I remember reactions from fellow students (men and women alike) in the first week of business school: “You’re a mom? How can you be doing this?” Now that I am less than three months away from graduation, I can share how I did it.
When I initially applied, I thought getting an MBA was a great idea. Graduate school would allow me to take a professional break while still moving my career forward. In addition, classes were held only a couple of days a week, which meant more time to spend with my one-year-old daughter and husband. I had given the matter a lot of thought, but my classmates’ concerns that first week planted the seed of self-doubt.
I started wondering if I could do it all. Should I focus on getting good grades or a good job? Or were student clubs and happy hours more important? After spending weeks in orientation and classes, I landed an internship with Hewlett-Packard and finally stopped to take a breath. I was proud of what I had accomplished but was it what I had set out to do?
I devoted my spare time to my daughter, who has blossomed into a bubbly, witty and beautiful little girl. Then I started wondering what it would be like to start a business, so I took an entrepreneurship class—and then two—and eventually helped a classmate start a business for my master’s thesis. Most importantly, I learned to take risks again, which included giving myself the chance to be everything I could be.
I cannot say it is easy, trying to juggle being a mom, wife, student and entrepreneur. One of our school’s board members, who I respect very much, kindly advised me last year that maybe I should take one of those titles off my plate. “Mom” and “wife” obviously were not options, but I could not give up the others as well.
So I tackled one thing at a time. From 5am – 7am every morning, I would work on my business plans, emails and homework. After classes, extracurriculars and family time, I would put my daughter and husband to bed and then jump back on my laptop. During the summer, I flew up and down to Northern California every week for my internship so that I could still share weekends with my family. HP and my hiring manager rewarded me for my performance and efforts by helping me create a (mostly) full-time arrangement to work from home in Los Angeles once I graduated.
With employment secured, my second year has been a year of many firsts. For example, my sister and I recently launched our first Kickstarter campaign.
In the end, I really had two secret weapons to accomplishing everything above: my husband and my mother. As Lean In mentions, the most important decision I ever made was choosing a man who valued me and my dreams. I was simply fortunate to also have a mother who has always encouraged me to lean in, often giving up her time to help support my family. One woman may not change the world—but together, we can.