Parenting, work and an MBA: Overcoming the barriers and achieving success

By Renee Connellan, current student of the University of Sydney Business School MBA program

USBS070513-151 - R2“I don’t know how you do it, Renée!”

I can’t tell you how many times people have said that to me in the past 18 months. The challenges of working full-time, raising young children as a recently single parent and studying simultaneously are very real. But for anyone who believes that it can’t be done and, more importantly, that it can’t all be done well, I can assure you that is a myth.

I won’t sugarcoat it – there are sacrifices to be made, but to be honest, they’re not as tough as most people suspect. I saw the adjustments and rebalancing I’ve been through as an opportunity to take stock of what is important, and very quickly identified what was – and wasn’t – adding value to my life. This helped me to refine the view I had of what is most meaningful to me, helped me redefine my goals, and showed me a much clearer path to achieving the success I wanted.

I discovered that, for me, success is partially about realising my personal and professional goals, without compromising my values. But, most of all, success is about being a great mother to my kids and being a role model that they can trust and rely on, always.

There is a perception that children get in the way of achieving more in your career, like they form an invisible barrier that prevents women taking on more responsibility outside the home. For me, that perception could not be any further from the reality.

My children are not an excuse for me not to try. Instead, they are my greatest enabler, inspiring me to find the extra drive and motivation that it takes for me to not only finish the MBA, but to continually strive to perform to the absolute best of my abilities.

Surrounding yourself with people who want you to succeed is so important, particularly when you’re trying to balance your commitments. Embarking on further studies and fitting it all in with a family does require a supportive network around you, made up of people who are able to provide a loving and stable environment for your children when you’re working or studying.

Wearing such dramatically different hats from day-to-day – and sometimes minute-to-minute – can feel a little disjointed. But, with practice, it’s easy to become fluid at making the adjustments.

These transitions are made easier by knowing that each and every part of my life is aligned with my values. I can be myself consistently, regardless of whether I’m being Renée the breadwinner, the student, the mother or friend.

As with all aspects of life, we all get better with practice – and our mistakes and failures along the way can be turned into successes of the future… as long as we’re learning.

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