For MBA student, Carolina Darraidou, the decision to do an MBA abroad came with many questions about fitting it around parenthood. Below she shares her journey to LBS.
When I first met my husband nine years ago, one of the first things I told him was: “One of my dreams is to study a master’s abroad.” At that time, I was still doing my undergraduate back in Chile, had no clue where I wanted to work, what I wanted to do with my life, or that the person I was talking to would become my husband. But the idea was set.
Fast forward five years. I had finished my undergraduate, was working for a big CPG company, and that person I had talked to before had become my boyfriend.
One day, I was speaking with some colleagues about our plans: where we saw ourselves in 10 years. I can remember how anxious I became as I realised how much time had passed and I wasn’t closer to achieving my dream. So, I started thinking of what I wanted to do with my career and researching my different options. It quickly became apparent that an MBA was the way to go.
I still wasn’t sure when or where I wanted to apply, but I decided to take the GMAT anyways. I set myself a deadline: I had five years to figure out the rest.
Three more years had gone by. I had continued to work for the same company, had done the GMAT, and was married to that same person I had told my dreams to eight years ago.
The clock was ticking, and I knew that my GMAT score would expire soon. I discussed it with my husband on a Monday and decided it was time to apply. I was incredibly excited! I was finally going to pursue my dream of doing a master’s abroad! My computer was quickly filled with information about different schools and programmes.
By Thursday, a question appeared on our minds. When would we have kids? That dreaded math that some of us face and feel pressured to do: if I wait after I do my MBA, I’ll be x years old (nope, I’m not going to reveal my age in this blog, thank you very much), and then I must wait a year or so after I find a job to get pregnant and then another nine months for my first baby to be born. And then add another kid or two, and I’m too old.
I didn’t want to quit my dream, but I was also aware of how this affected our family plans. Being that this would be our first kid and having never done a master’s, we had no idea what we were getting ourselves into, and concluded: well, let’s do both! How hard can it be?
Spoilers: hard, but possible.
I received *THE* email letting me know I had been accepted at LBS! (insert a video of excited me dancing in our apartment and then quickly lying down because of morning sickness)
We had the best day of our lives! Olivia was born a healthy (and adorable) baby.
And here we are! 11,665 km away from home, married to that same person of nine years ago, one baby in our family, and doing an MBA at London Business School. I can’t even begin to describe how lucky and blessed I am.
As Term 1 is ending, it feels like the perfect moment to reflect on our time here. I’m not going to lie, it’s been hard, but I’ve never felt this fulfilled by anything I’ve done in my life. So, here are my thoughts and comments so far (they are a lot, so prepare yourself):
- People at LBS WANT to help! Everyone has offered to help us with Olivia, from free babysitting to giving her toys and clothes. It’s been amazing and heart-warming to know that we are in a community where we know we can ask for help. It has made everything so much easier!
- Coordinating classes and breastfeeding have been, so far, the trickiest part for me. The first couple of months, I would stay awake until 1-2 am pumping so that my husband would have enough milk to feed Olivia for the next day. There were also times when I’d have to run out of class quickly to feed her and then run back again (kind of like a bathroom break). It soon became unrealistic for us to keep going on like that. So, we decided to complement it with baby formula.
- Being here without our families has meant that we’ve had to rely even more on each other. I’ve loved doing this; it feels like the three of us against the world and has brought us closer.
- Social life/Networking has been a bit of a mix. We’ve joined activities, trips, networking sessions, and events. However, as Olivia has a more structured schedule (at least during the week), the other must stay at home with Olivia if we want to join an activity. We’ve hired babysitters for some events, but to be honest, we still haven’t quite figured this one out. I’ll label this one as a work in progress.
- I know that Olivia is still too young, but I hope she’ll pick up a few English words (can you imagine her having a British accent?!)
- My husband is working for his own company back in Chile. This means that there are times when my classes and his working hours have clashed, and we’ve had to figure out what to do with Olivia. This leads us to the next point.
- Nurseries: we need to get one ASAP! We know that this will make our lives easier, so we are currently looking for one. I’ll label this as a work in progress and hopefully be solved before next term begins (wish us luck!).
- Not overthinking things and simplifying my life as much as possible has made the absolute difference. There are times when I’ve had to bring Olivia to our study group sessions because Sebastian, my partner, needs to concentrate at work. At first, I was a bit wary of doing this, but they all reacted so lovely and friendly; I realised that it wasn’t an issue for anybody, and we could do the work anyway. There’ve also been times when I’ve had to leave class in the middle to go and take care of Olivia, and nobody has cared. So, note to self: keep doing whatever makes your life easier, and the rest will understand (and nobody can resist her cuteness either way, so there is that).
- Having a baby and doing a master’s is hard work! (Duh, obvious! Can somebody please tell my past self that!?).
- For now, I’ve been studying while she sleeps: either during her naps or at night. This hasn’t been an issue so far. I believe that the more things you have going on in your life, the more productive you are with your time (at least that’s what has happened to me).
- Olivia is a baby girl, and as she grows up, I want her to have an example of a woman who isn’t afraid to pursue her goals, whatever they might be. I want her to know that it’s possible (with help and hard work) to climb through the corporate ladder in a male-dominated industry, pursue an MBA (or any master’s for that matter), and have a family. And the key here is that I don’t want to tell her; I want to show her that it is possible.
And so, knowing what I know now, do an MBA or have a baby? Or do both?
Do both!! Doing an MBA at LBS is a one-of-a-kind experience. Doing this with my family makes it even more special! It’s the three of us as a team living our lives and creating memories in London while I’m studying to provide Olivia and our family with a better future. And as for the problems that appear? The way I try to see things is: there will always be problems, but most of them have solutions. For us, we are just solving one at a time.
If you want to know more about my experience doing an MBA while being a mom go follow @itsanmbamom on Instagram.