Has the thought of your personal and professional goals colliding kept you from thinking that they could instead co-exist? As I reflect on this Mother’s Day, on the precipice of graduating from Yale SOM’s two-year MBA for Executives program, I think about how close I was to not being able to achieve this very thing. Many times, the pressure to take a step back and not pursue a dream due to pregnancy is driven by the fear that we will be unable to succeed. This fear is valid and true for many mothers, as the road can be lonely and difficult because the stigmas of what it is to be a “good mother” come with many demands. Almost every person that learned of my desire to seek a higher degree while pregnant commented on how much work it would take, or how stressful it would be, idealizing the notion rather than celebrating its possibility. Others even suggested that I forgo the degree altogether. We acknowledge mothers for juggling many responsibilities, yet have a difficult time reconciling how it is possible to make space for both professional advancement and personal fulfillment. Continuing to normalize the idea that women can become mothers while pursuing other dreams will help change this default response from one of reluctant congratulations to that of steadfast support.
A reproductive journey and navigating a successful career are not mutually exclusive. Throughout my career thus far, I’ve given myself waypoints. I’ve told myself, “When I complete this project, then I’ll be ready,” or, “Once I get promoted, then I’ll be ready for children.” Yale’s SOM EMBA program is uniquely positioned to afford students the intersection of the real world in real time with an integrated curriculum that supports critical and transformative thinking for business and society leaders. When I signed my acceptance letter at the beginning of 2020, little did I know that I would be going through the program pregnant and giving birth not once, but twice during the course of the two years. As a prospective student, it is understood that the program will be demanding—grueling at times—so the idea of having children while pursuing a degree seemed nearly impossible. Yet, much of what we gain throughout the program is amplified by the integration of our personal and professional experiences outside of the classroom. As a new mother, I found myself selecting topics to research and exploring new ideas because of my newfound perspective. From tracing the origins and uncovering the economic benefits of parental leave programs in corporations to thinking of ways of applying artificial intelligence to solve everyday issues for parents, my lens as a mother enhanced the way I viewed my academic journey.
When I envision my daughters’ futures, I want them to live in a world where they have the freedom of choice to determine the kind of life they want to lead—a world where they do not have to feel that parts of their lives have to be neatly separated in order to succeed, or comply with societal norms. I would like for them to know that they can excel as a result of life’s complexities, not in spite of them. My hope is that my example provides them with evidence that they, too, can follow their ambitions without restraint. This Mother’s Day, I am filled with gratitude for those who supported me in my pursuit of the degree, and especially thankful to have my daughters in my life.