As intellectuals across the country argue whether women really can have it all, La Cañada working mom Susannah Kim is enjoying the benefits of a fairly balanced life.
A wife and mother of three, Kim works a full-time marketing job by day and comes home each evening for dinner and family time with husband Jonathan and the kids — Ethan, 10, 4-year-old Noelle, and Peter, 2. She runs six miles a day, juices regularly and meditates to maintain a healthy mind-body connection. In many ways, her life is a well-managed ratio of life and work. But it hasn't always been that way.
Just 10 years ago, when Kim was pregnant with Ethan and applying for Pepperdine University's MBA program, she encountered a serious obstacle. Some of the admissions board members didn't feel she could handle the rigors of the program while caring for a newborn. They told her they planned to decline her application.
“It was that very initial door closing without anyone's asking me what my thoughts or perspectives were,” she recalls. “It was not what I thought would happen.”
Instead of accepting defeat, Kim gathered letters of recommendations highlighting her ability to complete the program and presented a schedule showing how she'd balance new motherhood with work and school.
Her persistence paid off; she graduated with her master's degree in business and a corporate-level job two years later.
Kim's story of perseverance and overcoming adversity to have both a family and a career was recently selected as the winning entry in the “Courage to Do What You Love” contest, sponsored by digital magazine Little Pink Book. In addition to being featured online at littlepinkbook.com, Kim won a week-long stay at the Canyon Ranch Life Enhancement Center, a luxury, all-inclusive health resort in Tucson, Ariz.
The “Courage to Do What You Love” contest aims to share inspiring stories from women across the country, said Senior Editor Nicole Williams, who with staff selected the finalist. Kim's confidence and determination set her apart.
“Pregnant women often face stigmas in the workplace and, in Susannah's case, higher education, which can leave them feeling vulnerable and less confident,” Williams writes in an email interview. “But Susannah held her own, remained confident in her abilities and pushed for what she wanted — that deserves applause.”
In the years following her graduation, Pepperdine officials called Kim, asking her to help coach new graduate students facing the challenge of balancing family responsibilities with their course requirements. It's a subject about which she feels passionately.
While women have accomplished much in the professional sphere, Kim said a woman's ability to successfully balance a home life and work life is often still questioned.
“In this day and age, it still kind of happens without being spoken of,” she said.
Kim admits it took a lot of work and sacrifice for her to accomplish her dream, and she couldn't have done it without Jonathan's help and dedication.
“He's my biggest supporter,” she said. “If Jon weren't up for all this, there wasn't any way any of this could have happened.”
The new parents handed baby Ethan back and forth as Jonathan Kim held a full-time job and she worked an internship at Warner Bros., then later a job in Culver City, all while commuting to classes from Burbank to Malibu and attending group study sessions.
“It was hectic,” Jonathan Kim recalls. “I wouldn't say I did a lot — we did a lot. We had a buddy system.”
That system is still keeping the Kim family running smoothly, with both parents playing active roles in their children's rearing. And it's a good thing, too, since Susannah Kim's spa getaway is for one.
“It'll be my turn to watch the kids when she's in Arizona,” Jonathan Kim said with a chuckle.
-- Sara Cardine, firstname.lastname@example.org