Sunday, January 25, 2009

Parenting and the MBA - Day to Day

This is a bit of a repeat but it's been awhile since I did a baby post.

As I've mentioned before, I'm not big on schedules and I've found that the inherently changing and unpredictable nature of my first 4 quarters at school have made it nearly impossible to stick to a schedule anyway. But this quarter, since I'm just focusing on academics and entrepreneurship (no recruiting), it's much easier to try to have a schedule. And with 5 classes, maintaining tight control over my time is paramount.

So how is this working these days?


As some of you might know my mom takes care of Baby Y. Until this quarter she worked M-F from 9-6 but since Y has to leave the house at 8a for work now and I have three 8:30a classes this term, she's now starting at 8a. And, because she feels sorry for me, has been sticking around until 6p anyway. (We pay her a flat monthly amount, not hourly. And some days/weeks she works much less than this, depending on what is going on.) But though I really try to get all school things related done during those hours - that doesn't happen at all ... ever.


As you may know, virtually all classes occur in 3 hour blocks which is a huge benefit to scheduling life. So 5 classes = 15 hours/week in class. I specifically only take classes at Harper which make the logistics much easier. (Though makes getting into classes much harder.)

Getting to and from campus

Normally I bike to and from campus which takes about 5 minutes. However, with my expanding belly and the current snow/ice situation, have been taking the bus. There are several CTA routes (#172 is the one I take) which circle around Hyde Park and are free to students. The problem is that, especially in cold weather, the bus is often overcrowded and doesn't stop. So instead of 5 minutes, it's been taking me 45-60 minutes to get to and from campus which is unfortunate. If all goes well, it takes about 15 minutes. I'm considering walking so that I can get more exercise and get to class on time.

Opportunity cost of time

Having a baby makes you aware of the opportunity cost of your time like nothing else. As the quarters have progressed and the overwhelming onslaught of information and events wore off, I have become more and more stingy with my time. I don't do any evening events. I only do lunch events that I feel very excited about. I have no time to socialize with anyone who I am not absolutely delighted to see. Every moment I'm away from Baby Y has to be worth the cost of childcare as well as the less tangible cost of being away from my little one. Seems to be working out fine. I have plenty of friends. Have done fine in my classes. Have small leadership positions. Attend great conferences and LnLs. Do not feel obliged to do anything you don't want to do! (when in MBA land)


I am mastering the art of minimizing group work. Luckily, Booth lets you pick groups and some classes are much lighter than others on group work. As much as possible, I try to work with people who I know and trust not to let me down and we try to meet as little as possible. At this point in the MBA, many of us try to just work over email on homework. I am still working on trying to fit homework into to barest amount of time necessary. This is very hard to do but definitely worth aspiring towards. The marginal benefit of another hour on xyz project is usually quite low. Sit down. Get it done. Move on. That's my philosophy.

This quarter I have designated days by which each day's homework needs to be done and do everything in my power to be done with assignments well in advance. I am also trying to carve out one full day to devote to entrepreneurship. In general though, getting assignments done in advance is a huge help if you have a little one. I can't count on having time at the last minute to push something through since Baby Y could get sick or have a rough night just when I'm counting on having my time to myself.

Leadership stuff - non-academic opportunities

I have one small co-chair position that takes maybe 3 hours per month on average. Co-chairs are appointed in mid-winter quarter, so technically I'll be turning over the reins on that soon but given the way this group operates, my responsibilities will carry over into spring somewhat. I am also starting a student group which will take an indeterminate amount of time. And I am involved with miscellaneous, ad hoc, non-academic things now and then. I have eschewed most of the other opportunities (LEAD facil, case competitions, career advising, treks, lab classes) because I did not find them compelling. If I was bent on doing those things, I would have found a way to make it work. If you have your support systems in place, a little one should not stop you from taking advantage of these opportunities. But my feeling is that it is better to do fewer things well than more things poorly. So pick your battles. You can be selective and have a great experience. (Probably a better one.)

Shopping/Food/Laundry etc.

We do a monthly run to Trader Joe's (nearest one is downtown) and otherwise get most of our needs met at Hyde Park Produce which is a couple of blocks from us, on my way home from school. (I have tried Peapod but it just didn't work for us.) My mom picks up some items now and then as needed. I do all the meal preparation and Y does the post-dinner clean up. We used to do more eating out/take out - before money got uber tight. Now it's all about pinching the pennies. My mom, luckily, takes care of all of Baby Y's laundry as well as light housecleaning. If you can swing it financially, getting some outside help in this area is invaluable. Y and I split the rest 50/50. I deal with all things financial and make sure the bills get paid, find doctors for Baby Y, etc. I'm too much of a control freak to try to split this with Y.

The overarching schedule

Most days, Baby Y wakes at 7a, naps from 1-3p and goes to bed at 8p (bedtime starts at 7:30p). I rarely wake before 7a if I can help it. Baby Y generally has no problem sleeping through the night unless he's under the weather. Y and I trade off who has morning responsibility, but most days it's me with him taking more responsibility for bedtime. (due to our schedule differences) I wasn't able to swing this in previous quarters but now I very strictly put all homework etc on hold from 6-8p when I hang out with Baby Y and make dinner. I try to be home by 5 or 6p each day and Y gets home around 7p usually. (When he was working from home, this was often reversed.) Once Baby Y is in bed I typically get back to the books and work until 10p to midnight, depending on needs.

As much as possible from sunset Friday evening through Saturday I try to do absolutely no work and do not turn on the computer. It's my day to enjoy Baby Y and Y without thinking about my enormous to do list. But, especially given the reading load this quarter, I do like to do some of my more enjoyable reading on Saturday just to keep up. Saturday Y and I have tried to have be date night - but that happens quite rarely for various reasons. Sunday is back to homework and chores. Y and I try to each give each other a chunk of work time on Sunday where one of us is responsible for Baby Y and the other can focus uninterrupted. Sunday night we go to my mom's for dinner so I get one night off from cooking.

We also potty trained Baby Y at the end of fall quarter which required a little extra parenting at the time but makes life much easier. I hope to do the same even earlier with #2.

Exercise, time with Y, recreation, keeping up with non-GSB friends

Ha. Are you kidding? Not nearly enough of any of these things in my life! Unfortunately.


Anonymous said...

Wow, You seem to be a Supermom/Superwoman ;-). Am married with no kids yet, and no MBA... just thinking of doing CFA but can't find time to do just that.

MaybeMBA said...

Ha. Super-self-absorbed is more what my friends/fam feel. The CFA is no light undertaking. Definitely get that out of the way before kids! :)