It was Saturday and, with two days to go until my Microeconomics Final and Statistics Midterm, you might think I would be studying. I started my Executive MBA in June and this was the first time I’d taken a final exam in over 10 years, so I was definitely anxious about it. So, here I was, at 4am, and I was definitely not preparing for my exams. Instead, I was cradling my newborn baby girl in my arms.
Sometimes life just takes priority over work and studying. When you’re trying to do all three at the same time, sooner or later things will combine for a real challenge (or, you might say, in the course of a 2 year MBA its highly probable that all three will be a challenge at the same time: and these days I know how to do the math that tells me so). This class week was going to be a one of those times. If I missed this class week, my whole degree schedule would be thrown off: I would likely have to retake exams and classes next year, at which point, I would be taking other classes. This was not an attractive prospect.
So, on Monday morning, having spent 3 nights there, I left my daughter and my wife at the hospital in West London so I could sit my exams and start another week at Chicago Booth’s campus in the City. As I sat on the Tube on the way there, I just closed my eyes. I felt exhausted and nervous, but mostly, I felt sad to be leaving my young family. By the time I walked onto campus, I wasn’t feeling that good about a 3 hour exam (and another 90 minutes in the afternoon). However, as soon as I arrived, I ran into one of the Program Office Staff and she greeted me with a big smile and a congratulatory hug. That morning, so many of my classmates, lots of them parents themselves, came up to greet me with warm congratulations and words of encouragement. That’s one great thing about an Executive MBA: lots of your classmates are around the same stage of life as you, and everyone is supportive of each other. There’s no doubt that this course is a challenge, so there is a sense of solidarity amongst the students. There is, perhaps, less sense of competition here, compared to a full time program, and more of a sense that everyone is praying we all make it through. After all that support, when I sat down for the first exam I was able to return to the great sense of wellbeing associated with my baby being born.
The exams ended up less blissful high and more blur of caffeine and adrenaline, but the overall sense of happiness from the birth of my daughter seemed to actually help me do really well. I don’t recommend having a baby before each exam, but a positive mental attitude certainly seemed to help.
That afternoon, I went back to the hospital and took my new family home. Of course, that was when things got really difficult! I had 5 more days of class to content with and that first night at home was not easy on the sleep front. The rest of the week was really difficult. While at school, I was constantly worried about what was going on at home. In the end, all was fine. I, perhaps, didn’t read as much of that week’s material as I should have, but I got through it. Halfway through that week another classmate had a baby (slightly off schedule) and he had to rush off to the US so he could be with his son. Our course is 2 years long: you can’t just turn off the rest of your life during that time. In fact, that’s exactly why we’ve all chosen the Executive MBA format: even if nobody quite realized what that really meant when we signed up.