The great balancing act

By: Jennifer D. Foster, Oct 15, 2010

Struggling with your career and motherhood? Here’s how to find the perfect mix

It’s no secret life after baby can be challenging at the best of times. Many new moms re-evaluate their professional lives, asking themselves: “Do I go back to work? Make a career change? And just exactly how do I fit motherhood, career and ‘me time’ into my life?”
“Having a child changes you drastically, and you wouldn’t change it for the world, but women often lose pieces of themselves after a baby and feel overwhelmed, not  knowing, in career terms, what are their transferable skills,” says Beth Yarzab, career and fitness coach and founder of CareerFit Mom. And though she sees motherhood as a great time to reinvent oneself in terms of self-improvement and self-fulfilment, she also says, “it can be really difficult to dig down deep on your own and say ‘what can I do to make a decent living and have a fulfilled life, without compromising other things very important to me, like my family?’”

Enter Yarzab’s career coaching. With seven years of corporate HR and executive recruiting experience, she’s a neutral third party who knows what hiring managers and recruiters are after. Yarzab points moms (and a few dads!) toward opportunities they’re missing, teaching them how to recreate their careers and market themselves to future employers in compelling ways. And she encourages her clients to understand “it is possible to make changes that will create fulfillment in their lives and balance with the needs of their family.”

Mom to twin four-year-old girls, Yarzab knows a thing or three about juggling a career and a family. When her girls were two and a half, she decided not to return to her HR job, wanting something for herself. She took a girlfriend’s advice and united her two passions: helping people find their dream job and helping people get fit. “Blending those two passions became a holistic way to get women in shape after having a baby, both from a career and a fitness perspective,” says Yarzab.

So, how does it all work? Through personal assessments, exercises and brainstorming with each client, Yarzab uncovers each client’s skills, experience and passions. From there, she creates a custom-made job search action plan, outlining the steps needed to find that dream job. She also offers help with resumé and cover letter writing, interview prepping, coaching and critiquing.

“As women and Canadians we’re incredibly modest. It’s out of many of my clients’ comfort zones to self-market. CareerFit Mom gives them the tools to feel comfortable talking about themselves in ways appealing to a potential employer,” she says. Yarzab gives one piece of weekly “homework,” be it attending a networking event or researching a company, “so it’s manageable and realistic, and I check in on them regularly, keep them accountable and readjust as need be,” she says.

Though Toronto-based, Yarzab works with clients country-wide, as her coaching can be done in person, via phone, e-mail, Skype and web conferencing. Yarzab also utilizes her professional contacts, acting as a master networker. To her delight, all of Yarzab’s clients have had success on their own terms. “Essentially, I’m supporting people on a very emotional journey. And my clients like being held accountable.” The best part, says Yarzab? “There are two people working on your job search at all times.” 

So how can new moms tell it’s time for a career change? Dreading returning to their old job; not feeling challenged in their role; not interested in what they’re doing; little to no opportunity for growth; they’re highly stressed; not seeing their child(ren) enough. “Work is so much of who we are. You don’t want to be in a negative career spiral. Life’s too short for that,” warns Yarzab.

As a mom running her own successful business, just how does Yarzab do it? She’s got a supportive husband, a part-time nanny and is ultra-organized. “I look at every hour, and I carve out what I’ll do in that hour. I determine what’s really important to me, and I delegate if I need to.” Her mantra? “We’re not superwomen, and something’s got to give. We can’t do it all.”

Jennifer D. Foster is a freelance writer and editor. She lives in east Toronto with her husband, Greg, a derivatives manager, and their seven-year-old bilingual son, Darius, who shares his mother’s love of words and his father’s knack with numbers. When not attached to her laptop, Jennifer enjoys cottaging/kayaking, learning piano, practising yoga, playing boules, working in her garden or a community garden, planting trees or toiling with that ever-elusive debut novel.