Bouncing Back From A Mid-Semester Childcare Crisis Like A Boss

With Nyah during one of our daily walks to school.

5 weeks into my first semester of business school, I determined that hiring my 24 year old brother to move from Chicago to Philadelphia to provide childcare services for my daughter was a bad idea. For reasons that I won’t elaborate on here, my brother and I terminated our childcare agreement in early September, just a few weeks after I started at Wharton. Left alone to figure shit out, I went into panic mode. Midterms were rapidly approaching and there was simply no way I would be able to be competitive at Wharton without a childcare provider that could be available in the evenings and weekends which is when recruiting, group work and networking events happen. While most of my classmates were focused solely on calculating derivatives and applying formulas for our Econ class, I was trying to figure out an affordable childcare solution. My stress levels were off the charts.

My classmates and Wharton administration — specifically the financial aid office and Penn’s Family Center — were crucial partners to me during this difficult and chaotic time. Several students from the Wharton community offered to babysit when they learned about my situation. Shout out to Adrienne, Dimia, Kameale, Shay, Renata, Brian R. and his wife — all of whom graciously provided assistance while I scrambled to find a solution to my childcare problem. Members of teams I’m on at Wharton were open and inclusive when I needed to bring Nyah to meetings. She attended sessions where my learning team and I worked through tough case studies and problem sets, and meetings where the Wharton African Business Forum marketing team and I were figuring out the best way to position our marketing strategy. Rasesh, Sebastian, Aminat, Renata (again), Lorenzo and Adam — my teammates on the Wharton Social Venture Fund — were also very welcoming to Nyah who I brought to meetings due to lack of childcare support. Nyah now knows a little bit about conducting due diligence on social impact fintech start-ups.

I took advantage of free premium member access to care.com provided by the university to students with families (note: Wharton, please publicize this resource to potential MBA students, please). I posted a nanny job requisition on care.com in early October. I was flooded with applications, and over the next 2 weeks, I allocated time to review applications from potential nannies, call references, conduct background checks, and schedule interviews. Out of about 100 applications, I identified 3 people I wanted to interview.

I hosted first round interviews on campus. Second round interviews were held at my home so I could determine whether Nyah had chemistry with the potential nannies. After a grueling two week vetting process, I selected my new employee.

Brittany with Nyah at our home in Philadelphia.

Her name is Brittany, she has experience in early childhood education, and she is completing her Master’s degree in child counseling. She is credentialed with all applicable licenses, first aid/cpr, etc. She has excellent references and Nyah warmed to her immediately. I’m so happy to have Brittany join our family, and provide the support I need to get through the next semester.

Brittany started working two weeks ago. Two glorious weeks!!!! With her support, I have officially bounced back.

Contrary to the myth that the skills moms use on a daily basis are not applicable to the business world, I would argue that I used business skills during the process of recruiting and hiring a nanny. I utilized my business acumen in every step of this process; from preparing a job description and marketing to potential candidates to researching the legal requirements for hiring a household employee to designing an interview process, vetting my candidates, and negotiating compensation. Furthermore, I regularly use business skills while managing my household and building MBA Mama. This is why I find it to be problematic when people tell me to downplay my status as a mother. Being a mom makes me a stronger business leader. Period.

For women preparing for this journey, please learn from my struggle and choose your providers wisely. It is critical to plan accordingly with your childcare situation before you start business school. Ask your school administrators about resources related to childcare and additional funding for students with families. It will truly make all the difference. And if you do face a crisis, keep calm and remember that you birthed a human being. With perseverance, it is possible to bounce back. Like a boss.

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