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The Globe and Mail

Work and family and now an EMBA – the great balancing act

Shilpa Arora is a leader at Rogers Communications with more than 14 years in the industry and is currently an executive MBA student at the University of Toronto's Rotman School of Management. Outside work, she and her husband spend most of their time cheering for their two boys on the baseball field and travelling as a family. This is her first blog for EMBA Diary.

"And that's how you adjust for accumulated depreciation," explained my 17-year-old son one night as I was struggling to finish my accounting assignment in time for another 11:59 p.m. deadline. In that moment, I was experiencing so many emotions – panic, pride, sadness, exhaustion and something that felt like fulfilment. Balancing family, school and work makes you feel all of these emotions and then some.

When I decided to go back to school, my fear was how I'd create an additional 20 to 25 hours a week for the course work when I already have a full life, especially with a demanding job, growing kids, a house to run and social obligations.

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It took me a couple of months after joining the program to finally come to the realization that I could not do it all, and I was no Superwoman. One of the most difficult but important lessons was accepting that I was human and could not do everything. It forced me to prioritize and think about what was really important to me. I felt free for the first time as I started to see clearly through all the noise and clutter; it almost felt like I had finally discovered myself through the process. It made me think hard and identify what was not as critical and what I was willing to sacrifice.

One evening, when I could not make it to my youngest son's baseball game, he innocently asked me, "Mom, how much more money do you have to earn?" That was when I realized that my children did not understand why I was back in school – for me it was not a salary raise or promotion, it was my quest for intellectual growth and fulfilling a void that I had felt for a very long time.

When I set out to take this program, I had understood this to be my own journey; but I quickly learned that this was not a ride I could take solo. I had unknowingly brought along my family, friends, EMBA classmates, EMBA staff and work colleagues on this journey, and I needed everyone's support. A common joke at my work is: "Are we done yet?" Yes, people, I am almost there.

As I write this article and reflect, I am in the last term of my EMBA journey. U.S. educator and author Stephen Covey's quote resonates with me: "The key is not to prioritize your schedule but to schedule your priorities."

I realize that what I really got from this program is so much more than accounting, finance and business acumen. What I achieved with the fine balancing act is surreal – I grew intellectually and emotionally, and more importantly my family and my work peers grew with me. If someone had told me this last year, I would have responded with, "Bah!"

I feel complete, not rushed or stressed, but ready to do so much more. Time is not what one needs to balance – understanding the important things is what makes it all balance, and gave me the ability to do it all. My family and friends' patience, support and willingness to come with me on this ride is what has made this possible for me.

Superwoman? No.

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Balanced and accomplished? Yes.

Heroine of my own movie? Absolutely.

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