“What are you doing, Mommy?” My six-year-old daughter asked as I gathered my books for class.
“I’m making sure I have everything I need for my Economics class tonight.” I answered, looking at her puzzled expression.
She paused and watched me for several more seconds and then said, “But I thought you did that last week.”
In a grown up’s world it’s generally understood how long things take and what that length of time feels like. If I told my daughter that I was going for a run, she would know what that length of time felt like. If I told her I was going to the grocery store, she would know about when to expect me back. Having a mom in school is something entirely different for her.
I explained to her that although I wasn’t in school every day, this first year of my part-time MBA program was like first grade for her and that when she moved up to the next grade so would I.
Although there were many family discussions about me going back to school, framing it in a way that made sense to a six-year-old took some time. Schedules have to be adjusted and compromises have to be made. MBA spouses realize that in addition to hearing a lot more about spreadsheets and price ceilings, responsibilities at home will shift when class is in session.
For children though, who are concrete learners, it’s important to involve them in the process. My daughter helped me select school supplies (which is why I have a bright pink pencil case with eyes and teeth) and organize my backpack. Encouraging her become part of my back to school process allowed my daughter some control over the situation in a way that may have seemed small to an adult but was quite meaningful and exciting for her. Now my daughter is one of my biggest cheerleaders- even if she thought I should have finished my MBA in one week.
Here are 5 Tips for keeping your child happily involved in your MBA process:
1. Explain what you can and when you can.
My daughter is pretty interested in what I’m studying. The last time she asked what I was reading it lead to a conversation about elastic vs. inelastic products. It would have been easier for me to say, “I’ll tell you later” or “It’s complicated” but bringing her into the conversation helps her see the world from a different point of view.
2. Parent/Child study groups.
It’s easy for your stress level to rise when you’re trying to balance school along with the rest of your day-to-day life, but building in some study time with kids is exciting during the elementary school years. Your kids will see that it’s just as important for you to focus on schoolwork as it is for them.
3. Snack planning.
Asking for your child’s help when deciding what snack to bring to class can turn into a fun activity. After watching me plan and pack her school lunches day after day, my daughter was excited to return the favor. It turned into a scavenger hunt to find a snack that was healthy (enough), not too loud to chew and didn’t have a strong smell.
4. After-school debriefing.
Kids are used to the questions parents ask about their school day. Now your child can turn the table. Talk about the interesting thing you learned in class or the funniest thing that happened. My daughter got a kick out hearing about the Professor who left the room and closed the door but we could still hear his conversation well because he left his microphone on.
5. Take a road trip.
You’ve seen where they learn, have they been to visit your Smith campus? Bringing your child to see where you attend classes gives them a clearer picture of where you spend your time. If there’s an empty classroom let them sit at a desk or stand where the Professor stands. It will help them feel more connected to the ‘student’ side of you and to your MBA journey.
Aline Anders is a School Counselor turned stay at home mom turned MBA student interested in social value consulting. She is a first year PT MBA student at Smith’s Shady Grove campus. Her interests include architectural photography, writing and her family.