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Mom, A Fulbright Scholar, Gets Master's Degree After 3 Kids: 'Motherhood Is Not The End'
PHOTO BY courtesy of Tanya Recalde
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    When my husband and I got married in 2005, we made an implicit arrangement that his career would take precedence over mine. It was a practical and conventional decision at that time, and something that I did not have any issues with. We were both lawyers starting our careers in a law firm. The hours were long and the pressure was high. Due to many factors, his potential seemed much brighter than mine.

    “As I gained my bearings, I realized that family, motherhood, career, and personal achievement could go together.”

    When our first son came and maternal instincts kicked in, I knew that long hours spent in the firm would have to go to, too. So I shifted to government which could provide more manageable hours.

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    Tanya with her husband, Eric, and sons Ethan, Enzo, and Eli.
    PHOTO BY courtesy of Tanya Recalde

    In the beginning, my world revolved around my young family that my husband and I were building. But as I gained my bearings, I realized that family, motherhood, career, and personal achievement could go together.

    I always dreamt of taking up a master’s degree abroad. In 2014, when my children were ages 7 and 4, my husband gave me the go signal to try applying for a scholarship. Little did I know that as I started my applications, I was pregnant with our third son. Thinking that it was just a trial run, I continued with my applications.

    I remember having to take the TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language) twice because I got dizzy during the first try. But my pregnancy turned out to be my lucky charm. By the time I was heavily pregnant, I was attending interviews for the most prestigious scholarships abroad. Perhaps the panels became more lenient with me for fear that I would get contractions if they pound me with hard questions.

    I had the good luck of being awarded the United Kingdom Government’s Chevening scholarship in 2014 and by October of that year started my Master of Corporate Law program in University of Cambridge. The problem was, my youngest was only 4 months old at the time.

    Leaving my kids for a “personal” goal was difficult.

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    Juggling motherhood, career, and family responsibilities

    Tanya's husband, Eric, attended her graduation at the University of Cambridge in 2018.
    PHOTO BY courtesy of Tanya Recalde
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    My husband and I decided that it was best for my family to stay behind in the Philippines while I concentrate on my studies. My husband and I were both breastfeeding advocates so we made sure that out baby would be supplied with breast milk as long as possible. (Read how Tanya made it possible here.) If we were not busy sourcing breastmilk, I was keeping in touch with the kids through the wonders of technology such as Facetime, webcams, and social media.

    Leaving my kids for a “personal” goal was difficult. There were so many emotional and psychological struggles on top of physical constraints. But I decided to harness my negative feelings of loneliness and guilt into concentrating on my studies so I could have an achievement to present to my kids. This strategy worked like a charm. 10 months later, I graduated with First Class Honours and other awards for academic achievement.

    Five years later, in 2019, I was given another opportunity to take another scholarship; this time in the USA as a Fulbright – Hubert H. Humphrey Fellow on Finance and Banking. Apart from honing my leadership skills in my field of work, my other motivation was for my sons – then 12, 9, and 5 – to be inspired to take a similar path when they grow older. I was going to stay in Boston, home of some of the best universities in the world, and I promised my sons that they would get to tour Harvard University and Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in spring.

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    Tanya is fortunate to have been awarded with the two most prestigious scholarships in the world — Chevening and Fulbright.
    PHOTO BY courtesy of Tanya Recalde

    Leaving my family for another 10 months more was again a struggle, but it was easier this time around. The kids’ age and much advanced technology enabled us to see and communicate with each other any time we want. Long talks and explanations with the kids, and my husband’s unwavering support, made them understand why I had to go on a fellowship.

    I realized that being a wife and mother is not the end of a woman’s career or personal growth.

    While abroad, technology also enabled me to virtually manage the household (such as supervising the helpers, coordinating with my sons’ teachers, ordering groceries, scheduling repairs) halfway around the world. It was as if I was still at home. Because of these responsibilities, I was forced to be more organized and conscious of how I could maximize my accomplishments in limited time.

    The onslaught of the Covid-19 pandemic in March disrupted my otherwise smooth-running fellowship. As conferences became cancelled and classes permanently moved online, I sought the permission of my scholarship administrators as well as my employer, the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas, to be allowed to continue my fellowship in the Philippines. While home and in the happy company of my family, my husband and I found the opportunity to work on a common goal that we have long wanted to achieve – writing a book together. By the time the ECQ was lifted, we were putting the final touches on our new baby, a law book on Credit, Secured Transactions and Bankruptcy, the first of its kind in the Philippines, which will be published within the year.


    As I officially ended my fellowship on June 12, 2020, I realized that being a wife and mother is not the end of a woman’s career or personal growth. On the other hand, a supportive family can be the magic ingredient for continued and lasting success.

    Marie Tanya Z. Recalde, is a lawyer and economist from the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas. She is fortunate to be awarded with the two most prestigious scholarships in the world – Chevening and Fulbright – while she is a happy and proud wife to a loving and successful husband and mother to three smart and wonderful sons. 

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