Parenting and the MBA

Monday, November 16, 2015

We all have competing priorities in our lives. Work. School. Family. Friends. Raking the leaves. The list goes on.

I was about half-way through the part-time MBA program at Carlson when my wife and I had our first child. Needless to say, there was a shift in priorities. Having a child puts many things in perspective, particularly the opportunity cost of your time – it forced me to be more efficient in everything that I do. I actually think that I became better at studying as a result. Focusing more on the value-added activities and less on reading every single word in the text book, for example – I no longer had the time.

Everything just requires a little more planning now. I now have to balance writing an essay on Singapore’s economy with giving my son a bath or preparing a brand audit with playing with Hot Wheels.

Since my son was born, I’ve continued making changes to my study habits. I began doing my work either later at night, after he went to sleep, or I set aside a block of time on a Sunday afternoon. My wife has been really supportive throughout the process and has helped enable me to be both a good student and a good father. She can plan a Sunday afternoon activity, such as taking him to the park, while I focus on completing my homework. For team projects, I try to use in-class breaks or set-up a short discussion after class to lay out strategies for completing assignments. We then spend the week collaborating over e-mail or leveraging other technologies, such as Google Docs, so that we can work together virtually outside the classroom. This helps minimize time away from family and also creates efficiencies by not having to travel to various in-person meeting spots around the Twin Cities. It is also important to set aside time for yourself and for your family. For example, I make it a point to not even open a text book on Friday or Saturday and instead spend this time with my family – and also watching some college football. This is my time to decompress.

The program at Carlson is very flexible – which also helps. Classes are offered four nights per week, on Saturdays, online, and in a condensed format (Classes meet at the Carlson School for three full days throughout a 2-week, 3-week, or 6-week period on Fridays or Saturdays). Classes also occur in ~3.5 hour blocks, which makes it easier to coordinate everything else going on in life.  This flexible approach has allowed me to progress towards completing my MBA while not only working full-time, but also being a parent.

Alex Holding Baby
Alex Ellis and Son in Twins Baseball Caps