Laila Khan SOM ’03 and Ming Wei SOM ’03 are typical students at the Yale School of Management — a full course workload fills their week with classes, appointments and study. But this past semester, they learned to manage even greater demands on their time.
Both women gave birth to baby boys: Zaman Khan and Lucas Zhang. And though both said juggling school and a nascent family is difficult, the joy of having a child is worth the effort. They encourage other women thinking of raising families to have confidence in their abilities to do the same.
“I didn’t expect it to be this hard,” Wei said. “You never know how far you can go, but when you’re there, you know you can handle it.”
Wei gave birth just before finals but decided, even with a newborn, to take her tests as scheduled. Khan delivered her baby the first day of classes, and returned to school a week later. Khan and Wei said fellow students at SOM and SOM faculty and staff have all been very supportive.
Esmeralda Cardenal, former leader of the Women’s Initiative at SOM, said the school has many programs in place designed to support single women and mothers. An array of student interest groups — Women in Management, the Kids Club, and Partners — are designed to accommodate growing families at the school, which the Wall Street Journal has dubbed the “number four top school for women.”
Khan and Wei both said they received support from their families and husbands. Khan’s mother-in-law helps look after Zaman, and Wei’s mother looks after Lucas. Wei said she couldn’t imagine caring for her child without the support of her family and her many friends, who provide her class notes if she misses a lecture and offer emotional support.
“That’s what family is for,” Wei said. “They’re there for you.”
What most surprised the two women about motherhood was how much they missed their children while at school. Khan said she cried the first day of school.
Because Khan had miscarried before, she took easier courses last semester and even considered taking the semester off. But neither woman said she regretted the decision to continue working toward an MBA.
“I stuck through school,” said Khan, “And in hindsight it was a very good decision.”
Nevertheless, Khan said that if she had to choose between family and her career, she would choose family.
“You don’t want any regrets 20, 30 years from now, and regrets come more often from having neglected your family,” Khan said. “That’s something you can’t get back.”
To most undergraduates, child-rearing now seemed either impossible or a remote possibility.
“I wouldn’t be too happy having a baby now because I feel like I have a lot of things to do before I settle down with a child,” Tara Loftis ’05 said.
Khan said this attitude is part of being young, though she said she thinks it is best to have a “family structure” before giving birth.
“Some say that you lose your freedom, but you get so much more in return,” said Khan, who is specializing in Finance. “The timing wasn’t great, but things are never perfect. If you wait to have everything in line, there will never be a right time for a baby.”
Khan and Wei said they enjoy watching their children grow and feel “blessed by such a wonderful gift.” Motherhood has given them a renewed sense of confidence and maturity, and has also taught them about themselves, they said.
“I’ve learned I can make it through stressful times, to balance different demands on my time, and the art of patience,” Khan said.