Students in the Wharton MBA Program for Executives embrace the challenge of juggling full-time jobs, school, and personal responsibilities throughout the two-year program. Marketing consultant Christopher Hayden, WG’24, began the program with a crash-course in time management when his son was born four weeks ahead of schedule. As Father’s Day approaches, we ask Chris to share more about his experience as a new dad in the program and offer practical advice for parents balancing school and family life.
What was it like having a baby right before starting Wharton’s EMBA program?
There’s never a perfect time for any significant milestone, whether it’s having children or pursuing your MBA. When I heard the news that I was going to become a father while enrolled in the EMBA program, I felt a new dimension of purpose and urgency to my ambitions. I wanted to exemplify to my son the importance of lifelong learning, adaptability, and pursuing your passions.
During my wife Jocelyn’s routine 36-week OB visit, the doctor calmly told us that she had called an ambulance and that we were going to the hospital – right now. Upon arrival and after many tests, we learned that our baby had a pericardial effusion. Each time Jocelyn had a Braxton-Hicks contraction, it slowed down his heart. This led to an emergency C-section four weeks before Varick’s due date. We stayed in the hospital with him for almost two weeks, and then we had a few weeks at home with our tiny baby before I was due at Wharton’s campus in Philadelphia for my first week of class. During orientation week, I was distraught. This was my first time away from my baby who I lose sleep over when I’m not with – I still do. I met a lot of people in the program who shared their own experiences with me surrounding preterm birth, which was incredibly reassuring to me as a first-time parent.
What does your support system look like?
This program is a challenge, but if you have the support of your family, you can do it. My wife and I agree that each year you get older is one year less that you can capitalize on a degree. Although it’s a serious commitment, we decided together that it was the right time for me because of what I wanted to achieve.
I knew I was going to marry Jocelyn by the second date. She is fully on board with my Wharton experience, and her unwavering support has been vital. However, she did inform me that she’s taking a two-year vacation after I graduate!
The key to making it work is being fully transparent with your partner and having very honest conversations about the time commitment. In this program, you learn how to make sacrifices and a lot of times it does feel like spinning plates. It calls for superior time management skills and an incredibly supportive network. I study after my son’s bedtime, during his naps, and when he’s preoccupied. Despite its challenges, this program is a unique opportunity to demonstrate to my son the values of hard work, dedication, and lifelong learning.
What surprised you about the Wharton MBA Program for Executives experience?
The “X-factor” I never thought about was my learning team, and the class overall. Every single member of my learning team is a parent. Another person on my learning team had a baby during the first term, someone else started a new job; we all go through stuff. You get a lot of support from your peers in this program. I’ve always been very independent, but it takes a village to earn the Wharton MBA and raise a baby at the same time. There are so many parents in this program, and we make it work; we pull each other along and we push each other along. I can tell my teammates, ‘Sorry, I can’t make that time, it’s baby bedtime routine,’ and know that the response will be compassionate. It feels like a real team, not a competitive environment.
What is it like being a working student and new parent?
While pursuing the Wharton EMBA as a working parent is demanding, it is indeed feasible. It revolves around setting priorities, effective time management, and having a supportive network, including your classmates.
Parenthood is an exquisite journey. Varick is thriving; there’s just so much I love about him. I love watching him figure things out and explore a world where everything is new and exciting. He does this thing where he just shakes with excitement. I never knew any of this stuff happened with kids! It’s just been phenomenal to watch him learn and grow, and to see the world through his eyes. Varick continually inspires me to become a better person, a more effective professional, and most significantly, a more nurturing father. I am confident that the skills and knowledge I’m gaining from Wharton will benefit me not just professionally but also personally, as I pass these lessons on to my son.
— Kendra King
Posted: June 15, 2023