The School-Work-Family Balancing Act

“Hurry up, I have a final due in 2 hours so I don’t have a lot of time.” That’s what I said to my 9-year old daughter the other night as we did our nighttime routine. It doesn’t usually end up being such a stark trade-off, literally stealing minutes from bedtime to go run a regression on some widget sales data. But there’s no way around the fact that my SOM experience means, at least in quantitative terms, less family time.

January 21, 2014

Before I wrapped up those last problems on the final, I read her a book about Milton Hershey. She loves biographies and has already read a couple of books about Hershey’s travails. She likes the story of how he tried and failed to launch his candy business over and over, until he finally succeeded on an unthinkable scale. It’s a dramatic story of perseverance and following your dream, with embedded lessons about finance, strategy, innovation, and philanthropy. As I explained the cash flow problems that left Milton unable to pay his creditors, I realized that she is soaking it right up (and that I actually can explain it coherently!). I also realized this is not the first time. We have these little moments all the time. As she teeters toward her tween years, my daughter is a budding entrepreneur, and as she sizes up the possibilities for her own place in the world, she is watching how I am claiming mine.

I also have a son, and he can be a bit more sensitive about my absence and a little less clear about what “business school” even is. One of the days I had to be on campus this fall was his 7th birthday. As the date drew near, it became clear that my absence would come on the heels of a week of travel for work. It was stressful on everyone, but in the end we managed to make a little New Haven adventure out of it. After class Friday evening, the kids and my husband came into town and we went out to dinner at one of our favorite restaurants and wandered through Ninth Square to take in some of the “First Friday On9” festivities. As we made our way back to the Omni, one of my classmates texted me and invited us up to the restaurant on the 19th floor. There, they presented my son with cake and ice cream, and everyone sang him Happy Birthday. I had just started school with these friends a couple months prior, and here they were helping me make some memories for my kid on the-birthday-when-mom-was-stuck-in-school.

When I applied to this program, I remember all three interviewers asked, in one form or another, how I would balance work, school, and family. (I’ve since been reassured to learn that, yes, the dads get asked that too.)  And in reality, does anyone know for sure if they can handle the balance? I also wondered, even if I can handle it, do I want to? Why do I need to be any busier than I already am? It’s not always easy and I am plenty busy. But what I didn’t factor into my calculus was that SOM can actually add a new dimension to our family - new little threads I can weave into a discovery in those small parenting moments; a new community to draw on for support; new friends that will be in my life for a very long time.

I know I am trading off time, and that’s something you don’t get back. But the work-school-family balance isn’t just about blocks of time, it’s about the meaning and motivations we bring to each thing we do.

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About the author

Amy Romano

MBA for Executives, 2015