Working During MBA: How to Balance Parenthood and Educational Responsibilities

Mother working during MBA with daughter

Are you considering going back to graduate school to receive a Master of Business Administration degree, but wondering how education will fit into your life as a parent or professional?

While it’s possible to begin pursuing an advanced education immediately after earning your bachelor’s degree, the majority of MBA students work full time and have responsibilities at home. According to Vincia Prep, the average age of a full-time MBA student is 28 years old as of 2020.

Working while pursuing an MBA is a reality for many students, who often must also juggle parenthood, volunteer commitments, caring for relatives, and other life responsibilities. If you’re wondering how you can balance an advanced education with life, we have some advice that can help.

Getting an MBA While Working Is Possible

MBA programs are designed to be flexible for working professionals and parents because they typically require a few years of work experience. Data from U.S. News & World Report found that part-time MBA students had an average of 6 years and 10 months of post-undergrad job experience.

While there’s no set requirement for previous work experience when applying for an advanced business degree, having spent around five years in the workforce can give you a leg up over other MBA candidates. This is because MBA admissions professionals can gain a better idea about your career path and progression to see if their school’s program would be a good fit for your expectations.

Because real-world experience is a distinguishing factor when applying for an MBA program, most schools understand that many students have established careers, full- or part-time jobs, and families to take care of. It’s entirely possible to be a parent and working professional while you pursue an advanced degree if you find the right program.

10 Ways to Balance Life and Educational Responsibilities

Whether you’re already in the midst of your MBA experience or are considering going back to school, here are some ways you can ensure you can focus on your education without sacrificing your responsibilities at home:

1. Choose a Flexible Program

MBA requirements and experiences differ by program. When you have kids at home to take care of or are a working mom, having in-person classes most days of the week may not be plausible. You shouldn’t need to drastically change your schedule to accommodate an MBA program. Instead, you should find a flexible school that meets your needs both academically and socially.

Many business schools offer a 100% online program that is ideal for balancing your two worlds. Unlike a campus program, earning an online degree means no commuting to and from a classroom to meet with professors and peers. You can take classes when it’s convenient for you and your family. Whether this means fitting in a class while the kids are at preschool, between naps, or asleep at night, it’s easy to hop online and finish your advanced degree with an 100% online MBA program.

You may want to consider admissions consulting for help finding a program that meets your needs and preparing your portfolio for the application process.

2. Make a Plan to Accommodate Family and School

Joining an MBA program no doubt adds another thing to your plate, but fitting it into your schedule doesn’t need to be overwhelming. When Shane Sullivan started his Executive MBA journey with Washington State University, developing a plan of attack helped him balance his coursework, job, and family life.

He found that keeping a calendar of all his obligations (family events, work hours, and important assignment due dates) helped him identify conflicts and friction areas early on and build a schedule for success. Having a plan for the month laid out also allowed him to stay ahead of his work and dedicate ample time to his family and himself.

Creating a school/life balance doesn’t occur naturally. It’s important to take the time to plan what you can and factor in the unexpected, like if your child gets sick or you lose power.

3. Create Your Own Workspace

Where will you be studying and working on assignments for your MBA? It’s important to establish physical boundaries between your professional, educational, and home life—especially when they all exist under one roof.

Writing for Forbes, Bryan Collins acknowledged that not every individual has the space for a dedicated home office, but it’s still important to confine where you work in one area. For instance, you likely want to keep the dining room table clear of work and program projects, as that’s where your family gathers for meals. Instead, keep all of your materials in one room or space, like a desk in your guest room or living room.

Collins also recommended defining your workspace with the items you place in it. It makes sense to keep your calendar in your home office area to keep track of your assignments and meetings. Just make sure to keep your workspace free of distractions, like a TV, to help stay focused on the task at hand.

4. Utilize Your Support System

When juggling parenthood, school, and work, always remember you have a support system. Your network can help you balance your responsibilities. Here are just a few examples of how:

  • Your family wants to see you succeed. Don’t hesitate to reach out to them if you need some extra help with child care or keeping up with chores around the house.
  • Your MBA colleagues know better than anyone what you’re going through. They can help you balance your obligations if you need some extra academic support one week as you return the favor the next.
  • Your coworkers and even your boss will likely be understanding if you have a difficult week coming up with work and your coursework. They can help you find the balance you need during especially stressful times.
  • Your program faculty and staff are your biggest advocates. If you ever run into an academic issue, like having trouble meeting a deadline, you can always reach out to them to help create a plan of action to resolve it.
  • Your student support coaches are there when you need someone to lean on. Whether you’re having trouble with classes, faculty, registration, or personal issues, your coaches can help you navigate them, even if that means taking a break from your education. You can always stay in contact with them to pick back up right where you left off.

Your MBA journey is not one that you go through alone. Using your support network for help can make handling your academic pursuits and home life in tandem easier.

