Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell: Another Perspective On Disclosing Your MBA Mom Status
Over the past few weeks, we’ve had vibrant discussions on the blog and social media about the topic of whether disclosing your status as an MBA mom can be a professional liability. We connected with a current MBA mom who agreed to be featured on the blog in a post about having babies during business school. This mom — who we’ll call Jane Doe — had a change of heart about having her information published publicly on mbamama.com. She did; however, agree to be featured anonymously, and we are thrilled to share her story with the MBA Mama community.
Jane is an international MBA student at a top 5 ranked graduate business program. She worked in investment banking at the VP level, and holds a CFA certification. Jane felt the MBA would position her to advance her career in finance on the international stage. She got married the same year she applied to MBA programs in the United States. Knowing she wanted to start a family and continue her banking career, Jane rejected the idea that an MBA and motherhood could not happen simultaneously. Although some trusted confidantes advised her to hold off on having a baby until after school or in year 2 of her MBA, Jane realized that it made sense to start her family during her 1st year of business school. Jane acknowledges that her choice is not the recommended path but she cites wanting to be finished with initial care of her baby before she completed her MBA as a decisive factor.
She was 5 months pregnant when she started business school and moved to the United States with her husband.
“I was lucky to have a healthy, uneventful pregnancy. I had no morning sickness or anything like that. For the majority of my pregnancy, I felt like myself. I worked out and continued my daily routine. When I started my MBA, I did not pull back on the interaction with my classmates. I was taking part in all the social and networking events, but then I had an incident with pelvic pain. It was a challenging few days which made me realize that, even if body was not telling me to slow down, I was in a different phase than my classmates. I needed to take better care of myself, so I pulled back with activities in my 1st semester. I got comfortable with the reality that, as a pregnant student, I was not like everyone else. My classmates were incredibly helpful and friendly. Even though my due date was set for Winter Break, I was concerned that my baby would come early which would conflict with the final exam period. I worked with my MBA advisor, and was assured that the would provide accommodations and arrange for make-up exams if necessary. Luckily, my son was born after exams — right on schedule.”
Since Jane was a senior level banker prior to business school, traditional Associate-level recruiting options did not take up a lot of her time. She opted out of a summer internship, choosing instead to spend time with her young child and focus on strategizing for her next career move post-MBA.
Her husband was a big source of support, and she received childcare assistance from her mother and mother-in-law for the first four months of her baby’s life. She has selected a daycare facility and will be utilizing full-time childcare near her school’s campus during the final year of her MBA.
“My partner has been instrumental. From the start and every step of the way, he has been hands-on and supportive.”
When discussing why she decided to share her story anonymously, Jane told us this:
“As an international student, I researched the US job market and I spoke with recruiters and career advisors. I decided to share anonymously because non-disclosure of parental status seems to be the best practice in the job market. The status quo in American culture is ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ when it comes to being a working parent. Being a mother is a big part of my persona and choosing to combine the MBA and motherhood is a challenge. It has been a difficult path. I would think that potential employers would view my status as an MBA mom and say ‘this candidate is an ambitious go-getter with excellent time management who doesn’t take the easiest path.’ But, unfortunately, this is not the case. I discussed this with my husband and he agreed about the ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ culture even for fathers. However, he raised a good point — that men will probably have less of a tendency to talk about their families in the workplace.”
“The fact is that women are presumed to be primary caregivers. There is no assumption that being a father will stand in the way of a man being the best employee he can be. In some settings, employers make that judgment or assumption about women who disclose that they’re mothers.”
While Jane has decided to adhere to don’t ask, don’t tell during her career search, she does have advice for women who think having children and getting admitted to business school at a top program are mutually exclusive.
“Having a child is a very personal choice. Any woman considering motherhood and an MBA simultaneously need to weigh the pros and cons for themselves. It takes courage not to listen to the status quo which says you have to do one before the other. One big advantage of choosing to combine motherhood and an MBA is that, after graduating, I will have a window of time to focus completely on my career without taking time out to start a family in a new job/company. Maternity leave comes with unique challenges. A two-year MBA program affords a lot of flexibility which leaves women with ample time to spend with their baby in the early months. As I’ve said, it is not an easy path and there are many challenges but I would not change anything about my journey”
Originally published at www.mbamama.com.