Here on The Booth Experience, we acknowledge that these are trying times in the midst of the COVID-19 outbreak. Still, in honor of Women’s History Month, we want to take a moment to acknowledge the amazing women at Booth! Today we highlight MBA students who are also mothers. Out of an average class size of 600 students, full-time students embracing motherhood make up less than 0.9 percent of each cohort.
For this article, I interviewed co-chairs from the Mothers at Booth club, Kailin Fu (Class of 2021) and Reetika Bhardwaj (Class of 2020). I also spoke with Emma Aggor (Class of 2020) – balancing Booth with two school-aged boys while managing the Chicago African Business Group. Last, but not least, Carrie Tarkocin (Class of 2020) shared her insight. Carrie is one of the most involved students at Booth I know! She is a cohort president in Graduate Business Council, Booth’s student government organization.
How do you balance time between school and family?
Kailin Fu, ’21
I have kind of an unusual setup as my husband works in the northern Chicago suburbs, which is about 1.5-2 hours one-way from campus, so he and our one-year-old live in the suburbs while I share an apartment with two other Boothies at MPP. I stay in the loop (downtown Chicago) the days I have classes and stay in the suburbs on my days off. We have decided early on that commuting 3-4 hours daily for either of us wouldn’t be sustainable. When I am downtown, I try to fill my agenda as much as I can – study, group meetings, social activities, and company events; when I am home, I try to be 100% family. This setup really allows me to maximize my efficiency handling multiple tasks.
How have you taken advantage of Booth’s flexible curriculum?
Carrie Tarkocin, ’20
Booth’s flexible curriculum has been key to balancing life as a student and mother. I have maximized time with my family in Atlanta by compressing my classes to a few days a week. When I am in Chicago, I take full advantage of everything Booth has to offer from club events to group meetings with classmates to speaker series. When I am in Atlanta, I enjoy every minute with my two-year-old son. And as my husband and I prepare to welcome our second son, going on a temporary leave of absence has been an easy and smooth process.
Kailin Fu, ’21
The flexible curriculum is extremely helpful because it allows me to cater my schedule to the way that will work best for my particular situation. I also know another mom at Booth who takes advantage of this and has her classes at night time and over the weekend, so she and her husband (who works full-time) can take turns caring for their newborn and they don’t have to hire a full-time nanny.
How has Chicago Booth supported you as a mother and a student?
Reetika Bhardwaj, ’20
As a mother at Booth, recruiting for investment banking and training my Spring Quarter for my summer internship in M&A investment banking was intensive. One of my classes was Financial Statement Analysis (FSA) with the professor Michael Minnis, who hosted Sunday evening sessions to provide additional assistance to students who wanted 1-on-1 time. However, one of the evenings when I was struggling to get a sitter for my son, the professor suggested that I bring my son along so I could still participate in the session with him. We were unsure of the rules or if this would even work, but his flexibility and passion to help students stood out for me.
What are your favorite family-friendly activities in Chicago?
Reetika Bhardwaj, ’20
Going to Lincoln Park Zoo, the Harold Washington Library (there’s a children’s library inside!), the Chicago Children’s Museum , or to the Shedd Aquarium. I live close to Lakeshore East (see picture below) so very close to a great park in addition to Chicago’s amazing Millennium Park that has kid friendly programming throughout the summer time.
Any tips for moms applying to MBA programs?
Emma Aggor, ’20
Mom guilt is real when we have to focus on our careers; every minute spent on us feels like a minute stolen from our families. But pursuing your MBA is as good for you as it is for your family. Personalizing this may be different for everyone. When evaluating programs, I focused on two mindset changes:
- Pursuing my MBA is a practical example of the value of hard work to my boys and also shows them, through my husbands’ example, what a supportive spouse looks like.
- It is okay to accept more help from my husband/family as I juggle this experience.
Kailin Fu, ’21
Reflect on what are the most important things you are trying to get out of an MBA program. There will be many times that you will have to make choices and trade-offs, and you will have an easier time if you could always refer to your priority list. Also, I really like what an alum shared at one of the events I attended at Booth: As a mother, you will have many balls in the air and it’s just impossible to try and never drop one – you will drive yourself crazy! But what you can do is to decide which of the balls are plastic and which are glass, and just make sure the ones you drop are plastic ones, which you can pick up and make up for later. This really resonated with me, especially when I am faced with difficult choices.