Xin Li and her husband, Yicheng Tu, with sons Michael and Jeffery.
For most incoming master’s students, Unite Week is an opportunity to bond with classmates before fall classes start. But Xin Li, MBA ’07, experienced an entirely different sort of bonding when she arrived at Krannert — that which occurs between a mother and her newborn child.
“I gave birth to Jeffery the week before classes started,” Li says. “And my other son, Michael, had just turned 2 years old. Both of them needed a lot of attention, and I needed time to recover from the delivery. That’s why I missed Unite Week.”
Fortunately, Li found plenty of support. Her husband, a PhD candidate in computer science, took time off from school to help tend to their young family. Friends and neighbors pitched in with meals. And Li’s cohort team at Krannert kept things running smoothly on an academic front. “I wouldn’t have been able to make it through the first module without all that help and support,” she says.
Time management continues to be a challenge for Li. “I’m not able to start studying until 10 p.m. every night, so I don’t go to bed until 1 or 2 a.m. and then I have to wake up twice to feed Jeffery,” she says. “There are times when I still feel like I can’t handle the workload of the program.”
According to Vicki Salemi in a recent article for classesUSA, “MBA Moms Make a Difference,” it’s a dilemma faced by women in any master’s-level management program.“It turns out that many women, particularly mothers, are concerned that the rewards of a business career will not outweigh the sacrifices required to get there,” Salemi writes. “To these prospective ‘momtrepreneurs,’ trying to raise a family while pursuing a competitive MBA program can seem overly daunting.”
Krannert’s Soraya Santoyo, MSHRM ’07, echoes those sentiments. “Being a mom and doing anything else can be challenging,” says Santoyo, whose son, Nico, recently turned 3 years old. “I had to learn to take the words of wisdom from other successful working moms to heart: ‘a career and motherhood are doable.’”
With the help of her family, friends, and classmates, Li is learning a similar lesson. “I know that if I can manage through this difficult period, then I can manage the time challenges after I complete my degree,” she says.
Santoyo’s confidence has also grown through a successful balance of school and parenting. She believes that both experiences will benefit her in the workplace, but also recognizes that her professional credentials will be given greater weight.
During an interview on her son’s birthday, in fact, Santoyo was asked what job on her resume had been the most difficult. “On the anniversary of becoming a parent, all I wanted to say was that being someone’s mom is the most challenging job,” she says. “But it’s not on my resume!”
Santoyo is quick to add that motherhood is also her most rewarding job. “With all the stress of potential employers choosing whether or not to hire me, it’s comforting to have someone not care about my credentials or interview skills,” she says. “Despite the fact that my child didn’t get to choose me as a parent, I’m loved anyway.”
— Eric Nelson