She has two little ones and is a complete rock star! We met through one of the Facebook groups before starting RC year, and have been friends ever since. Annette and I have very different backgrounds, but since there are so few of us moms, we have gotten a chance to connect and learn from each other.

What kinds of resources are available for student moms on campus?

The Crimson Parents (student club) is a great group of students and their partners. It is a wonderful resource should you choose to live on campus, particularly if you have a partner who will be at home during the week with your little one.

There are not a lot of student moms (at last count, I believe there were seven in the class of 2016), and many of us live off campus and have partners who work (or study!) full time.

There is an informal GroupMe that was formed by one of our expectant moms, and we use it as a message board to coordinate occasional meetups and answer questions amongst the group.

There are also two breastfeeding support rooms (pumping rooms) on campus. I was able to use them during the application process and during campus visits, as well as once school started. They are under lock and key but available for use by the entire community.

What child care options are available on campus and in Boston?

Boston has some of the highest childcare costs in the country. Wait lists for daycare can be over a year long. It is imperative that you look into daycare as soon as you are even considering coming to HBS (especially if considering the on-campus daycare center; it’s always in high demand although students do get a higher “priority” in the wait list).

There are tons of private daycare options in the neighborhoods surrounding HBS. I live in Davis Square, and my son is in an excellent program there. The Crimson Parents club keeps a “babysitter reference” list, as well as some passed-along info on local child care options.

Do you live on or off campus? 

I lived off campus in Davis Square prior to applying to HBS and still live there now.

If you are moving to Boston for HBS and you have a co-parenting partner that does not work, I would highly suggest living on campus. The support for partners on campus is great.

If you have a working partner, you might consider living off campus, where there are more convenient and accessible childcare options and easy access to the “T” (the Boston subway/train system). Although I did not participate in most of the weekday, late night, social scene, I was able to be involved in events that were important to me, despite living off campus. We loved coming to Friendsgiving, Holidazzle, Section Retreat and several other amazing events with the Pandas of Section A.

What’s the best advice you received about coming to business school? 

If you are a mom and want to come get your MBA at HBS, you should. But you really, really need to want it. When things get tough at home (as they always do with growing children), you need to be able to focus to get your work done, too. This means sleepless nights and stressed out mornings. Many of your classmates just won’t be able to relate. But that’s okay!! This is not about them, this is about you!

What advice would you give to moms considering coming to HBS?  

Apply and then start really planning. Make sure you have your “parenting support system” figured out well in advance of day 1—whether it’s a stay-at-home partner, daycare center, nanny or family member. While HBS might offer you admission into the MBA program, they won’t set up every aspect of your life for you. You need to be proactive and get your ducks in a row ahead of time.

Good luck, and reach out if you need help!