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The Great Baby And Career Balancing Act

Mum holding up child in sea with sunset

How I Balanced A Baby And A Career

Guest Post By Lyndsey Shankland

As a businesswoman, my whole adult life was dedicated to my career in recruitment. I loved it! Balancing a baby and a career hadn’t been on the agenda. My true passion was my career, my reason for being, and everything else could wait.

But that all changed when I turned 38. Cupid’s arrow struck. Now generally speaking, I’m not someone to jump straight in, but this was it. By the age of 39 I was married. I became a new mother just three weeks after my 41st birthday.

Yep, I might be a slow starter when it comes to having a family of my own. However, when it’s right, it’s right!

I had real problems getting my head around the concept of taking six months off work. I mean, who was going to lead my projects, partner with my stakeholders, source new candidates and help keep those business wheels turning? How would I balance a baby and a career?

Even with years of experience working in American businesses globally and in regional roles, with responsibility for leading teams across EMEA, APAC and AMER I worried.  Would I be cast aside now I was a mother with other priorities was never far from my mind?

With so many women finding themselves ‘surplus to requirements’ and facing redundancy after returning from maternity leave, the days with my newborn were tainted with worry.

And sadly, my worries weren’t unfounded

The Return To Work… Or Not!

I enjoyed six blissful months of maternity leave with my little Oliver. Then on my first day back at work I was hit with a huge bombshell. My role was being relocated to the US. There was absolutely no way I could move.

Not only did I have my husband and son to think about, but my mum has young on-set vascular dementia and needs me more now than ever.

I went through a storm of emotions as I struggled to come to terms with the ‘loss’ of the job I loved. I’d always been the stronger partner in a financial sense. So worries about the mortgage, bills, other financial commitments, an unwell mother and a new baby caused a lot of anxiety.

How was I going to set myself apart from other job seekers in an already saturated market? For anyone who’s ever had an insight into the recruitment industry, you’ll know that recruiters are like gremlins – put a little water on us and we multiply!

How was I going to compete with these bright young things that didn’t have the commitments and family priorities I did?

Taking Back Control

So, I had two choices. Either put on my dressing gown and drown my sorrows in a family-sized tub of Ben and Jerry’s, or get proactive.

I took the latter option. I took control of the situation with the life-changing decision to start my own business.

After all, I had 18 years experience as an in-house head of talent acquisition. I have seen the good, bad and ugly of the recruitment world first hand. So why should I end up on the career scrap heap just because I had a child?

I considered my goals and formed my plan of action. I wanted to be a good recruiter of course, but I also wanted to be a good wife, daughter and mother.

Flexibility Is Key

For my plan to succeed, flexibility was central. Before I decided to start my own business, I was headhunted numerous times. I found however that employers were put off by my insistence on regular home office days and my need to balance a baby with a career.

So, I started out on my own with a business model of working with only a select number of clients in engineering and pharmaceutical markets, taking on just 2 or 3 at a time.

This allowed me to offer a higher quality, fully tailored recruitment service to both the global businesses I support and the talent I headhunt.

Clients And Cuddles

Fast forward to October this year. I’m working on four roles for two different clients. This doesn’t just ‘bring home the bacon’ as you’d say, it means I can fit in a cuddle with Oliver and hubby Iain. I can do so without feeling a crippling sense of guilt that I’m letting anyone down.

We have lunch together, and then I crack back on with the international calls. We’ve flown to a few places together already too: Dubai, Milan, Florence, Hamburg. We are due to visit the US in a couple of weeks. It’s living the dream of being able to keep the career I’ve worked hard to achieve AND feel like I can be a good wife and Mum too!

And it’s on MY terms

It’s still early days yet. Some days the struggle is real, trying to balance a baby and a career – but it’s on our terms as a family.

I’m still feeling really positive about the future.

I can’t say too much right now, but I’ll be taking on a new role towards the end of the year. This is with a business which values my skills. Skills that haven’t changed just because I’m a mother. They appreciate that I need some family time too. I’ve finally found a position that allows me to do the job I love and carry on with the most important roles of all – a mummy, a wife and a daughter.

Mum and baby birthday celebrations

My Advice To You

If you think you’re in the worst situation possible and about to lose your job, I’m living proof that you can regain control of your life. You can continue to follow your dreams without compromising on integrity or family commitments.

I still have to work very hard to keep all the plates spinning, but I’m enjoying it! My skills are still relevant and in demand even though I have a family. I am balancing a baby and a career!

And as a recruitment expert and mum, I should know!

Blog Post by Lyndsey Shankland

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