When I sat down to plan my MBA last summer, I had one big event circled in my calendar for November 2022: have a baby.
As a 1+1 student, I found out that I was pregnant during the second term of my Master of Public Policy at Oxford’s Blavatnik School of Government, when I was struggling through my spring exams with debilitating morning sickness. My husband and I had discussed the possibility of starting a family during my two years at Oxford, but when it became a reality, it seemed a crazy idea. How would being pregnant, giving birth and having a young child align with an intense one-year degree and the various commitments the MBA requires?
My first decision was whether to postpone the MBA for a year, which I quickly recognised wasn’t the right choice for me. Neither was taking extended time off. My priority therefore became building a viable pathway to finishing my MBA by September 2023.
Challenge one was completing Michaelmas term. Increasingly pregnant, I waddled my way through Launch, Matriculation, Block 1 classes and Finance Lab – and even made it to a few formal dinners. As I entered Block 2 of Michaelmas in early November, I got increasingly surprised looks every time I showed up to school. A few days after a lovely send-off during my last class, I gave birth to a wonderful little girl.
One of the biggest logistical challenges posed by my pregnancy was the early realisation that my due date fell two weeks before Michaelmas assessment week. With the help of the fantastic welfare and exams teams, I was able to organise adjustments and extensions to enable me to complete my exams for Marketing, Business Finance, and Analytics before Hilary term kicked off at the start of January. I won’t lie, it was tough to find the energy, time and space with a new-born to work on statistical regressions and write essays about topics from financial theorems to sizing a market for an AI-advertising tool. But because this was an option that I had proactively chosen, I felt empowered and motivated to push through.
Six-weeks postpartum, I found myself once against back at Oxford Saïd for the start of Hilary term. The experience was surreal: my peers had taken a normal three-week break over the festive period, whereas I had left on a cold Friday in late November and returned early January feeling like a new person with a whole different set of responsibilities and priorities that I was still adjusting to. The incredible support of my cohort – in particular the 1+1s who had been with me throughout my pregnancy – as well as the constant messages of support from across the school, has been a huge help as I’ve figured out my new normal.
For me, becoming a mum during my MBA has been the best decision for myself, my family and my career. It won’t be the right decision for everyone, but what I’m most grateful for is the choice and options that I had to craft my own path through my MBA and the early months of motherhood.
It hasn’t been easy – I’ve had to develop a strong sense of prioritisation and have been lucky to have significant help from my family and my husband who, as an Oxford Saïd alumni himself, is uniquely placed to support me. But for anyone thinking about balancing pregnancy and motherhood with the MBA, it is possible with good planning and can be an incredible experience that is just as rich and fulfilling as anyone else’s.
I’ve made great friendships, taken transformational classes, made it to the finals of a competitive investment challenge, and even done an international trip with a group of other MBAs. Achieving the two huge milestones of my master’s degrees and motherhood has been one of the most challenging but rewarding things I’ve done in my life. My MBA journey is something that I will always be proud of – and I wouldn’t have had my Oxford experience any other way.
Alongside the trade-offs, hectic scheduling and balancing act that being a new mum and an MBA has required, has also come deep joy from the wonderful human I’ve bought into the world, the chance for her formative months to be spend amongst the towering spires of Oxford, and the example I get to set for her of achieving something difficult but deeply fulfilling.