Happy Father’s Day to all the dads out there, and especially to those who have decided to bite the bullet and tackle the MBA and fatherhood simultaneously. It can be done, albeit with some sacrifices, and students both male and female seem to be pairing parenthood with the rigors of business school more and more these days. We caught up with a few MBA dads to learn what works, what doesn’t and what they wouldn’t change for the world.
6 Things That Make Being an MBA Dad the Best
- Matching Backpacks
“Every morning I put on my backpack and she puts on her backpack, and off we go!” says Sam Becerra, whose daughter, Ezelle, will turn two in July. Becerra, a rising second-year MBA student at Haas School of Business, and his wife have enrolled Ezelle in day care at UC Berkeley, which means that each morning dad and daughter set out for the day together. “It really provides extra peace of mind that she is close by in case there’s an emergency,” Becerra says. He also loves that she’s in an environment where she is surrounded by the children of professors, PhD students and other graduate students.
- Supportive Partners
“My wife understood my time commitments, and as long as she knew exactly what we were getting into, we were able to make it work,” says Bryan Coughlin, a rising second-year student at NYU Stern School of Business. Coughlin and his wife, Tania, are always looking for ways to squeeze in family time with 20-month-old Joshua wherever they can, even and especially in the busiest stretches of school. Tania, for her part, volunteered to accompany Bryan on his 25-minute walk to school every morning. “We will break out the stroller and head to campus,” he says. “Now my fellow students expect it from me,” he adds. “If I ever walk up without them they’re like ‘Where’s Joshua? We want to see Joshua.’” His internship this summer at an investment bank in midtown could offer an even longer walk for more shared time if Tania’s up for it.
- Babies Raised by a Family of Friends
“I am almost choked up just thinking about the types of support that we got from my classmates,” says Dan Schoening, who graduated this spring from Haas and is dad to 14-month-old Wesley. “There was no tension ever, whatsoever, none,” he says when asked if his family commitments caused any problems with teammates. Quite the contrary.
“My daughter was born the week before finals, and I had a lot of commitments,” he says. Not only did classmates jump in to help out with team project work, they even set up a spreadsheet to deliver food to the new family every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. “My daughter got to spend her first year with this unbelievable Haas family,” he adds. His wife, Julie, chimes in from the background to emphasize just how much they, and their daughter, trusted their Haas friends. “Wesley would have gone off and spent an entire day with any of our Haas friends and not looked back,” she says. “We don’t see it as just an MBA experience,” says Schoening. “This was very much the starting of our little family—with Haas—which was very special.”
Now he’ll return to Nordstrom, where he worked in corporate strategy before business school, but the MBA has allowed him to pivot into a slightly different role. “We left Seattle two years ago without a daughter, and today we are driving home with Wesley in the back. It is a different drive, I can tell you that.”
- Motivation of a Higher Order
“Having a daughter was the motivation for me to pursue higher education,” says Haas’ Becerra, who was the first in his family to attend college. “When it came time to get an MBA, there are obviously benefits in terms of career and finances, but more than any of that I want to be the example for my daughter so she never has a doubt that education is important.” The Oakland native will be interning this summer at a real estate investment firm in San Francisco.
- Flexible Schedules
Coughlin credit’s Stern’s flexible schedule with helping make it possible to balance both the demands of being an MBA student with those of being a dad. (Good thing, since baby number two is due in November, right around finals time…) “I have taken advantage of night classes, because Joshua is asleep anyway,” he says. He can eat dinner with the family at home at five and be out the door in time for his class, just as Joshua needs to settle into a bath and bedtime routine. “Honestly, my wife prefers it that way,” Coughlin says. “She thinks I get in the way and get my son too excited to sleep,” confesses the former Marine. The nighttime classes also free up more time during the day, when Joshua and Tania will frequently come hang out with him at Washington Square Park. “The flexibility in the schedule allows me to sneak in more family time.”
- Shared Calendars
Apart from a brief maternity leave, Schoening’s wife worked the entire time he was in business school, running her own web design firm. So carving out family time took careful planning. “My wife and I do all of our scheduling with shared Google calendaring, which helped us see quickly the things that have to happen and the places where we have some flex,” he says. “Any chance we could, we would carve out the time to be together,” he says. “My wife did a great job of protecting weekends, which can be really challenging when you’re running your own business, and I would do the same. That time was reserved to spend together as a family.”Back in Stuyvesant Town, where Coughlin and his family are living during his time at Stern, keeping track of where everyone needs to be and when also proved essential. “We’re old school—we have a calendar on the wall,” laughs Coughlin. Green is school-related, blue is family-related, there are about four different colors and it’s all marked up. We just make sure everything is on there, and she keeps me honest about what’s on my calendar,” he says.“I can’t emphasize enough how important the spouse’s role is in ensuring that you have the experience that you are looking for and, especially, communicating with your spouse,” Coughlin continues. “I haven’t felt any difference in my experience [as compared to classmates without kids]. I think going through an MBA program with a family is awesome and kind of a shared experience. I wouldn’t change a thing.”
So, there you have it. You can get your MBA and be an awesome, involved dad at the same time, all while working toward a better future for your family. Flexible scheduling options, supportive partners who know what they are getting into and a community of classmates who become honorary aunts and uncles can make Father’s Day in business school a very special day indeed.
We hope it has been!