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Couple does the unthinkable: simultaneous MBAs with toddler and full-time careers

Catherine Bornbaum is an executive MBA student at the University of Toronto, a young mother and the wife of a fellow MBA student. ‘I’ve chosen to have courage and embrace it all without regret,’ she writes of her multi-tasking life.

Catherine Bornbaum is the managing director of the Population Health Analytics Lab, a research associate in the Dalla Lana School of Public Health at the University of Toronto, an adjunct research professor at the University of Western Ontario, and an executive MBA student at the University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Management. She is also a mother to an energetic two-year-old (with another one on the way) and wife to a chemist who is, himself, enrolled in the Morning & Evening MBA program at Rotman. This is her first blog for EMBA Diary.

I sat at the computer, staring at the “update” option on my LinkedIn profile. Clicking accept would announce my new role as a student in Rotman’s executive MBA program. I hesitated. What if I couldn’t actually manage it all?

Adding to my uncertainty, my husband had also just been accepted into Rotman’s Morning & Evening MBA program – a 30-month part-time course with a schedule that complemented my own so that we could both pursue our MBAs simultaneously. With thoughts of the logistics and time management we would need to balance to pull this off looming in my head, I remained frozen in front of that computer screen, wondering what to do next. The public announcement of my potential failure felt like a risk I wasn’t sure I was ready to take.

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If my own doubts weren’t enough, the concerned questions from friends and family members fueled my fears – “You’re both enrolled in MBA programs? At the same time?!” “What about your son? Your jobs?” The reality of what we had signed up for dampened our joint enthusiasm.

Managing it all

The biggest challenge for me has really been trusting in myself to handle it all. Almost immediately, the program demands pushed me to my limits. It turns out that was the perfect catalyst for me to learn to delegate non-essential tasks at work and home. Our families have been helping in ways big and small, and collectively, we’ve outsourced everything we can – from cleaning, to child care, and more prepared meals-to-go than I care to recall. Toddler toys don’t have to be neat and tidy at the end of each day.

I had to set realistic expectations of myself and create firm boundaries for my time and energy. This meant saying “no” more than I would have liked to events I wouldn’t have second-guessed just months before. I’m also fortunate to have a supportive and flexible boss who has afforded me the time and space to pursue this opportunity fully.

Mostly, I’ve been humbled by the support provided by my husband, who has been carrying an uneven load of the child care and household responsibilities despite also working full-time and pursuing his MBA.

Any regrets

Despite the required trade-offs and sacrifices, I have absolutely no regrets. While I’m just halfway through the program, I already see the world in such a broader sense. I’m asking different types of questions and thinking more critically about the decisions I make as a team member and as a leader.

Of course, there have been pangs of guilt as I FaceTime my toddler to say goodnight on class days. And there have been many late nights filled with studying and assignments, but I wouldn’t trade any of it for the insights I’m gaining.

Ultimately, I’ve come to realize that there really is no ideal time to do any of these things – undertake professional development, expand my family, pursue new opportunities – so instead I’ve chosen to have courage and embrace it all without regret.

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So far, I’m glad I took the risk by enrolling in the executive MBA program. As for LinkedIn, one confident click later, the profile declares my updated status as a Rotman EMBA student.

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