My MBA experience was different from the majority of students. I had a three-month old when I joined, and my second child was born during the winter break of my EC year. When I started, there were four student moms in my class of around 930 students. Being a student mom at HBS is totally doable, with one caveat: you need a strong support system. Here’s a summary of my experience and suggestions for brave parents. 

  1. For me, having a supportive partner was important. The HBS MBA is an intense program. Having kids is also an intense program. Being on the same page and supportive of each other was the foundation on top of which we built our extraordinary experience. If you have a partner, working together will be essential.
  2. Logistics for the kids is the immediate second layer: figure it out as soon as you can and connect with Crimson Parents. Listen to who went through the same experience before you. Look for nannies and/or a spot at a daycare in the neighborhood. 
  3. Don’t struggle alone and ask for help when you need it. HBS implemented great policies for parents, with a specific set of options for mothers. Faculty and the MBA Administration were extremely supportive of me and with other mothers on campus. Every student can ask for help on writing techniques to prepare for the exams, career coaching, and more. Those forms of support can be particularly necessary for mothers and parents. 
  4. If you have the luxury of having your parents, in-laws, or other family available to help (at least temporarily) having them on hand during your finals or when you are looking for your internship or post-MBA job is very helpful. My mom was a key part of my success at HBS – I would have never done well in my finals and job search while also caring for a toddler and a newborn (while my husband was also traveling) without her. 
  5. Find your way to be social. Full disclosure, I have never been a party person and I was even less so with a three-month-old when school started, and I had a whole new school schedule to figure out. Nevertheless, I am a very social person and I created my own network and made friends. Sections organize lots of small group dinners that are great to attend even with kids, but you can go above and beyond that! I invited my section mates and friends to my home. Since I’m from Italy, it was quite easy for me to impress almost anyone with a pasta night. In addition to small group dinners, which I hosted frequently (never miss the opportunity for free babysitting, especially when my husband was traveling!). I had a lot of fun when I hosted a larger group dinner in my two-bedroom apartment on the evening of the Barilla case! Just cooking Barilla pasta for everyone but according to the Italian tradition. My son had a lot of fun, and I had 20+ babysitters who let me enjoy the dinner.  
  6. Being successful in your academic program not only requires that you ask for help and plan far in advance, but also to choose the right partners to team up with. My friend Jossie partnered with me on a project-based exam toward the end of my pregnancy in our EC year. We defined roles and schedules with the goal of being done before my delivery. She was the best partner I could have asked for – willing to support me by being very flexible. The result? We submitted the project ahead of the deadline. In another project-based exam, I hosted my small group at my place to work on the project so I could keep an eye on the baby too. 
  7. Job hunting was the scariest part for me. Looking for a new job with a newborn and a toddler turned out to be harder than going back to work with two little kids. Take advantage of coffee chats and all the events on campus and ask everyone about work-life integration at the companies you are interested in. You are going to have options to choose from. Remember that the interview is two ways! Having those conversations really helped me define what kind of path forward I wanted.  

Mothers (and parents) at HBS and beyond may have more constraints than other students, but we ALL have boundaries. Our boundaries help us define our priorities, and ultimately, who we want to become in our lives. Sometimes, defining those priorities and who we want to be can be hard. As a mother/parent, it may actually be easier, and this is because your boundaries are so much clearer. Being a mother/parent grounds you – don’t miss the good part of it! 

  1. Don’t compare yourself to others. Your lifestyle, boundaries, priorities, and work-life integration may be different from others. Talk to people who can provide helpful advice and don’t compare yourself to anyone. 
  2. Engage with your section. Volunteer to be the parents representative for your session. My role was to make sure there were enough family friendly events among those organized by the section (for example: without loud music and in accessible places/times). I partnered with our amazing president Greg and with the social life representatives Annie and Karan to coordinate those events. When my baby was born, my dear friend Karan helped me organize the most amazing “welcome baby” party I could dream of. My friends made cookies, Jossie made macarons, and each of them made donations for the cause we wanted to support to welcome our daughter. I was overwhelmed with their participation and generosity. I received so much from the community that when I got sick on a school holiday, Joy and Tarang took care of my son and literally saved the day.   
  3. Being a mother/parent at HBS is a learning experience for everyone: yourself, your section mates, your friends, and family. You’ll learn how to juggle many things and see that going back to work won’t be so bad. Your section mates will hear your perspective – there are case discussions where being a parent really adds value. Everyone will learn the best way to be inclusive which is such a terrific lesson for life! HBS represents and reflects the business world. You will learn how to embody HBS values at school and in life. Each of us will deal with parenthood in one way or another. Many of us will become parents, some of us will be peers of parents at work, and many will hire parents. It is important to learn how to manage employees who are parents, and this includes work-life integration, promotions, and respect for family time. There are so many ways to make a positive difference in the world. The education you will have at HBS about inclusivity is to be treasured. 

This is what made my experience at HBS not only doable, but extraordinary, even though there were times when I felt overwhelmed. During those times I would go back to the best recommendation I ever received from my close friend Carla: “go for it, and never look back.”