5. Review Child Care Options

When you have small children at home, sorting out how they will be taken care of when you have work and classes is a top priority. This is when having a strong support network comes in handy. Your friends and family can often help for a few hours a week while you work on assignments. Professional services and day care are other viable options that can give you the free time needed to complete your MBA program.

New technologies also make keeping an eye on the kids while you’re in another room easier. A video monitor connected to your smartphone or computer can help you multitask as your child plays upstairs and you work in your dedicated space.

If possible, choose your preferred form of child care a few months before the start of your new program. This can be a dry run of your adjusted schedule and ensure your choice is right for your children and your life. If for some reason it doesn’t work out, you have the time to adjust or find another solution before you are busy with classes and assignments.

6. Define Priorities and Stick to Them

Between working, taking care of the kids, and pursuing your MBA, you may not be able to fit everything into your schedule that you used to. Choosing priorities is essential to ensure you're balancing your responsibilities without spreading yourself too thin.

You will need to determine which tasks and events are necessary. For instance, attending your child’s weekly basketball practice may conflict with your classes and be unrealistic, but making sure you’re at their bi-weekly games may be important.

Minimalism Made Simple pointed out that some priorities in life will remain constant, like paying your bills on time. Others will depend on your life stage. When getting your MBA degree, meeting assignment deadlines and class attendance are new priorities alongside making sure your children are taken care of.

Before starting an MBA program, try to write out all of your priorities. This makes it easier to create a schedule and stick to it. And don’t forget about your personal priorities outside of work and school, like getting regular exercise and having down time to unwind.

7. Prep What You Can in Advance

Shane Sullivan found that staying ahead of his academic schedule helped him balance his priorities during his journey in advanced education. The same can be said for other educational and life activities as well.

Do you have a few hours of free time on a Sunday afternoon? Take advantage of this lull in activity to meal prep for the week, review your class’s syllabus, or get ahead of your reading for class. Preparing for the week ahead can help you stay on track even if something unexpected happens in the days to come.

Having some extra time to prepare can also be a great opportunity to get your children involved in planning activities for the week. Have them help you prepare their lunches and choose which snacks they want or gather their input to make a dinner menu outlining upcoming meals.

8. Be Transparent About Your Education

You may think that your young children won’t understand why your schedule has suddenly changed, but that’s not always the case. You should discuss your educational pursuits with your family and children to help them understand what getting your MBA degree entails. Mentioning classes, projects, and homework you have will resonate with school-age children especially, and they will understand that you need quiet time to complete them.

While it’s important to set boundaries between your home, work, and school life, you shouldn’t hesitate to discuss your academics with your kids, especially if they are the ones asking questions. They may be curious about your coursework and classes, and you can set a good example for them by being upfront about your educational requirements and finishing your degree.

9. Never Forget Your Goal

Pursuing an MBA is a commitment. Throughout your journey there may be times where you feel overwhelmed and ask yourself if it’s really worth adding another commitment to your plate. This way of thinking can be detrimental to your productivity and ability to balance your educational and life responsibilities.

When you need some extra motivation to juggle your kids and schoolwork, just remember what your end goal is. Whether it’s to find a higher-paying position, be eligible for a promotion, or switch careers to something you’re more passionate about, earning an MBA degree can open many doors for you in the future.

Additionally, consider how much will change as you progress in your career and education. Your children will grow and become more self-sufficient, making balancing your responsibilities at home easier. Writing down and remembering your goals and future aspirations can help ensure you chart a steady course to meet them even amidst your work and home life.

10. Make Time Solely for Yourself

Finally, don’t forget to make time for yourself. Amidst all of your responsibilities, it can be easy to feel overwhelmed and like you have to be “on” all the time. This, however, isn’t a healthy mindset.

As previously mentioned, making schedules and choosing priorities are important for balancing education and parenthood. The same is true for carving out time for yourself. This can be anything from scheduling a half-hour each day to go outside and take a walk or work out to setting a strict time for when you unplug from your devices.

Prioritizing time for yourself and making healthy choices like going to bed at a reasonable time and asking for help when you need it ensures you have the energy to get through the day.

Finding the Right MBA Program as a Professional and Parent

The majority of MBA students have other responsibilities beyond their education. From working a full-time job to being a parent, your life can’t go on hold for advanced education.

That’s why it’s important to find the right MBA program to fit your needs. Washington State University’s Online Master of Business Administration program is a convenient and flexible option for professionals and parents alike. Ranked in the top 10% among the “Best Online MBA Programs” by U.S. News & World Report, WSU accommodates learners of all levels and backgrounds.

At WSU, our faculty and staff are always ready to support you on your path to your MBA and have helped countless parents become modern business leaders. The WSU Online MBA is a convenient way to hone your high-level management skills and strategies while caring for your family and undertaking other life responsibilities.

Learn more about whether the WSU Online MBA program is right for you by reaching out to our enrollment advisors today.


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