Work/Life Effectiveness

Balancing an Executive MBA as a Working Mother

This article is sponsored by Auburn University (Harbert College of Business).

We all know this to be true — there are only 24 hours in a day. Is it possible to balance the demands of a career and life at home? What if you decide to pursue higher education on top of that? Learn what it’s like to balance work, family, and being a student from Auburn University Harbert College of Business Executive MBA (EMBA) alumna, Kimberly Sari, and Executive MBA candidate, Marilee Glass.

Work-Life Balance

People around the world are realizing that achieving work-life balance is easier said than done. The truth is work is life and home is life, so obligations in either category cannot be overlooked. According to Sari, “Now where this intensifies is when one has a career, is a parent with a spouse, and is a full-time EMBA student. This will take not only dedication, but a very strong will.” Adding a third layer of graduate school presents another challenge to maintaining a state of equilibrium.

Women like Sari and Glass understand these challenges associated with pursuing an MBA amidst a career and motherhood. They have confronted the difficulties in navigating these complicated decisions and realized the pathways to success are rarely straightforward. And yet, they practice habits which have helped them to prosper and achieve their goals. Recently, we interviewed them to gain insight on the topic and hear their encouragement for other women considering an MBA program while balancing a career and motherhood.

Goal Setting

Sari explains that it all begins with goal setting which “helps to prioritize the important events in life and to keep a strong vision.” She furthered this sentiment by stating, “It’s very easy to get caught up in behavior that can distract you or even shake you off of the path of your dreams, so maintaining a clear set of priorities…is crucial.”

Glass agreed, as she explained that she found success in “keeping structure and routine to avoid feeling overwhelmed.”

Plan Ahead

You might be wondering what the average week would look like for a typical Executive MBA student. Sari encourages other mothers to consider pursuing their goals with these words: “The Executive MBA Program will be demanding but it’s only for a finite amount of time. Commit now, reap the rewards forever.” She recommends these practical steps to make weeks manageable when balancing a family, a career, and graduate studies:

  • Actively plan for study time and family time throughout the week.
  • Study two hours a night after putting the kids to bed.
  • On the weekends, dedicate several hours in the afternoon to studies to free up the mornings and evenings for the family.

The Executive MBA Program will be demanding but it’s only for a finite amount of time. Commit now, reap the rewards forever.


Habit Stacking

Glass recommends habit stacking as the most effective method for managing her responsibilities. Habit stacking refers to the idea that you can add habits more easily to your typical day by pairing them with something you already do.  She then explained, “I try to focus on the task at hand and not worry about all that is still on my plate and ‘hovering’ on my to-do list. Block scheduling has helped tremendously.” In this way, she was able to maximize the efficiency of her time and not overlook important tasks.

Find a Support System

Glass then explained that her support system was a huge part of her decision process and has continued to help her navigate every step of the way. She continued by saying, “Now that I’m further into the program, my colleagues regularly ask how my program is going, and my kids recognize my professors when they are on the computer screen — they even know some of my cohort from class meetings!”

Sari echoed the same idea as she said, “Making [my family] feel included in the learning process and sharing victories with them” helped her to complete the program without having to sacrifice either her career or her priories as a mother.

Choosing an EMBA Program

On the topic of considering a program, Sari expressed, “As more working women pursue MBA’s, it’s important that business schools understand and highlight the unique set of challenges they will face. The fact that I have been asked to contribute to this blog demonstrates that the faculty and staff at Auburn’s Harbert College of Business are aware of these challenges and support those working moms who wish to pursue higher education.” She recommended taking the time to speak with faculty and staff about advice for success.

Sari is now thriving as a Capture and Proposals Manager located in Munich, Germany, and Glass has found success as a Vice President of Operations located in New York City. As a parting piece of advice, Glass would tell all working mothers, “Never underestimate how energizing a clean house, a good workout, or a nutritious, home-cooked meal will make you feel. Sometimes, I need to remember to carve out time like this to ‘refill my cup.’”

Wynne Mixson will complete her dual MBA and Master of Science in Finance in Spring 2023.

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