Finding Balance as a Parent, Employee and CPA Candidate

By Melissa A. Allen, CPA, Friedman LLP – May 12, 2017
Finding Balance as a Parent, Employee and CPA Candidate

When I made the decision to obtain my CPA license, I had a three-year-old daughter and worked full-time at a public accounting firm. This balancing act appeared rather daunting, but I was determined to succeed. Finding balance is a process. However, as I discovered, there are many benefits to this journey. Developing a plan was essential for figuring out the proper balance between my role as mother, employee and CPA exam candidate. My plan consisted of three main elements:

1. Developing a Timeline

The first step involved developing a timeline and communicating with those I knew would be affected most, both personally and professionally. The timeline included an estimate of the amount of hours needed to study for each section over the next year. After finalizing the timeline, I met with the family members who assist in watching my daughter and my supervisors to align my timeline with their needs and concerns.

2. Managing Expectations

The next step involved managing expectations. Professionally, these expectations were understood as both my supervisors and coworkers had previously gone through the CPA exam process. The more complicated expectations to manage were those of my family and friends. I was honest about the depth of commitment this was going to require and how it would affect them. I emphasized that for the next year my personal interaction would be limited as every moment of non-work or parenting time would involve studying. Finally, I explained the true purpose of my endeavor, which was to provide lifelong financial security for my family.

3. Achieving Internal Balance

Now that I had developed an efficient plan to balance my personal and professional relationships, my last step was to account for an internal balance. Often, we put ourselves and our needs last. But in order to balance the outside, we need a solid foundation on the inside. Taking on the CPA exam while balancing other responsibilities can be a demanding challenge, and although there may have been days when I felt defeated, those feelings were conquered by continual perseverance —  producing the strength to overcome future challenges.

Reflecting back, I know that this part of my life aided in building the self-respect and self-confidence needed to help me grow both personally and professionally. I recall the day my state CPA license arrived in the mail; I opened that envelope proudly and immediately took the certificate over to show my daughter. I explained to her that this represented all of her mother’s hard work and time spent away from her over the past year.

When it comes to the CPA exam, do not focus on your past failures or other future responsibilities but on the present moment of studying, built upon the internal foundation of dedication and determination.




Melissa A. Allen

Melissa Allen, CPA, is a senior manager at Friedman LLP focusing on nonprofit organizations, governmental entities, construction contractors and healthcare entities. She is a member of the NJCPA and can be reached at

This article appeared in the May/June 2017 issue of New Jersey CPA magazine. Read the full issue.