I'm Not Wasting My Degree: My MBA Stands for "Mother Bad-Ass"
I graduated from business school 11 ½ years ago and I have spent half my time since then pushing potato chips and pumpkin spice lattes at two large corporations, and the other half of my time pushing strollers and swings as a stay-at-home mom of three small children.
There were two years in there where I did both. Sometimes people ask me if I feel guilty about “wasting” my MBA -- after all, I spent two years of my life and a small fortune on that degree. A man I barely know once told me he resented women like me who leave the workforce a few years after graduating from a selective business school because an equally qualified man who would not quit so soon could have taken my spot. Youch.
Well, my honest answer is yes, I do feel guilty sometimes. But I also felt guilty when I was working and spending so much time away from my young daughters. No matter what I do I will feel guilty, so I’ve decided to say, “F the Guilt.” I’m sick of feeling guilty. You’re damned if you do, damned if you don’t, so you might as well do what you want to do or what makes the most sense for your family right now -- and what’s right could change in five years or even tomorrow, or maybe it won’t -- but it’s time to stop feeling guilty.
And who says I’m not using what I learned in business school and during my career now that I’m a stay-at-home mom? You have to have some serious project management skills to brainstorm a meal plan, shop at the grocery store with a toddler and/or baby in tow, pay for the groceries, make the meal on time while surrounded by whining children, and then convince everyone in the family to eat said meal. Family dinner alone has got Strategy, Accounting, Operations, Marketing and Negotiations written all over it.
Don’t get me started on negotiations, I think every parent deserves a PhD in Negotiations. No offense to hostage negotiators, but bargaining with an over-tired toddler or a know-it-all six-year-old is probably the toughest negotiation challenge there is. The problem with negotiating with young kids is that they have the stubbornness of a mule yet the intellectual capacity for reason of a moth. They say you should never negotiate with terrorists or children and I agree with that, yet I still find myself at the mercy of a three-year-old’s temper again and again. I learned in my Negotiations class that you must always have a BATNA (Best Alternative to a Negotiated Agreement). My BATNA is usually “no tantrums in public” and at home, “getting through dinner and bedtime without Mommy losing her s*it.” I don’t always achieve my BATNA, but as long as I do, anything I end up conceding is negligible. For the times I don’t, there’s wine.
Accounting was my least favorite course in business school, but I’m glad I took it. Keeping a balanced bank account is a difficult task, especially when you no longer have cash flow coming in from two incomes and you have three walking liabilities burning through your cash reserves and depreciating the value of your house and car at 100x the standard accounting rate.
Out of all the courses I took in business school though, the one that I rely on the most as a mother is definitely Marketing. Getting someone to think they want something they don’t is Marketing 101 -- and moms and dads do this everyday. “Wow, look at these cool underpants! Someday when you start going potty you’ll get to wear these like a big kid!” Or, “I know you think you hate soccer, but I’ve signed you up for one session, and if you still don’t like it after that we can stop.” Or, “I know you said you wanted a Barbie Dream House, but check out this cool Lego set I got instead, you can build your own dream house with it!” (Ok, that last one might not work). Packaging and product innovation are important in the consumer goods world I worked in, just as they are in the kid world. For some reason, my kids are far more likely to eat their veggies if I serve dinner on a three-section plate versus a plain round one; it’s the same food, just different packaging. And then there’s this old gimmick: “What, you don’t like grapes? Here, I’ll put them on a toothpick. Boom! Now they’re kebabs!” Works every freaking time.
So I might not be getting paid, or “contributing to the workforce,” but I’m far from “wasting” my MBA -- I’m using what I learned in business school and in the business world everyday.
Moms with MBAs who have chosen to stay home for now or forever: Don’t feel guilty, your MBA stands for Mother Bad-Ass because that’s what you are. You’re the boss and you manage one hell of a difficult team. I don’t care if you went to business school or law school or no school, you are still a Mother Bad-Ass.
Moms who want to go back to work or are thinking of applying to business school: Go for it, you are highly qualified based on your experience at home; any manager who has experience getting two young children to get along and work together is going to have a smooth-running team.
Working moms dealing with B.S. both at home and at work: You’re the biggest Mother Bad-Asses of all. Well, except maybe for single Moms, you ladies rock a PhD in Mother Bad-Assedness.
Do what you want, but whatever you do, don’t feel guilty. We are all Mother Bad-Asses and we have the right to do what works for our own families.
This post first appeared in Greetings from the Hotel Bassemonte http://basementblogging.tumblr.com/