Emma Kent is Director of Construction for the Metropolitan Police, a Cambridge Executive MBA participant, and mother to a daughter under a year old. Here, she tells us what it’s like balancing three incredibly important and demanding roles.
“What kind of crazy person starts an Executive MBA when they have an 11-week old baby?”
My daughter was born at the end of June 2019. I started the Executive MBA in September 2019.
I knew I was expecting when I applied for the course and was visibly pregnant when I attended the annual EMBA experience day. While I got a few strange looks from other prospective students, I mostly felt supported. I kept in touch with a couple of (soon-to-be) fellow students who cheered me on in the run up to starting the course after the birth of my daughter.
I’ll be honest – Orientation Week was a gargantuan effort. I was terrified. There’s a saying, “it takes a village to raise a child,” and, in my case, that was absolutely true. My parents and my husband’s parents helped out with baby so I could grab some study time ahead of joining so that when I started the programme, I was ready.
My husband himself is a hero. He is an equal partner and adores spending time with our daughter. He knows her routines and preferences in as much detail as I do. But to support me in my EMBA, he had to go further than that. Every day during Orientation Week he would bring her to the School and wait around so I could breastfeed her in the lunch and afternoon breaks.
There was a room in Downing College, next to the Business School, where I went to express milk after lectures and before the dinners. When other students were resting, or networking, I was feeding my baby. And don’t even mention the night-time wake-ups that week too! It was a relentless six days but such a great introduction to the programme.
After Orientation Week I started to feel like myself again. The birth of your first child really tests your character and your identity. Starting the EMBA at the same time reminded me that I could have a sense of self in addition to being “mummy”. It has given me something to focus on when my days are endlessly filled with nappies, milk and nursery rhymes.
I fit in studying around baby, generally focusing on getting a good couple of hours done after she goes to bed – a routine I hope to continue when I return to full-time employment in two months. My husband and I have decided to share parental leave, so he will take three months away from work to care for our daughter while I return to work – another example of how we’re making this work as an equal partnership.
If I were to offer advice to prospective or new mothers considering an Executive MBA, I would firstly say you must ask for help – from your partner, your family (or consider getting childcare if that is not an option), from your fellow students and from the faculty. You must be willing to relinquish control to others to share in caring for your child. Your support network will be essential throughout the experience, so make sure you tap into it as much as possible.
Don’t apologise for needing to make baby a priority, but make sure to explain your working patterns to others on the course. Rigorous organisation is essential. Everybody on the programme is a busy professional and many have family responsibilities; they understand.
Mothers are already some of the strongest people you can meet, and we need more of them with the skills to drive positive change in the corporate world. So, most importantly, I would say that if you really want to do your Executive MBA, you can absolutely make it happen.